“Sh*thole country” is 2018 speak for No Irish, No Colored, No Polish, No Italian…

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Recently, the President of the United States referred to a handful of poor countries as “shithole countries,” which frankly is bad enough on its own– but the fact that it was in reference to not allowing the good people of those poor, desperate places access to the American dream makes me sick and makes me sad.

If you are reading this, chances are you have some connection to Buffalo. If you have some connection to Buffalo, chances are pretty good that you some part of your family migrated here from a nation that was considered poor and unsavory by most “real Americans,” ie, the people who’d already been here.

If you are one of those folks, can you read through this list of want ads I’ve compiled from Buffalo newspapers and feel the treatment your Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Catholic, and African-American ancestors felt. (and in some cases you still feel.)

No Polish or Colored. Buffalo Courier, 1918. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No colored. Buffalo Evening News, 1925. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Colored woman need apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1916. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Catholics. Buffalo Evening News, 1883 (Buffalo Stories archives)

 

No Polish. Buffalo Courier, 1907. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Polish. Buffalo Evening News, 1913. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Irish wanted. Buffalo Evening News 1895. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Polish girl need apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1898. (Buffalo Stories archives)
“Work and Opportunity for all,” but No Italian. Buffalo Courier, 1907. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Jewish people. Buffalo Evening News, 1925 (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Polish Need Apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1913. (Buffalo Stories archives)
First class man needed–┬áno Italian. Buffalo Courier, 1908 (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Irish need apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1892. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Italians need apply. Buffalo evening News, 1892. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Jews or foreigners need apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1926 (Buffalo Stories archives)

The rhetoric has quickly evolved from “we don’t want ‘those people’ here because they broke the law to get here,” to “even if ‘they’ came legally, we’re sending them back…” to “we must stop people from ‘shithole countries’ from emigrating to the US, period.”

When my ancestors came from Ireland, Poland, Hungary, and Bas-Rhin/Germany… those places were all considered shithole countries by the landed classes of this country. Since 1620, this country has been the shining city on the hill people have clawed their way toward for a new start… allowing more people access to our opportunity doesn’t diminish it– it enhances it.

America’s greatness lies in our heart and our ambition. Stopping people from coming here to make a new life for themselves and their families shows a lack of heart and cut down on our overall total ambition, too.

 

Published by

Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and spent 20 years working in Buffalo radio and TV, climbing his way to news director at WBEN Radio. Since then, he's been an adjunct professor, produced PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.