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Part 1 of 3: Post War America
by Cookie Curci
With the exception of a few, today's Italian-American actors have become little more than a cookie-cutter image of the nefarious mobster. Italian American film characters have been limited to the roll of mob boss or Mafia hit men. With the current popularity of HBO's "The Soprano's" and the constant resurgence of Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 film, " The Godfather," parts I, II & III, the Italian American image has regressed to an unflattering stereotype. As an Italian American growing up in a post war America, it wasnít unusual to experience some prejudice. Like many, whose grandparents emigrated here during the great migration, my family was second generation. Because Italyís tyrant Benito Mussolini had joined Germanyís forces against the United States we were viewed with some suspicion. For that reason we never spoke our native Italian language outside the home and, even then, we would reprimand our parents and grandparents for speaking it to each other. Because of this, we lost a good deal of what should have been our inherited second language. In order to fit in with our peers we concealed much of our Italian heritage. Public opinion was formed quickly against all those whose former country sided against the U.S. Italian Americans were often ridiculed, even though our fathers, uncles and brothers had joined Americaís Armed forces and were fighting these hated oppressors.
The Italian American image had suffered greatly during these years. Name-calling was common and I, like many Italian American kids, was called unfaltering names such as "Wop" and "Dago." We responded in kind with this verse, " If Iím a Dago and Iím a Wop, I eat spaghetti and you eat slop!" Ethnic and racial epithets can be painful and damage the spirit for years to come.
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