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Some History of Anti-Italian Prejudice in the U.S. and Other "Civilized" Countries

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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 09:53 PM
Original message
Some History of Anti-Italian Prejudice in the U.S. and Other "Civilized" Countries

"The fate of numerous Italian Americans was no different than that of other ethnic groups targeted by lynch mobs. The most infamous lynching of Italians occurred on March 14, 1891 in New Orleans. This event claimed eleven victims and was one of the largest multiple lynchings in American history. The catalyst for this tragedy was the unsolved murder of popular city police superintendent David Hennessy. Hennessys murder led to a roundup of the usual suspects -- in this case Italians. Those detained, immigrants from Sicily and the southern portions of Italy -- possessed swarthy complexions and were viewed with suspicion and contempt by the white protestant elite ruling New Orleans. Akin to Negroes, Italians were not quite white and subject to a racial prejudice only slightly subtler -- mingled with a baseless and deliberately orchestrated Mafia scare associating most Italian Americans with a vast criminal organization that did not exist in the New Orleans of that era."

"The morning of March 14 was bright and sunny. By ten oclock, a crowd of thousands was gathered by the Parish Jail, with many of them shouting, Yes, yes, hang the dagoes! The prison was soon attacked by a carefully selected band culled by the mobs leaders comprised of about twenty-five well-armed men. With battering rams ringing in their ears, the prisoners were both trapped and doomed. In the prison yard where several Italians were clustered together at one end, the hit squad of lynchers opened fire from about twenty feet away. More than a hundred rifle shots and shotgun blasts were fired into six helpless men, tearing their bodies apart. When the firing stopped, the squad inspected their victims. A man saw Pietro Monasterios hand twitch and yelled, Hey, this ones alive! Give him another load, another gunman answered. Cant, I aint got the heart. Then one of the men walked up to the body, aimed a shotgun point-blank, and literally blew the top of Monasterios head away. Someone laughed. There were two or three cheers. One or two men turned their faces away, looking sick."

So it went. Joseph P. Macheca, Antonio Scaffidi, and Antonio Marchesi were shot while turning to face their pursuers. Marchesi was struck in the head by a bullet. As he raised his right hand to shield himself a shotgun charge blew off and went on to disintegrate the top of his skull. Yet he did not die until nine hours later, lying all the time where he fell.

More gunmen found Manuel Polizzi. Sitting on the floor in a corner of a cell, muttering to himself. Dragged by five men into a corridor he was shot two or three times while staring with wild eyes at nothing in particular. Antonio Bagnetto was found in another cell, pretending to be dead. He too was shot. Several of the mens corpses were displayed to the mob outside the prison and hung on lampposts for all to see. Witnesses said that the cheers were nearly deafening.

http://www.americanlynching.com/infamous-old.html#1891


In the United States, Italian immigrants were subject to extreme prejudice, racism, and, in many cases, violence. During the 1800s and early 20th Century, Italian Americans, being seen as non-anglo and often times non-white, were the second most likely group to be lynched. One of the largest mass lynchings in American history involved the lynching of eleven Italians in the city of New Orleans. The Italians, who were thought to have assassinated police chief David Hennessey, were placed in a jail cell before being brutally murdered by a mob, with witnesses claiming that the cheers "were nearly deafening." Reporting on the incident, one newspaper reported "The little jail was crowded with Sicilians, whose low, receding foreheads, dark skin, repulsive countenances and slovenly attire proclaimed their brutal nature." According to one historian in New Orleans: "Akin to Negroes, Italians were not white and subject to a racial prejudice only slightly subtler -- mingled with a baseless and deliberately orchestrated Mafia scare...." In fact, in many areas of the South, Italians were "semisegregated."

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 most 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.

Violence against Italians has also taken place in Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as many other places where Italians have settled. Anti-Italianism in Switzerland is often attributed to the death of recent Italian immigrants such as Alfredo Zardini.

In Australia, anti-Italian riots have occurred on numerous occasions since Italian immigrants, or "wogs," first began coming to the country. Large riots against Italian immigrants have occurred in Gwalia, Leonora, Coolgardie, and other Australian cities. Recently, in the 2005 Cronulla riots, Mediterranean immigrants, including Italians, but especially Middle-Easterners, were targeted by rioters.


That's from Wikipedia. I didn't copy the link but you can do a search and read the rest of the relevant articles.
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Nikki Stone1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 09:57 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thanks
:kick:
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:12 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Thanks for reading and kicking!

:kick:
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msongs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:07 PM
Response to Original message
2. Violence against italians is also rampant....in italy. Is there a safe place to be italian? nt
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:14 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Prejudice against Italians is not rampant in Italy

as it is in many places, including the hearts of more than a few DUers. Perhaps you missed that thread.

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Cameron27 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:23 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. I'm Italian, what thread?
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:29 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. Here y'go
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Cameron27 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:07 PM
Response to Reply #8
16. Pretty bad jgraz,
Edited on Sat Mar-10-07 11:10 PM by seasonedblue
but I'm not too surprised. My Dad's family's from Naples & my mom's are from Foggia, very light skinned, grey/blue eyes, and most people think we're German or Polish...it's amazing the nasty things people say to me about Italians. Married a sweet, very honest Sicilian, so this mafia crap does tend to get under the skin.
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Nikki Stone1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:44 PM
Response to Reply #2
11.  Violence against Americans is rampant in America. Your point, Msongs, is what?
Not sure where you were going with this comment.
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Colobo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:24 PM
Response to Original message
6. I love Italian girls :)
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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:28 PM
Response to Original message
7. K&R #5
On to the greatest page with you.
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:41 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. Wow! That was quick.

I think we got us a little movement here. What do you think about starting an Italian group at DU to discuss Italian stuff like, oh, the Renaissance, the Italian Resistance against the Nazis and the thousands of Jews, from many countries, who were saved by Italian Catholics and Italian Jews working together, Marco Polo's travels to China, Italians introducing forks to Europe, etc. We could trade recipes, maybe work on our Italian, whatever.
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Nikki Stone1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:58 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. How about discussing this?
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0415934516/ref=reg_hu-...


Are Italians White?: How Race is Made in America (Paperback)
by J. Guglielmo

This book cuts to the heart of the similarities and the differences between Italian Americans and African Americans, which historically has been a volatile mix...I applaud this insightful scrutiny. -- Spike Lee

Book Description
When Italian immigrants landed on American shores they were outsiders: dark in complexion, culturally different, and unable to speak English. Over time the vibrant community assimilated and moved from being ethnically suspect to being racially privileged as America divided into black and white.
This dazzling collection of original essays from some of the country's leading thinkers asks the rather intriguing question - Are Italians White? Each piece carefully explores how, when and why whiteness became important to Italian Americans, and the significance of gender, class and nation to racial identity.
From tales of immigration to the stormy relationship between Italians and blacks, the volume presents a dynamic, insightful look at integration, community identity, radicalism, urban politics and creative expression. The authors also explore critical moments in community conflict from the murder of Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst to Frank Sinatra's visit to Italian Harlem in the 1940s.
In the tradition of groundbreaking works like How the Irish Became White and How Jews Became White Folks, Are Italians White? is sure to become a landmark work that defines and adds to the dialogue on the distinct relationship that Italian Americans have had throughout American history to both racialized discrimination and racial privilege.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:33 PM
Response to Original message
9. Thank you for posting this thread
I just came back from the other thread. I can hardly believe so many DUers take offense at one man's request for dignity.
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 10:50 PM
Response to Reply #9
12. Thank you for being here.

I, too, am shocked by that thread. I am not Italian but I've always felt at home in Italy. Italians are wonderful people living in a beautiful country. When I first learned of this horrible incident in America's past, I felt sick. I never knew it was that bad for Italians. And in New Orleans, the Big Easy, which has always been multiethnic/ multiracial. . .

Not that other immigrants like the Irish and Chinese haven't been discriminated against, as well as Native Americans and blacks who were forced to come here. But I had learned about them in school. Not so for the Italians.
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:09 PM
Response to Reply #12
17. By the way, if you are serious about an Italian-American Group,
please count me in. I'd love to have a sounding board for a few of my wild-eyed ideas :-)
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:30 PM
Response to Reply #17
20. I AM serious and want to talk about it more

domani (tomorrow, as you could no doubt guess!) We need ten people who have stars to start a group. I helped get the Catholic/Orthodox Christian Group started so I know the ropes about writing guidelines, etc.

It's late here so I'll talk to you domani.

:ciao:
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:40 PM
Response to Reply #20
24. Buonanotte!
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Nikki Stone1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:00 PM
Response to Original message
14. Oh, and it appears that some Italian Americans were interned during WWII
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1890771406/ref=reg_hu-...

Una Storia Segreta : The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment During World War II (Paperback)
by Sandra Gilbert (Foreword), Lawrence Distasi (Editor)

Book Description
It is little known that Italian Americans had been interned, evacuated and otherwise restricted during World War II. In California, Italian resident aliens were subjected to an 8PM to 6AM curfew, there were searches of their homes and seizure of their property, and there was an evacuation of thousands from prohibited zones along the coast.
In a collection of essays, Una Storia Segreta brings together the voices of the Italian American community and experts in the field, including personal stories by survivors and their children, letters from internment camps, news clips, photographs, and cartoons.

Una Storia Segreta is the secret story/history of Italian Americans that brings a new perspective to the history of wartime violations of civilian populations. The range of scholarly essays detail which parts of the Italian American community were targeted, where internees were sent, how the communities reacted, what some of the long term effects have been, and an analysis of government actions and motives, both stated and secret.
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Nikki Stone1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:02 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. And this book as well
UnCivil Liberties: Italian Americans Under Siege during World War II (Paperback)
by Stephen Fox (Author)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1581127545/ref=reg_hu-...

From the Publisher
Published originally as The Unknown Internment: An Oral History of the Relocation of Italian Americans during World War II
"Outstanding Book" - Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in the United States (1991)

American Book Award - "Outstanding Literary Achievement" - Before Columbus Foundation (1992)

While the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II is a well-known blemish on American history, few people are aware that from February through June of 1942 the federal government enacted a relocation program that forced thousands of West Coast Italian and German aliens and their families to leave their homes for so-called safe zones. Law-abiding people who had lived in the United States for decades, including some who had sons in the armed forces, were subjected to surveillance and harassment simply because they had never obtained U.S. citizenship. The government eventually abandoned this program, but only because the process of relocating so many proved economically and politically unfeasible. Other Italians, including American citizens, whose loyalty was deemed doubtful, were interned or excluded without trial. In UnCivil Liberties: Italian Americans Under Siege during World War II Stephen Fox combines interviews with Italian Americans, government files, and newspaper accounts to reveal this previously untold chapter in American history. The testimonies of those who were the objects of the government's unfounded suspicions and accusations provide a vivid portrait of the times and illuminate a neglected episode. Fox connects his discussion of the Italian American experience with that of other suspected "enemy" aliens during World War II, illustrating how a national security crisis led to the use of group labels and challenged the government's commitment to its libertarian ideals. The voices in UnCivil Liberties will speak to students, scholars, and all readers interested in this period of American history.
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:35 PM
Response to Reply #14
22. So. . .

are you interested in having an Italian Group at DU? I hope we can get one started. More tomorrow, buona notte now.

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jgraz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-11-07 12:18 AM
Response to Reply #22
27. Count me in!
I'd much rather debate how to make a proper carbonara than whether Italians have a right to object to ethnic slurs.

(BTW, if you think it has cream, we're gonna have a problem ;) )
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Cameron27 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:14 PM
Response to Original message
18. Thank you for this lovely thread...
:hi:

k&r
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:33 PM
Response to Reply #18
21. Prego! (For those who don't know,

that's Italian for "You're welcome," not for "sauce in a jar." "Ragu," OTOH, means "sauce" -- but not in a jar!

Are you interested in having a DU Italian Group?

Buona notte!
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Cameron27 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:38 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. Yes, I think it would be fun.
(I've never visited Italy though, if that matters)
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:46 PM
Response to Reply #23
26. Va bene!

I'm not Italian but knowing how friendly Italians are, I figure you guys will probably let me be a straniere member. ;-)

It's a joke with my friends and family that if Mr. Bones says "Want to go to Italy?" I say "Just let me get my purse."

Now I really am going to bed. . . Talk to you domani.
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Kat45 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:15 PM
Response to Original message
19. Wow! I never knew the extent of anti-Italian activities.
Edited on Sat Mar-10-07 11:16 PM by notmyprez
I'm Italian-American, and my mother talks about having seen bias against Italians in her life, but I didn't know things in the more distant past went to the extreme as lynchings. I did know that Italians were often equated to blacks and treated in a similar way. When I was a kid, the Irish kids were always telling Italian jokes and using ethnic slurs for Italians. And recently someone (a WASP) told me that his father always said he never trusted Italians because they might be in the Mafia.
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-10-07 11:40 PM
Response to Reply #19
25. Would an Italian Group at DU interest you?

I'm planting the idea tonight so we can talk about it tomorrow.

:ciao:

P.S. I only found out about the lynchings a few years ago. I saw a tv documentary about it. Until then, I never realized how bad it was, either.
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GreenZoneLT Donating Member (805 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-11-07 12:27 AM
Response to Original message
28. Italians -- the Mexicans of a century ago.
Every anti-immigrant argument you hear today about Latinos (they drive down wages, they're ignorant and dirty, they don't want to assimilate, they're just here for the welfare and citizenship for their kids) is available for viewing in newspaper archives from the 1890s through the 1920s. Just substitute Mexican for Italian, and you could use them for Lou Dobbs scripts.

The Sacco and Vanzetti case is awfully interesting. An apparent miscarriage of justice (the actual killers were probably Italian gangsters with no connection to the hapless anarchists). But Sacco and Vanzetti were closely involved with violent anarchist groups (the sort who set off the blackpowder bomb on Wall Street in 1920), and they were both armed at the time of their arrest. And much of the international protest against their execution was drummed up by Russian agitators working to foment Bolshevik revolt around the world.

Today, Italian-Americans are pretty much generic white folks. That's my prediction for Mexican-Americans in 60 years. I know a few third-generation Mexicans, and none of them speak Spanish worth a crap.

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Ediacara Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-11-07 12:37 AM
Response to Original message
29. Locking
From the DU Rules:

Do not start a new topic in order to continue a flame war from another discussion thread.
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