Regarding the July 26 column “Street Talk: Bad vibes in Lewiston, then and now,” my Irish family has been in Lewiston since before your paper was established and I’m here to set things straight.

The disparaging rhetoric surrounding downtown Lewiston originated as anti-Irish sentiment and Francophobia, which was due to many factors but mainly xenophobia and anti-Catholic phobia. This city was built by the Irish and subsequent Franco Americans who came to work in the mills.

My own family worked in the Bleachery and are among the first families buried at Mt. Hope. We resided in places like Knox Street, which gets its namesake from Ireland.

The hardships that the Irish and French Canadians faced here were abhorrent. Our ancestors were crammed into downtown housing just as people are today, falling victim to disease. A significant number of Irish people weren’t able to transcend poverty due to these hardships, and many of their descendants remain on the tree streets.

The “hood” referred to was built by our ancestors with blood and tears, and the causation of the crime and addiction is transgenerational poverty and resulting poor mental health.

I recognize this mindset that downtown is rife with violence and primitiveness because it’s the same rhetoric that was used on my ancestors, only now it’s not anti-Irish, it’s anti-Black. Now it’s not anti-Catholic, it’s Islamophobic.

I’m also hearing the same stereotypes about poor work ethic and lack of education that were hurled at the Irish.

So many people have forgotten where we came from. Do better.

Kate Harvey, Lewiston

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