Race and Your Community

The period of the Great Depression also saw a huge influx of immigrants from different parts of Europe. Italian nationals were seeking refuge from political persecution and poverty and reached the shores of New England with high hopes. But the conditions prevailing at that time was hostile to its new citizens. The domination by the White Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASP) at that time was uncontested and overwhelming. Though the Italian American community was technically “white” as well, their status was equal to that of black Americans. The trend persisted the following years, culminating during the Second World War, where Italy was at war with America. The civil rights of many Italian Americans were stripped and many innocent citizens were suspected of espionage and subversion. But my grandfather lived to see a positive transformation of this situation after the Second World War. The post War period saw renewed respect for all ethnic minorities given the fact that a significant percentage of armed forces came from the underclass and minorities. (Alba, 1985)

As for our own leaders – their take on the situation was a little ambivalent. While blatant societal injustice caused rightful indignation, a corner of their hearts still felt indebted to this “land of the free” for gracefully embracing and welcoming these new citizens from afar. Such feeling for their adopted land is understandable, as my grandfather recollected the stories of persecution and oppression in his native land. (Alba, 1985)

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Another influential person in our family was our grandmother. Looking back, she was the last link to our ancestral native land. Not only she could speak fluent Italian, but also render an Opera or two. She was also adept at making marinara and rolling gnocchi. I remember how when I was a toddler, she would sing lullabies in Italian to put me to sleep.

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