desalvo,_louise._color_white_complexion_dark._are_italians_white._pp.17-28._(12)

Desalvo,_louise._color_white_complexion_dark._are_italians_white._pp.17-28._(12)

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ARE ITALIANS WHITE? HOW RACE IS MADE IN AMERICA (PAPER) by IGUGLIELMO, JENNIFER . Copyright 2003 by ROUTLEDGE PUBLISHING INC - BOOKS. Reproduced with permission of ROUTLEOGE PUBLISHING INC - BOOKS in the formal Copy via Copyright Clearance Center. czn-:!:.oos apr:ly: Permission is provided for "text only" that is owned by Taylor 8 Francis Group, LLC. Permission to use any figure, photograph, or other non-text content that is attributed to another source must be pursued d~rectly with the copyright holder. Contact permissionsQtaylorandfrancis.com for permission to use figures, photographs, charts, graphs, ~llustrations, or any other type of non-text content not otherwise attributed. COLOR: WHITE/ COMPLEXION: DARK Journalist to construction boss, 1890s: "Is an Italian a white man?" Construction boss: "No sir, an Italian is a Dago."' My father calls to tell me he has been cleaning out his files. He has found some documents, he says, that I might want, since I have recently showri such interest in my immigrant Italian grandparents. I ask him what they are. "Oh, naturalization papers, visas, some birth records, death certificates," he says. "IVothing really important." I tell him to bring them over right away, for to me they are important. I know that if I do not claim them immediately, they might wind up in the trash like other family mementos did after my father remarried, for my father likes to jettison what he considers to be the detritus of his former life. My father, more than anyone I know, lives in the present, considers his past a burden, an obstacle that he overcame that is unconnected to who he has chosen to become: an American. That he once lived in Italy in a small village near Sorrento, that his heritage is southern Italian, that he grew up poor in Hudson County, New Jersey, that he was taunted as a boy for being Italian and short and scrawny, that he was savaged by a superior in the Navy during World War I1 for the same reasons, he shrugs off as insignificant. So that, in the 1940s and 1950s, I did not grow up with stories of "life in the
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I 8 ARE. ITALlAlVS WHITE? old country," with a sense that I was from n fa~nil~ newly arrived in the United States, ns others did. The way Iny Cather (and mother, too) dealt with their Italian heritage was to not discuss it. Nor did they discuss anyorre's race, nnyorrc's ethnicity-They did not use ethnic or racial labels when talking about world or national affairs or about anyone we knew. And anytime I mentioned that a friend was this or that (for I began, in high school, to think in terms of ethnic and racial cate- gories, as I listened to my fiiends' conversations about who could or could not date whom), my parents would shrug and say,"So what? Underneath, every- one's the same"' or "You can't tell a book by its coverm-their way of saying that when you know someone's ethnicity or race, you know nothing at all about them. So anyone's ancestry seemed unimportant to nly parents, even though they were both extren~ely interested in history. But this was so that they. could understand that which was puzzling to them: why, for example,
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Desalvo,_louise._color_white_complexion_dark._are_italians_white._pp.17-28._(12)

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