Not only were they made to face discrimination from outside, but also within their group. There is a long record of how the Northern Italians looked down upon Italians from down south, especially from Sicily. There were many factors contributing to this outcome. The southerners were slightly dark skinned and their way of is more agrarian compared to the industrial north. Hence the identity of Italian immigrants in the United States cannot solely be attached to immigration and subsequent integration into the society. In other words, the southern Italians (also called Black Italians) had to fight discrimination twice over. And that onerous task is reflected in the degree of success attained by this subgroup in assimilating into the mainstream American representation today (Quinn, 2004).
The Italian American community had to face discrimination in the form of negative stereotyping. For long, the Italian community had to assume blame for the anti-social and violent activities of the mafia. But the reality is – only a minority of Italian Americans actively participated in such illegal activities. The plight of this disadvantaged community through the recent and distant history of American cultural assimilation paints a very poignant picture, which is best captured by the following quotation:
“Often alone and without family, viewing himself as primarily a ‘sojourner’, denied access to existing support institutions, unfamiliar with White Anglo-Saxon Protestant political traditions and possessing a political culture not conducive to participation, the Italian peasant was almost totally unprepared for participation in American politics. The result more often than not, was withdrawal from politics or stunted and ineffective political development. The effects of these forces and conditions on Italian immigrants continue to the present day and are reflected in their relatively low levels of political participation.” (Cornacchia, 1992)
Nelson, Dale C ,ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY, ARTISAN LEADERSHIP, AND IMMIGRANT WORKERS’ LABOR MILITANCY: Italian and Chinese Immigrant Workers in New York City, 1890-1970. Labor History; Fall96, Vol. 37 Issue 4, p480-499, 20p, 2 charts
Trasciatti, Mary Anne., Framing the Sacco-Vanzetti Executions in the Italian American Press. Critical Studies in Media Communication; Dec2003, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p407-430, 24p
Cornacchia, Eugene J., Historical differences in the political experiences of American Blacks and white ethnics: revisiting an unresolved controversy.
Ethnic & Racial Studies; Jan1992, Vol. 15 Issue 1, p102, 23p
Quinn, Roseanne Giannini, Mothers, Molls, and Misogynists: Resisting Italian American Womanhood in The Sopranos, Journal of American Culture; Jun2004, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p166-174, 9p