Anti-Italianism in the United States

The reputation of Italian Americans has been marked by complex and ongoing negotiations of ethnic identity, ascent from the working class, and ongoing perceptions of support for criminal gangs. Movies from early on loaded their films with Italian gangsters. After 1915 heartbreaking melodramas of destitution and misfortune adopted instead a combination of muted ‘othering’ and universal characterizations. [1] Because of the common association, Italian Americans spokespeople see films and news accounts about the Mafia as harmful to their community.

This became something of an issue for the HBO series The Sopranos when spokespeople complained about the stereotypical nature of the show. Other Italians feel that such shows are problematic only if they feature the Mafia as a common or accepted part of Italian American life. The news media as well as fictional films have stereotyped the Italian American community as tolerant of violent, sociopathic, knife-wielding gangsters and street ruffians. [2][3] Thus the stereotypes range from portraying Italians as working class thugs, to violent “guappo” immigrants, to Mafiosi.

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Other stereotypes portray Italians as overly-emotional, melodramatic, plebeian, superstitious, hot-blooded, aggressive, traditionalistic, obsessed with food, and prone to vengeance. [4] Men are sometimes stereotyped as “Italian Stallions”. Italian women have had two main stereotypes: an overly matriarchal old woman or a flirtatious, exotic young woman who indulges in fashions such as Prada and Gucci. A lesser stereotype of Italian women has been that of a big-haired, gum-cracking airhead who is often shown as a girlfriend of a Mafia soldier.

Italian Americans have often found themselves at the receiving end of ethnic jokes, parodies, and discrimination due to certain stereotypes. [5] In America and many other nations, Italians have also been stereotyped as swarthy perpetual foreigners in a lower class, restricted to blue collar jobs. They have been stereotyped working as construction workers, chefs, beggars, peddlers, plumbers, and in other working class jobs. [6] Another stereotype of Italian American is the “goombah” or “guido”, a working class or lower class Italian male.

In their own community, Italian Americans themselves will sometimes refer to such “buffoon-like” Italian males as “cafoni”. “Cafone” is an Italian word that originally meant peasant, but its meaning evolved to refer to rude, ignorant, uncouth people. Degrading and even dehumanizing images have been prevalent in the perpetuation of ignorance and historical myths. [7] Harsh anti-Italian immigrant editorial cartoon, 1888 [edit] Violence against Italians Rioters breaking in to parish prison.

Anti-Italian lynching in New Orleans, 1891 In the United States, Italian immigrants were subject to extreme prejudice, racism, and, in many cases, violence. During the 19th century and early 20th century, Italian Americans were often seen as non-American and criminals. Some anti-Italianism had roots in the same cause of violence against Jews. Because Italians were seen as the descendants of the Romans, who had crucified Jesus, this served as justification for violence against Italians. [8] The largest mass lynching in American history involved the lynching of eleven Italians in the city of New Orleans in 1891. 9] The Italians, who were thought to have assassinated police chief David Hennessy, were arrested and placed in a jail cell before being brutally murdered by a lynch mob that stormed the jailhouse, with witnesses claiming that the cheers “were nearly deafening”. Cries of “hang the dagos” were heard throughout the riot. Reporting on the incident, one newspaper reported [10]

Afterwards, hundreds of Italian immigrants, most of whom were not criminals, were arrested by law enforcement. Decades after, an anti-Italian phrase, “Who kill-a the chief? ” remained popular in the New Orleans area. 11][12] In the 1920s, two Italian anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, experienced prejudice and ultimately death due to their Italian ancestry and extreme political views. Though not lynched, Sacco and Vanzetti were subject to a mishandled trial, and many historians agree that the judge, jury, and prosecution were extremely biased against the Italian immigrants. Sacco and Vanzetti were eventually put to death, convicted of a murder despite the lack of evidence against them. [13] Anti-Italianism in Switzerland often cites the 1971 beating death of a recent Italian immigrant named Alfredo Zardini.

In Australia, anti-Italian riots occurred on numerous occasions since Italian immigrants, or “wogs” (an English derogatory term for foreigners, not slang so much as an archaism, once often applied in Australia to Southern Europeans), first began arriving to the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many Australians viewed the Italian immigrants as “immoral”, “low”, and “dirty”. [14] This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2010)

In Canada, anti-Italian and anti-Jewish riots occurred in Toronto and other major cities in Canada. The Riot at Christie Pits Park was an August 16, 1933 anti-Semitic race riot in Toronto between Anglo-Saxon (and ethnic German) members of a pro-Nazi youth gang called the Anglo-Canadian Pit Gang which was affiliated with the Anglo Anti-Semitic Swastika Clubs, and predominantly Jewish and Italian youth members of the Spadina Avenue Gang. The riot, which occurred over a six hour period, was sparked by a baseball game at Christie Pits between two local clubs, one predominantly Jewish and Italian and one predominantly Anglo-Saxon.

About 5 people were arrested and 30 were injured. The riot occurred the year after Adolf Hitler took power in Germany and in the midsts of the Great Depression in Canada. Anti-Italianism was part of the racist ideology of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist and nativist group whom hated Italians for being non-American Roman Catholic as opposed to Anglo-Saxon Protestant A hotbed of anti-Italian activity from the KKK was in Southern New Jersey in the mid 1920s, including a mass protest against Italian immigrants in Vineland, New Jersey, where in 1933 Italians made up 20% of the city population.

However, during the mass protest the Italians drove the KKK out of town. The KKK soon lost all of their power in Vineland and soon left the town for good as a result of this incident. Today, over a third of the current residents in Vineland are of Italian descent. [edit] Italian American and Italian Canadian internment during World War II This propaganda sign appeared in post offices and in government buildings during World War II. The sign designates Japanese, German, and Italian, the languages of the Axis powers, as the enemy’s languages. Further information: Italian American internment

See also: Anti-fascism During World War II, some Italian citizens who were loyal to Italy were put in internment camps in the U. S. and Canada. Thousands more Italian citizens suspected of loyalty to Italy were placed under surveillance. Joe DiMaggio’s father, who lived in San Francisco, had his boat and house confiscated. Unlike the Japanese Americans, Italian Americans and Italian Canadians have never received reparations, even though President Bill Clinton made a public declaration admitting the US government’s misjudgement in the internment. 15] [edit] Anti-Italianism in the United Kingdom After Benito Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany in the late 1930s, there was a growing hostility toward everything Italian in the United Kingdom. The most famous example is related to the sinking of the steamship SS Arandora Star on 2 July 1940, that resulted in the loss of over 700 lives—including 446 British-Italians being deported as undesirable. [16] During and after WWII a lot of propaganda was done against the Italian military performance, usually with persistent stereotypes, including that of the “incompetent Italian soldier”.

These stereotypes are well entrenched in the British literature, as can be read in the following extract from a Lee & Higham’s book: Because many writers have uncritically repeated stereotypes shared by their sources, biases and prejudices have taken on the status of objective observations, including the idea that the Germans and British were the only belligerants in the Mediterranean after Italian setbacks in early 1941.

Sadkovich questioned this point of view in ‘Of Myths and Men’ and ‘The Italian Navy’, but persistent stereotypes, including that of the incompetent Italian, are well entrenched in the literature, from Puleston’s early ‘The Influence of Sea Power’, to Gooch’s ‘Italian Military Incompetence,’ to more recent publications by Mack Smith, Knox and Sullivan.

Wartime bias in early British and American histories, which focused on German operations, dismissed Italian forces as inept and or unimportant, and viewed Germany as the pivotal power in Europe during the interwar period. Bias includes both implicit assumptions, evident in Knox’s title ‘The Sources of Italy’s Defeat in 1940: Bluff or Institutionalized Incompetence? ‘ and the selective use of sources. Also see Sullivan’s ‘The Italian Armed Forces. ‘ Sims, in ‘The

Fighter Pilot,’ ignored the Italians, while D’Este in ‘World War II in the Mediterranean’ shaped his reader’s image of Italians by citing a German comment that Italy’s surrender was ‘the basest treachery’ and by discussing Allied and German commanders but ignoring Messe, whose ‘Come fini la guerra in Africa’ is an account of operations in Tunisia, where he commanded the Italian First Army, which held off both the U. S. Second Corps and the British Eighth Army. Like Young, whose ‘Rommel the Desert Fox’ created the Rommel myth, authors can appear biased because they echo sources that reflect the prejudices and assumptions of the period.

Dependence on non-Italian sources compromised Murray’s analysis of the Italian military in ‘The Change in the European Balance of Power’, it led Van Creveld to conclude in ‘Supplying War’ that Italians were “useless ballast,” and it caused Fraser, in ‘And We Shall Shock Them’, to dismiss Graziani as an anxiety-ridden procrastinator but praised Wavell as a fearless problem solver. Liddel Hart’s German sources led him to conclude in ‘The Generals Talk’ that “Italian jealousy of the Germans” had helped save Egypt. 17] Anti-Italianism after World War II Former Italian communities once thrived in their African colonies of Eritrea, Somalia and Libya, and in the areas at the borders of the Kingdom of Italy. Now these communities are reduced to a few hundreds people, mainly due to violent expulsion and persecution. Indeed, two countries have shown a huge level of anti-Italianism after WWII: Libya and Yugoslavia. These two most famous examples are pinpointed so: •Libya. Some 150,000 Italians settled in Libya, constituting about 18% of the total population. 18]

All of Libya’s Italians were expelled from the North African country in 1970, a year after Muammar al-Gaddafi seized power (a “day of vengeance” on 7 October 1970). [19] •Yugoslavia. At the end of World War II, former Italian territories in Istria and Dalmatia became part of Yugoslavia by the Treaty of Peace with Italy, 1947. Economic insecurity, ethnic hatred and the international political context that eventually led to the Iron Curtain resulted in up to 350,000 people, nearly all Italians, choosing to leave the region. 20][21] Furthermore, the nearly complete disappearance of the Dalmatian Italians (there were 45,000 or nearly 20% of the total Dalmatian population in 1848,[22] while now there are only 300) has been related to democide and ethnic cleansing by scholars like R. J. Rummel. Canadian politician Ed Havrot also controversially used anti-Italian slurs while serving in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, referring to one of his Italian-Canadian opponents as a “wop”. [23] In March 2008, Rev. Jeremiah Wright caused controversy when he noted in an article that the Italians looked down their “garlic noses” at the Galileans.

The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans said it was “saddened” by the comment, while the Italian American Human Relations Foundation called it an example of “hatred”. [24][25][dead link][26][dead link] On February 26, 2009 Curtis Sliwa began a discussion on his radio show about an Italian-American museum being granted federal money for its future construction. [27] Sliwa, upon reading the headline stated, “The Italian-American Museum[28] in Little Italy? What the hell is that? I mean, what do you need an Italian-American Museum in Little Italy for ?…

Plus, what do we need to be spending federal tax dollars? You go to the Italian-American Museum, you make a contribution. Or, you have an enforcer there from the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Colombo, Bonanno crime families who forces you to pay a contribution? In the same conversation Sliwa then went on to state about New York City’s borough of Staten Island, where Italian Americans are the largest ethnic group,[29] “[I] could swing a dead cat over my head and every fifth person I’d hit [there] would be in organized crime. [27][30] Sliwa later apologized for the comments he made during this conversation in a letter to the president of the Italian-American museum. He stated in part, “I certainly wouldn’t want any of my comments to be construed as my having negative feelings toward the museum or the Italian-American community as a whole. ” [31] In early November 2009, MTV began airing controversial promotions for the show, “Jersey Shore. ” One promotion stated that the show will feature the, “hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos. [32] Another web advertisement for the show states, “[the show]exposes one of the tri-state area’s most misunderstood species… the GUIDO.

Yes, they really do exist! Our Guidos and Guidettes will move into the ultimate beach house rental and indulge in everything the Seaside Heights, New Jersey scene has to offer. “[33] The Italian American service organization UNICO National[34] was the first major Italian American organization to begin a campaign to stop the program from being shown by contacting MTV prior to the series debut. 35] In a November 24, 2009 letter to MTV CEO Judith McGrath, UNICO National President, Andre’ DiMino,[36] an outspoken advocate for Italian American heritage and culture,[37] called the show a “… direct, deliberate and disgraceful attack on Italian Americans… ” and demanded that the show be pulled prior to its debut. [38] In addition to UNICO National, Order Sons of Italy in America and the National Italian American Foundation denounced the show’s use of the ethnic slur, “Guido” to describe the show’s cast, which is predominately Italian. 39][40] Since its debut, these organizations have called for MTV to cancel the show. [41][42] MTV has refused to cancel the show, issuing the statement, “the Italian-American cast takes pride in their ethnicity. We understand that this show is not intended for every audience and depicts just one aspect of youth culture”[40] Italian-American organizations continue to refuse to accept MTV’s use of the term ‘guido’ as an appropriate means to describe Italians and the Italian American community.

Several prominent national organizations have been established to combat the negative portrayal of Italians and Italian Americans in the media. UNICO National has an Anti-Bias committee dedicated to fighting Italian American stereotyping and discrimination. Its chair, Dr. Manny Alfano, has been a leader in the fight against Italian American discrimination and negative portrayals since 1990. [43] Other organizations such as the NIAF and Order Sons of Italy in America both feature anti-discrimination components.

The OSIA’s Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) has been an advocate for the Italian American community. [44][45] There also exists prominent web-based Italian organizations such as the internet watchdog, ItalianAware[46] It is worth noting that ItalianAware’s Facebook component, the ARICA (Advancement of Real Italian Culture in America), was cited as a prominent player in the dispute with MTV over its show, “Jersey Shore. “[47] The Story of Italian Immigration “Isola della Lacrime” (island of tears) was what the Italians coming to America termed Ellis Island.

At the turn of the 20th century, between 1876 to 1924, over four and a half million Italians arrived in the United States, out of a population of only approximately 14 million in Italy. Unable to earn a livelihood in their home country, they became migratory laborers. Figures show that, for the period leading up to 1900, an estimated 78 percent of Italian immigrants were men in their teens and twenties, who planned to work, save money and eventually return home to Italy. Ultimately, 20 to 30 percent of these Italian immigrants returned to Italy permanently.

Italian immigrants established hundreds of mutual aid societies, based mainly on kinship and place of birth. As large numbers of Italians began to settle in America they began to establish enclaves where they felt they would be safe from the prejudice and fears of the largely Irish and German communities that surrounded them. These communities are often referred to as Little Italy’s and would be a mix of small business, bakeries, taverns and men and women selling breads and fruits from push-carts.

Many of these communities would publish their own Italian-language newspapers, which contained news from Italy, promoted Italian culture and provided an outlet for frustrated new immigrants who could not yet fully understand English. L’Eco d’Italia in New York, L’Italia in Chicago and L’Eco della Colonia in Los Angeles were some of the main papers that were published. A vast majority of Italian immigrants were Catholics, but as they arrived in America they were dismayed to discover that the Catholic Church in America was dominated by an Irish hierarchy.

This led to further tensions between the Italians and the Irish, Portuguese and Polish, many of whom found the Italian devotion to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Saints as distasteful. It was only in 1893, when the Pope became aware of the situation, that progress was made through the establishment of the San Raffaele Society, otherwise known as the Italian Immigration Society. The Society helped strengthen families and unite the Italian community by giving its members places to worship freely, educate their children and take care of the poor.

A positive addition in both social and religious life, the Society was headed by the Reverend Father Gaspare Moretto for over 30 years, and it played a large part in easing the religious tensions between the Italians and other Catholics in America. Various other aid societies began coming to the forefront. The Sons of Italy was founded in New York around 1905, and by 1921 its membership had reached 125,000. Societa Italiana di Mutua Beneficenza in San Francisco, the Italian Welfare League in New York, and the Societa di Mututo Soccorso in Chicago soon followed.

Through these organizations, Italian-Americans presented programs which attempted to acknowledge the cultural traditions of their “patria,” or fatherland, yet glorified their achievements here in America. In addition, these larger organizations promoted a strong defense against intolerance and character assassination directed towards them by the often anti-immigration American media. “La Familiga” (the family) was at the core of Italian immigrant life, and often seen as the root of survival. As the immigrants settled in America, however, certain traditions pertaining to the family began to change.

The condition of life in America was not conducive to the patriarchal culture of Italy and the language barriers served to give the children unprecedented control over the decisions of the families. Although the following generation maintained certain ways of life from Italy, they incorporated American values into their Italian culture by marrying out of their communities and moving away from the Little Italy communities. As war spread and World War II began to take shape, Italian immigrants, alongside those from Germany and Japan, were singled out for persecution.

Many were arrested and detained after the implementation of the Alien Registration Act, which required all non-citizens to register. Italians that had settled on the coast of California were ordered to move inland even as another 1 million Italian immigrants went to fight for the Allies in the war. Yet, as the war ended, young Italian soldiers returned to America to find that things had changed, and for the better. The introduction of the G. I. Bill provided servicemen and women the opportunity to attend college, buy a home, or receive some kind of vocational training.

As the G. I. Bill did for many, this enabled a significant portion of the Italian community to move out of blue collar jobs and into white collar work. Many began opening their own business and enterprises. Today, the descendants of those early Italian immigrants number nearly 16 million, according to the U. S. census of 2000; although through intermarriage, the number of people in the United States with at least one Italian grandparent is estimated to be about 26 million. The U. S.

Census Bureau also reports that Italian Americans are the nation’s fifth largest ethnic group, with two-thirds in white-collar positions in business, medicine, law, education and other professions. Italian Americans have made significant contributions to the culture and entrepreneurial spirit of America. From the songs of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Costantino Burmidi’s frescos in the Capitol dome and the vaudeville acts of Jimmy Durante; the Italian American spirit lives through these and many others who gave, and still give, a deeper dimension to the culture of America.

The story of the Italian Americans is sometimes tragic, sometimes inspirational, but always compelling and colorful. It is evident in the prominence of Columbus Day parades, which mark the culmination of acceptance when all of America celebrates an immigrant holiday. With so many Americans claiming Italian ancestry, it is a testament to the value of the intangible riches that these immigrants brought with them so long ago. Only immigrants who rode in steerage on ships had to stop at Ellis Island for inspection. The rest of the passengers in first and second class had their immigration papers processed while on the ship.

The passengers that travelled to Ellis Island transfered from their ships to smaller ferryboats which took them to the island for inspection. Inspection consisted of examination by a doctor and an interview with an inspector. If a doctor saw you as sick, you would have to stay at Ellis Island until you were well again. While with an inspector, immigrants were expected to answer questions like where they were from, whether they had relatives in America or not, how much money they had, could they read or write in any language, and if they had jobs waiting for them in America or not.

Most Italian immigrants had to speak to the inspector through a translator because they did not know any english. Some Italians refered to the island as L’Isola delle Lacrime: “The Island of Tears. ” This was because so many of them were not allowed to enter the United States, or they had to wait for approval days on end in uncomfortable conditions at the island. Italians Help Each Other Many Italians had a hard time finding a home and earning money when they first arrived in the United States. Paesoni, Padroni, and social workers helped out the new Italian immigrants who were just starting their new life.

Paesoni were people who originally came from the same villages as the new immigrants. Paesoni helped their old neighbors find homes and jobs and helped protect them from con artists who would rob new immigrants. Padroni were mostly Italian agents that helped new immigrants find places to live and work. However, some Padroni often charged high prices for their services. Others sometimes tricked Italian workers into signing contracts which made them work under the agents for a certain amount of time and under terrible working conditions and low wages.

Social workers also helped to better Italian communites. These workers opened schools, orphanages, and hospitals for immigrants. A famous Italian woman who bettered Italian communities in Chicago and New York was Maria Francesca Cabrini. In reward for Maria Cabrini’s hard work, she was named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1946; the first United States citizen yet to be honored with the title. ________________________________________ Italians vs. Irish Italian immigrants unknowingly took replacement jobs of Irish workers on strike in the factories.

They just saw it as work, not knowing they were breaking a strike by doing so. It is because of this that the Irish began to hate the Italians. In 1874, striking Irish workers attacked a group of Italians for taking their jobs during the strike. This peaked to anti-Italian riots and mob violence. This violence killed many Italians and forced many more from their homes. Another reason why the Irish disliked the Italian is because of their religious beliefs. The Irish were a Roman Catholic people, but Italian customs dated back centuries and were brought together with modern day Roman Catholicism.

While Irish families were in church in silent masses, Italian families gathered together in celebration and festival of their beliefs. Discrimination Americans discriminated against Italians mainly because they were the biggest Immigrant group coming to America at the time. Because they didn’t have very much money, most Italian immigrants chose to live in poor conditions and because most of them didn’t understand much English, most of them worked for very low wages, seemingly taking the jobs themselves from Americans.

Americans seemed to think that Italian immigrants were not strong enough or smart enough to get good jobs because most of them worked construction jobs and other manual jobs which required no intellect. Newspapers critizied them in editorials, schoolboys taunted them, calling them ethnic slurs such as “Guinea” and “Dago”, and threw things at them, and politicians complained and called for restrictions on the amount of immigrants being let into the country. These attitudes led to the Immigration Act of 1924, which expecially prejudiced against Southern Europeans (Italians).

Part of this act called for 5,645 Italian immigrants to be allowed into the United States per year. This number was ten percent of the amount of Italian immigrants who came into the country the year before the act. One of the worst moments in Italian American history occured in 1891 when a police chief was murdered in ______. Rumors soon spread that Italians were involved in the crime, and more than 100 Italians were arrested. 19 Italians were charged in connection to the crime, but were found not guilty by the judge. Soon after, an angry mob broke into the prison where the Italian prisoners were being held and killed 11 of the men.

Although this was not the end of discrimination towards Italian Americans, it was the peak of the violence that occured. One of the most famous criminal cases involving Italian Americans was that of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the 1920s. These boys were charged with the murder of _____ with little evidence against them. They were electrocuted in 1927 after 7 years of denied appeals. The men’s names were not cleared until Massachusette’s governor Michael Dukakis signed a proclaimation declaring a memorial an

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