October is Italian Heritage Month

In the US, October is Italian Heritage Month

All around the country, there are celebrations to commemorate the achievements and impacts Italian immigrants brought to American society. Of course, a lot of these celebrations deal with food! Being Italian and being an Italian-American are two vastly different things (for a different post!), and I’m lucky to have experienced both.

Italian-Americans have contributed a lot to our society. First, they built roads and railroads. Then as they integrated into society they became actors, scientists, professors, singers, and politicians. They’ve influenced American culture, especially through food! Most notably, Fettucini Alfredo and Chicken Parm are Italian-American food creations. It’s a huge subculture that can be over the top, in your face, and proud, but I’m happy to call it mine.


Life as an Italian-American

Italian-Americans also endured many hardships. American society generally did not accept Italian-Americans as equals. I remember reading an account of a woman who said she was called a “garlic eater” by her teacher in elementary school. My own grandfather remembers being pushed around at work by his American coworkers because they “didn’t like the way he spoke English.” Italians today are stereotyped as being racist, but in 1899, 5 Italians were lynched in Louisiana for allowing black customers the same rights as white ones. They were also the victims of police raids and severe police brutality in their enclaves in New York, New Orleans, and Chicago. During WWII, they felt anything but welcomed. Even though this is a Wikipedia article, it does a pretty good job of explaining “Anti-Italianism.”

They didn’t meet American standards, but they sure strived to. Italians may be very loyal to their old culture, but the Italians in America love America very deeply. Despite their hardships, they never held the things that happened to their people at the hands of mainstream Americans against anyone. These aren’t just opinions I have; I heard these stories continually growing up. The US isn’t perfect, but to the immigrants in my family, it didn’t need to be. They just wanted fulfilled lives, and that’s what they received.

Takeaways

What we can learn from these different subcultures in America is that we are indeed different. We are united under one flag, but we’re also different. But that’s okay! We need to stop saying general things that put people into boxes like “white people” or “black people” or “privileged people” or “rich people.” We all have a different story, and it’s our duty as Americans to honor each and every one of the cultures that make up our country.


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