Friday, April 20, 2007

If There's an Ethnic Slur, can an Italian-American be far Behind?

Lest you think ethnic slurs against Italian-Americans are few and far between, take a look at a recent column by Michael P. Tremoglie in The Evening Bulletin of Philadelphia, entitled "Some Ethnic Slurs Are More Equal Than Others."

He does a good job of putting the problem in perspective. He also does a good job of pointing out the double standard that exists when it comes to slurring IAs.

Tremoglie, a writer and ex-Philadelphia cop, using the databases of The Order of the Sons of Italy of America (OSIA) and the National Italian-American Federation (NIAF), documents some of the more recent slurs against IAs in the media.

Some of his examples include:

  • During the Nov. 2, 2005 Don Imus show, his Executive Producer Bernard McGuirk, who initiated the conversation about the Rutgers women's basketball team, called Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito a "meatball sucking wop."
  • Star 93.7 radio in Boston in 2004 played the offensive song, "The Twelve Days of Guido Christmas," which depicts Italian-Americans in a particularly unflattering manner.
  • David Letterman's July 28, 2006 opening monologue, plugged the movie "Miami Vice" with the comment, "I have a part ... . I play a pimp named Guido!"

According to Tremoglie:

The idea is that slurring and stereotyping Italian-Americans is acceptable. One has to wonder why it is that insults against Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, Chinese-Americans (Rosie O'Donnell also targets this race) are not acceptable, while similar terms used to describe Italian-Americans are? Why does the double standard exist? Why should any double standard exist in journalism?

There are plenty more examples of this kind that just slip by every day. The only time you hear about any of these is when someone complains loud enough to be listened to.

Double standard indeed.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

America's Mayor Dissed in the Press

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote a column about the Republican presidential candidates. John McCain is looking stronger and stronger she points out (never mind that he puts his foot in his mouth every time he opens it -- or strolls outside for a photo op) and Rudy Giuliani, well, he's Italian-American after all, so let's just make fun of him.

Here's Noonan's take on a recent speech Giuliani made in California:

Here was Rudy Giuliani this week in a speech in California. No one much noted it -- he was lucky it was subsumed by the Imus wave. But this is how Mr. Giuliani opened a speech to citizens considering his candidacy for the American presidency. "Thank youse all very much for invitin' me here tuh-day, to this meeting of the families from different parts'a California."

He was imitating Marlon Brando in "The Godfather." (The rendering comes from a Newsday report.) Actually the character of Don Corleone, as drawn by Mario Puzo, was possessed of a certain verbal elegance, but never mind. Mr. Giuliani's imitation was clear enough to inspire in the audience a smattering of applause and, apparently, laughter.

Earlier in the week, in reaction to a spate of critical stories about his wife, Judith, he asked reporters to leave her alone: "I am a candidate. She's a civilian, to use the old Mafia distinction."

Ah. Can't have enough candidates for president who whimsically employ the language of mobsters.

Giuliani was trying to add a little levity to a political speech. We all know how dull they can be. So he decided to trade on the one thing that makes him stand out from the other candidates -- he's Italian-American. It's not a crime. So he used some mob references as a joke. Big deal.

Now, I'm no Rudy fan. He was my mayor when I lived in Brooklyn. I covered his mayoral campaign for some local newspapers and I covered a part of his mayoralty for them. I have seen what he can do "up close and personal."

Still, making fun of him because he's Italian-American is low. It is uncalled for. The man was making a joke. But Noonan was making it personal. Apparently Republicans can't handle comedy.

Or then again, maybe they can. How else do you explain George W. Bush?