Who is not appalled at the incessant mass shootings plaguing our nation? But, these hate-motivated massacres are not solely an American problem. History and the world news show them to be a basic human failing familiar in every epoch and on every continent. We can blame “white nationalism,” Donald Trump, or the NRA. Or, we can accuse Hollywood action movies, the ‘Hitler channels’ on cable, violent video games, social media, or just the mentally ill. Crossing the line from an obsessive thought to human slaughter is something few of us can understand.
What Stalin did to fellow Slavs, what the Rwandan Hutus did to their Tutsi neighbors, what Pol Pot did to his own Cambodians were “in-house” crimes among Caucasians, Africans, and Asians. Humans always find differences enough among themselves to kill for. But, I’d be lying if didn’t admit we have a problem in America with White fanatics.
Today in America, the clock is ticking on White dominion. Euro-American fanatics now have a siege mentality, egged on by uncontrolled immigration and pure anti-Euro propaganda. Part of any self-assessment by a minority group somehow requires a White explanation: how does a person of color’s misfortune relate to “White Privilege?” It is a question that seems to haunt African American Professor Claudia Rankine of Yale University. The NY Times Magazine published her anguish in the July 21st issue.
Rankine obsesses about us. She launched the course Constructions of Whiteness to teach Yale students how to delve into the White mentality by interviewing as many Euro-Americans as possible. How do we define White? When did Italians, Irish, and Slavs become White? Euro-American students are encouraged to examine racism in their own families.
And, you don’t want to sit next to Prof. Rankine on a plane or in an airport. She will not only interrupt your solace to question your White existence but critique it. She prefers the term “white dominance” to White Privilege and embraces the concepts of “white fragility,” “white defensiveness,” and “white appropriation.” I felt some pity for this women as I absorbed her obsession for all things White. It is ironic that she was born on the island of Jamaica and is married to…a White guy.
The Italian saying, “Why are you crying with two loaves of bread in your arms?” occurred to me as I learned that this immigrant attended Columbia University and was hired to teach at Yale a course of her own design. In addition, she got paid to write for the NY Times. I have trouble getting a letter printed in my local Newsday.
White racism in America not only exists, but denouncing it has become a lucrative industry. It insinuates itself into every sector of society – business, housing, education, immigration, government, and finance. Everywhere there lurks White Privilege, crushing dreams, blocking wealth, gentrifying Black neighborhoods.
For lower middle class Italian Americans living in the 1950s and 60s, racism began with block-busting. My personal memories of those days involved the loss of homogeneous neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens to the influx of African Americans. It was called White Flight back then and deemed an unnecessary panic, but to those who lived it, the fear was real enough. Plunging real estate values, an influx of welfare recipients and Black street culture were dream destroyers. But we moved in silence, abandoning the city for the suburbs with higher expenses and longer commutes.
Though many insist we enjoyed White Privilege the moment our ancestors stepped off the boat, we didn’t see it that way. We were fortunate to have Italian drive and a survival culture. We made livings with a marketable cuisine, heavy labor, creativity, and family values.
I see more African Americans in positions of prominence and influence than Italian Americans. We founded the Bank of America in 1904 as the Bank of Italy, but today’s Board of Directors hasn’t one Italian American but plenty of other Euro-Americans as well as two African Americans and a Hispanic.
There may be White Privilege but certainly not Italian Privilege. -JLM