Italian Americans and Discrimination

It may be hard to tell by my name, but I am from Italian descent and have a hard time relating to my heritage. I have never had a problem with this fact until this assignment, and now I truly want to find out more about the culture and heritage that I come from. After doing some research, it is plain to me that even Italian Americans face discrimination and prejudice. This is not only true in this day and time, but history also shows that Italian immigrants to this country were met with quite a large amount of discriminatory actions.

Between the years 1880-1920 more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States; the largest amount of immigrants by a single race or ethnic group to the United States in such a short time (Rapczynski, 1999). They fled their home country to ours in order to get away from the poverty that they were suffering from in search for a better life. When they arrived however, they were immediately faced with discrimination. They were tested for every known disease, tested for mental deficiency, and deported back to Italy if they showed signs of either.

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Those that showed no signs of either were passed on to Immigration Inspectors in order to be interrogated (Rapczynski, 1999). The Italian immigrants faced a number of types of discrimination, including stereotypes, racism, dual labor market, and environmental justice issues. Assimilation to America was hard for the immigrants because they were seen as incompetent and feared due to their Catholic religion (Italian Americans Presentation, n. d. ).

Nearly a hundred years later, Italian Americans are still facing stereotypes and other forms of discrimination that seem to be without end. For more than 35 years Italian Americans claim to have been passed over for jobs by the City University of New York (Foderaro, 2010). Apparently they are being passed over for employment simply because of their ethnicity. It seems to me as though racism and discrimination is far worse for Italian Americans than many people believe. I for one was mistakenly under the mpression that racism, prejudice, and discrimination today was reserved for people that do not have light skin. Truthfully, it does not matter where you come from or what color your skin is; you can still be subject to discrimination and prejudice. Even though I am not very familiar with my Italian background, heritage, or culture I find myself in a difficult position. I find that it is very hard to identify with mainstream culture and assume that because someone is of Italian descent that they are in the mafia, eat pasta, and drink a lot of alcohol.

In my time in the military, we were taught to believe that it does not matter the color of one’s skin because we all bleed red. There is no difference between someone of Italian descent, someone of African descent, and someone of Asian descent. We all bleed the same; have a soul, and the desire to belong. Yet there are people who view Italian Americans as though they are not as good as other ethnic groups. I cannot find myself identifying with my Italian heritage either since I was never raised with their traditions, Catholic religion, or even their language.

I have never truly known much about Italian American history, and was completely unaware of the awful way that they were treated upon entering this country. I also was blind to the fact that they still face discrimination and prejudice in this country today. Perhaps it is because so often we focus on the big picture, that the racism, prejudice, discrimination, and hate are blatantly directed toward two other ethnic groups. For these two reasons I find myself identifying with both the mainstream culture here in our country and the Italian Americans equally.

I have been discriminated against by other races or ethnic groups, so I understand how the Italian Americans feel. I have been passed over for employment or promotions so I have felt the way the Italian immigrants felt a hundred years ago. On the other hand, I understand what it is like to fear something that is different simply because one does not understand it. It seems to me that is the largest reason behind any form of discrimination. We as humans seem to fear the unknown, and out of our fear comes discrimination, racism, and prejudice.


Foderaro, L. W. (2010, September 14). Unlikely Group Charges Bias at University. Retrieved from Italian Americans Presentation. (n.d.). Retrieved from Rapczynski, J. (1999). The Italian Immigrant Experience in America (1870-1920). Retrieved from

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Italian Americans and Discrimination. (2017, Mar 02). Retrieved from