This is the sort of thing that depresses me more than I can describe.
My whole family is here, I am here, because of “chain migration.” My parents were called dagos, wops, greasers, guineas, and half-n*ggers, and so was I when I was growing up. My grandfather, a peaceable and inoffensive tailor, was forced to register as an enemy alien because he was born in Italy. My grandmother had actually forgotten that she wasn’t born here and ran to the courthouse to nationalize in terror, frightened that her kids would be taken away from them. In today’s climate, they would have been — and my mom and uncle would have grown up in an orphanage.
And now, we have people named Giuliani, Gianforte, Scavino, Scalise, and Scaramucci saying the same shit, trying to get other people’s families ripped apart.
They lynched us as well, and not in small numbers — but we drank that poison cup, and it managed to make us forget our own history. Now, people named Picciolini are joining white supremacist movements. (Thankfully, he got out, but how the fuck was he ever so ignorant of his own history to join in the first place?)
There is no hope and nothing positive in assimilating to the American way of life. It is a poison chalice. Our grandparents drank it because they knew no better, but it’s poisoned the minds and hearts of their grandchildren. We came to this country, with its history of racial and ethnic hatred, of importing human beings with human dreams like furniture, and it poisoned us. Like radioactive calcium, it’s crawled into our bones, and we’ll die with it soaked into us. How could it be any different?
Assimilation to the American way of life just means hating anyone darker than yourself, or anyone newer to these shores. In a country the history of which is so entwined with slavery, all it means is becoming white. And whiteness kills. It used to kill us, within the memories of family members still alive. It kills others. It’s killed our hearts and crushed our capacity for human kindness. It’s powerful enough to wipe our memories of our own roots and our own families’ experiences. Whiteness only ever destroys.
There is no hope in this. Seeing Italians falling for this and forgetting their own history sickens me in ways I don’t know if I can recover from. I really don’t think there is anything to this “melting pot” bullshit anymore. Assimilation into the American way of life is destructive, period. And it didn’t even take that long! We’re talking about people whose grandparents — people they knew — were put through this, and who are now stepping up and slobbering like rabid animals to do it to the next people in line. I have cousins I will never speak to again over this. I can’t. I can’t even look them in the face.
Humanity kills hope, every time. Love in fact does not trump hate. People will throw their own families into the bin, ignore their own memories, if they get a luscious, chewy, rich serving of hatred to enjoy.
Getting this message out is impossible. The only Italian-American organizations that exist are in the iron grip of angry, ugly, loud, middle-aged males who spit and snarl when they talk and have shit between their ears. Big, mean, loud bullies who are stupid enough to embody the Al Capone stereotype own the Italian-American dialogue. The days of old left-wing lions who remember their roots like Mario Cuomo and Geraldine Ferraro are long over. The poison has soaked in.