Why We Do Not Promote “Mob”, “Mafia” or, “Stereotypical” Italian Topics in this Group

John Amato Posted on the Sons and Daughters of Italy Site


Many of the images that appear on most Italian-American Facebook pages and groups contain the nefarious and seemingly ‘mysterious’ and glorified criminalities of the “Mafia”.

Creating for Italian immigrants coming to the U.S. in the late 1800s, the negative “organized crime” images emerged and marginalized an ethnic group that did not originate of itself but from the dominant culture and dominant social order. For us Italians, the immigrant generation was reduced to a Luigi caricature, a simple soul who spoke in a pasta-ladened accent. Then came the perennial Mafia mobster, given new life by Hollywood with The Sopranos. Also still going strong are the television commercials portraying large boisterous Italian families gathered around the dinner table to shovel immense amounts of food into their mouths and at each other in what resembles an athletic contest.

Another enduring stereotype is of the Italian American as a working-class boor, a dimwit proletarian, visceral, violent, and thoroughly unschooled. There is nothing wrong with being working-class but there is plenty wrong with a vulgar class caricature that defames all working people (whatever their ethnic antecedents). Left out of such scripts are the realities and struggles of workers, a subject seldom treated in the mainstream news or entertainment media.

Media stereotypes aside, there exists a duality in the Italian- American self-identity: on the one hand, a strong in-group pride regarding our heritage and an assertion of our worth as Italians to counteract the wretched stereotypes, along with strong family involvements that remain ethnically tinged, to say the least.

On the other hand, there are the strenuous assertions of our “100 percent Americanism” as a way of overcoming social marginalization. This is what I have called cultural ambidexterity, the promotion of both ethnic pride and Americanism all at the same time, usually accompanied by a political conservatism.

It is an image duality that fits into the acculturation/assimilation model: we acculturate to the American identity, often with a compensatory militancy because of our being somewhat marginalized and unassimilated. This marginalization at the same time adds to our determination to hold to an Italian group awareness and loyalty.

There are stories we all can tell of our families, our youthful experiences living through what Hollywood never portrays, like the mothers of all those “Mobsters” (like my Nanna), who would cry themselves to sleep every night just worrying about their sons, where they were, what they were doing, and in fact, if they’d come home that night at all! And all the pain and misery many of our families experienced when these “glorified” images of mobsters caused deaths, murders, robberies, heists, extortions, and a host of illegal activities no ethnic group should ever have to explain, document, or be proud of – this is never portrayed by TV and/or Hollywood.

For all of the above and much of what I have “CHOSEN” not to tell of my own family and past (and I too can tell stories indeed!), we here at “The Sons and Daughters of Italy” do not condone, or will ever promote, give attention to, or post anything in reference to the Mafia (unless in documented legal, or artistic – behavior within a historically NON-GLOROFIED perspective).