Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Degrees of Being Italian American.

I had to write tonight based on the whole idea of being Italian American. I ran into a few people this week where we talked about being Italian American and the generational gaps. Every time I talk to a person about being Italian it really becomes an educational lesson for me. Sometimes I suffer from thinking that everyone is or thinks like I do when it comes to being Italian American. Not that I feel any superiority to any one's level of cultural upbringing but I often find myself comparing my life and upbringing to theirs and how we evolve from our close generations to thinking or just recognizing a few traits of your heritage. This is definitely one of the factors that I always speak of and how losing your cultural identity is such an easy thing because really we all socialize into our "American" societal mannerisms and your cultural upbringing becomes secondary or unspoken.

How can in a nation built on immigrants are we so clueless and lost to who we really are..? Yes, we are American, but knowing where, what and how you got here is the key to understanding your cultural identity. So, turn off the TV, forget about the stereotypes and start thinking, researching and educating yourselves on the true history behind your culture. My interactions this week, kind of set me off, after engaging in a water cooler conversation about "The Real Housewives of NJ" and how the fact that there was violence at the finale show was because they all have "Italian tempers." That pissed me off beyond pissed me off. (Oh yeah, that's my Italian temper talking!)

If all that came out of that show were accusations and the fact that Italians have tempers then that is a waste of airtime and a perfect example of how we are manipulated by mass media. I really had to control my conversational responses this week, because I easily could have said a lot that could have sparked some negative vibes, for sure. But I only added what I know to be true, the facts about what being Italian American is all about for me. Again, I don't speak for everyone, this is my opinion but I feel strongly about the whole degree or levels of being Italian American and knowing who you really are and not what a TV show tells you its all about. Anyone care to share your thoughts on this one?

6 comments:

Michele said...

I am a second generation Italian American and I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. My grandmother lived with us and helped raise us kids. She cured every ailment with food. She loved to work in her garden and feed her family from it. She believed in all kinds of superstitions and always told me stories about living on "the other side". A lot of the stories I read about Italian American Families are true for me, such as the cutesy funny stuff about talking with our hands and having big personalities. Now, I've watched The Sopranos and The Real Housewives of NJ. There certainly are some things I can relate to and some things that I can't. My thought is that this is TV. I really don't think that normal people think that every single Italian American is like that in every single way possible. I think it's silly to get upset when we are portrayed in a certain light. It's an exaggeration of some truths. It's the same for every nationality. We all have our stereotypes. I think it's important to be able to laugh at ourselves and not take it all so seriously. I have a big personality and I tell it like it is. I can blame it on being Italian, Being from New York, or just on being me. Honestly, I don't care what people think about me or my nationality because I know better and to me that's all that matters.

Margaret said...

Hi Michele,

Well said, your comment I'm sure is shared by many Italian Americans. Thank you for adding your personal story.

-Margaret

Anonymous said...

Great point. As a kid I always attributed my losing my cool as my Italian temper (not sure where I picked up that notion). As an adult I have realized it has nothing to do with having Italian roots and that giving my anger a reason/excuse like that was so not helpful.

~Lisa

Ree said...

I am tired of the stereotypes, too. I grew up in Chicago in the 60s and 70s as the grandchild of a Sicilian immigrant and endured the Mafia slurs and being picked on for my olive complexion and more prominent nose. I had thought that the world was more enlightened for a while and then came this reality TV depiction of Italian Americans as fools. I am proud of the values of my grandparents and parents and can only think that efforts such as yours, Margaret,and all of our own little ways of leading our lives honorably can show the world the true reality of being Italian American today.
~Rosemarie Sanzone McDowell

Margaret said...

Great comments...

Anonymous said...

I am 3rd generation Sicilian American. I have taken many cultural studies classes as well as had my disagreements about how Italian Americans are portrayed in the media. It is offensive as well as predetermining Italian idenity. Some stereotypes are true as they are with most cultures however, profiling Italians to be violent gangsters is offensive and inaccurate. Some people maybe involved with that activity in any American culture but to paint a picture that all italians are that way is ridiculous. The reality shows are also portraying Italians as loud, tanned, self centered, idiots and this is doing major damage to younger generations idea of Italian American culture. I don't mean to be on a soap box but why not? All other cultures get to fight for their dignity why can't Italians?