Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

By Dr. Manny Alfano
President. One Voice Italian American Coalition
 

The recent passing of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a reminder of how far Italian Americans have come in earning the respect of our fellow Americans.  

When Antonin Scalia was nominated and confirmed to serve on the High Court there were, and in many ways still are, those who believed all Italians Americans were somehow mob connected. Unfortunately too many TV dramas and reality shows, even today, continue to reinforce that perception. 

The Italian American One Voice Coalition knows this. Every day we fight negative Italian American stereotyping in the media and elsewhere. But this is not about what we have seen – but what we have done to change things. More importantly, what still needs to be done.

As president of One Voice (www.iaovc.org) I am happy to say our efforts are bearing fruit.

Thanks to our many contacts and legions of defenders nationwide we have been able to bring to the attention to those in the media the slights which far too long have gone unanswered. We have also seen a renewed sensitivity to Italian Americans as we politely, and sometimes strongly, object to what before was seen as acceptable.

Just last year Chuck Todd, the host of NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ referred to a congressional race on Staten Island as a ‘fight between mob families’. We immediately called upon our defenders to complain en mass via phone calls and email to Mr. Todd and NBC management. To his credit Mr. Todd issued an on air apology.

We also swamped a northern NJ car dealership with calls and emails after it launched a TV advertising campaign that featured ‘Mobster Puppets’. Within days the ads were yanked. 

In conjunction with that action we blitzed the advertising agency in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania responsible for the ads. Thanks to our media contacts an executive board member of One Voice was interviewed in studio on Fox Business regarding those offensive ads. Millions of viewers in every corner of America experienced a ‘teachable moment’ about who and what we really are.

 On the governmental side I was proud, along with other One Voice members and associated Italian American groups, to persuade legislators in NJ to officially designate October Italian American Heritage Month. I was also afforded the rare honor of addressing the State Senate on the Senate floor (see photos). Meanwhile we are currently fighting to reinstate funding for New Jersey’s Italian American Heritage Commission. Money for that much needed commission has been absent from the state budget for a half dozen years.

Even more than a century after Italians arrived in the United States there remains lingering discrimination, misinformation and downright prejudice. We remain vigilant and stand ready to continue the fight. Your help is always welcomed. Visit the Italian American One Voice Coalition website or call our offices at 844-862-8623 for more information about joining the effort.