Race and ethnicity are the two most important phenomena in the modern society. Discrimination is the phenomenon that accompanies the above mentioned two. Racial discrimination is the most widespread kind of violating people’s rights on the grounds of the color of their skin or shape of their eyes. Italians, as one of the most numerous ethnic groups inhabiting the United States of America, are seldom connected with racial discrimination in the minds of the majority of people. Nevertheless, this ethnic group, which is often called American Italians, was and currently is subject to severe discrimination in different spheres of social life. As I am the representative of this ethnic group, the focus of my paper is the discrimination against American Italians.
To begin with, it is necessary to mention that the process of Italian expansion to the United States can be called immigration, but not colonization. This distinction can be drawn from the definitions of both notions. Thus, immigration is the intended arrival into a foreign country with the aim of becoming integral part of its nation and serving its prosperity. At the same time, colonization is the same process motivated by the pursuit of economical and social benefit and rejecting the fundamental values of the foreign nation.
So, the Italian arrival to the USA is the perfect example of immigration. Numerous historic personalities and famous modern American citizens are of Italian origin, while their deeds add to the positive international image of the American nation. To exemplify this statement such personalities can be mentioned as Frank Sinatra, Alfredo James Pacino (Al Pacino), Rudolph Giuliani, Silvestre Stallone and many others (Parks, 2008).
However, the roots of Italian immigration go back to the edge of the centuries. The major waves of Italian immigration could be observed in the period between 1880 and 1960. The major reasons for this process were the poor economical state of the native country and the wish of people to find the better future for their children. The main part of the Italian newcomers settled in the special areas that the local authorities assigned to them. The development of this ethnic group was rather reserved and limited by the boundaries of those areas. Moreover, numerous American Italians were either illiterate of absolutely uneducated people, and this helped the natives form their stereotypes against them. Drawing from these stereotypes, the initial forms of the anti-Italian discrimination emerged (Millemaci, 2002).
Thus, the major forms of discrimination that American Italians faced living in the US society were racism, segregation and prejudice of all kinds. For example, a severe racial discrimination of the Italians could be observed during the initial years of the World War II. At the early 1940s, Italians, together with Germans and Japanese, were proclaimed “enemy aliens” and subjected to severe discriminatory policies including lynching and detention. Thus, for example, 600, 000 of legal and illegal Italian immigrants in the United States were outcasted from the American society. Such phenomena as segregation and prejudiced treatment of Italians were typical of the Americans (Millemaci, 2002).
Moreover, the attitude towards Italians was worsened by the so called “white racism”: “Italians, along with other immigrants, were victims of the “white racism” of that time – they were portrayed as socially disorganized and lacking in freedom and responsibility. Italians were also viewed as swarthy, unstable Mediterraneans, and part of a papist plot to control America.” (Millemaci, 2002) The reason for such an attitude was the stereotype of an uneducated, challenged and socially dangerous Italian immigrant who came to the United States to use the resources of the nation and deprive American citizens of their jobs and social services.
Drawing from this prejudice, such types of discrimination as the environmental justice issues and redlining were derived. The former was forced by the belief that the immigrants on the whole, and Italians in particular, damage the environment of the country due to their lack of education and attention towards American national issues. Growth of waste amounts and epidemics of infection diseases were also connected with the numerous immigrants in American cities (Parks, 2008).
The redlining was a logical consequence of the environmental justice issues as far as the districts populated by Italians were separated from other areas. These districts were marked with red lines on city maps which meant that investments into them should be cut, while consumer goods and social services prices should be considerably increased. Further on, the dual labor market policies were imposed on Italians in America leaving them only low-income jobs that demanded manual work, while the high income ones were taken by the American citizens. Glass ceiling, glass walls and glass escalator discriminations were also implemented against American Italians allowing them no career development and wellbeing achievement. Double jeopardy was another discriminative activity that made Italian immigrants unprotected from the abuses of the US Court System (Parks, 2008).
Finally, in the late 20th century, the policies to improve the situation were implemented by the US Government. The most significant of them was the Affirmative Action that presented the formerly discriminated minorities with advantages in educational and employment opportunities, career prospects, social services, etc. However, discrimination against American Italians can still be observed and there is a lot of work to be done in this relation (Millemaci, 2002).
As for me, I can state that I identify myself as a member of the American society but this does not mean that I reject and forget my Italian ethnicity. I consider myself to be a progressive person, and due to this I avoid stereotyping races and nations. Even vice versa, I try to find positive aspects of every single ethnic group constituting our society so that to add to their fruitful cooperation. Thus, I can state that I am not a colonizer as I do not reject American values in favor of Italian ones. Also, I am not an immigrant because I am not trying to assimilate in the US culture. I identify myself with both Italian and American ethnicities and enrich my scope in this way.
So, to conclude, ethnicity is an important phenomenon for every person. Modern society tends to respect the rights of all ethnicities, but discrimination on racial grounds is still considerable. In this paper, I managed to disclose the roots of the discrimination against American Italians and formulated my own identity as I see it.
Parks, R. (2008). Italian Americans and Dual Labor Market. Web.
Millemaci, D. (2002). The Italian Immigrant in America. Dreams and the Harsh Realities. Web.