The United States has long been a melting pot. Multiculturalism is a key characteristic that makes the country so special.
As a member of the Italian Parliament, I represent the District of North and Central America in the Chamber of Deputies for Italian citizens abroad. This region includes Connecticut, which has a special place in my heart. I lived in Newtown and saw first-hand the immense contributions Italian-Americans have made to the state and its culture.
That’s why I was appalled to see a recent advertisement from the Connecticut Citizen’s Action Group (CCAG) that uses ethnic tropes about Italian Americans to advance a political agenda.
In the ad, they name Connecticut-based healthcare companies Anthem, Cigna, CVSHealth, Tufts / Havard Pilgrim and United Healthcare as “the five families of Connecticut.” It is an obvious and shameful attempt to equate these health insurance companies and their managers with members of organized crime.
The Commission for Social Justice®, the anti-defamation arm of the Order of Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA), has already written directly to CCLS asking them to remove these ads and end negative stereotypes. from CCLS on Italian Americans. in their advertisements.
Italians and Italian-Americans have long been subjected to the stereotypes of organized crime. Hollywood has played a key role in advancing this portrayal, as some of the most popular movies and TV shows in entertainment history have focused on these tropes.
These CCAG attacks couldn’t come at a worse time:
- October is Italian-American Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions and achievements of Italian-Americans in Connecticut and across the country.
- In Hartford, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has just opened the first exhibition exclusively dedicated to Italian women artists. (“By his hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and women artists in Italy, 1500-1800”) which explores how women succeeded in the male-dominated art world of the time and celebrates the vital contributions of women to the history of art in Italy through rarely seen works, recent scholarships and introductions to practically unknown artists. Many works are presented to the public for the first time or make their debut in the United States.
- Governor Ned Lamont recently appointed the members of the “Connecticut Hate Crimes Advisory Council,” which was created by a recently passed state law to coordinate programs that increase community awareness and reporting of hate crimes and to combat these crimes.
Instead of celebrating these wonderful events and working with Connecticut leaders to end hate demagoguery, we are now faced with more anti-Italian-American ethnic stereotypes by the CCLS’s continued caricature of hard-working Italian-Americans. .
No one should ever have to face slander and attack for being who they are, and it is wrong for the CCLS to target people because of their heritage and the country of birth of their ancestors. Likewise, no one should be targeted because of the color of their skin, the religion they practice, the person they love, their country of birth or any other personal attribute that identifies them, even no Italian-American should be targeted.
Italians have not always been welcome in the United States. Like many other immigrant groups who came to America with dreams of a better life, being newcomers was not always easy. Italians have been subjected to widespread prejudice and discrimination in the past.
It is disappointing that in today’s cultural climate, CCLS has deliberately chosen to create these advertisements and promote this discriminatory imagery, especially when two of the presidents and CEOs of these companies are of Italian-American descent.
Regardless of one’s opinions on health insurance, insurance policy, or insurance companies, there is absolutely no excuse for using culturally insensitive and defamatory images to get a message across. In reality, these advertisements are misleading and only perpetuate historical myths that have hurt Italian Americans for decades.
Italian culture is deeply rooted in the fabric of Connecticut. From music and food to initiatives with a global impact, Italian-Americans have a proud history of cultural influence in the state.
The United States has made tremendous strides in eliminating negative ethnic stereotypes – not just those associated with Italians but for all ethnic groups. To maintain this positive progress, we must continue to condemn negative ethnic stereotypes.
Connecticut Citizen’s Action Group has an obligation to immediately remove its advertisements from its website and social media. They should also apologize to the executives and employees of these companies and to the Italian-American community.
Let’s honor and celebrate the cultures that made Connecticut so special. And reject the use of negative stereotypes to advance a political goal.
Fucsia Fitzgerald Nissoli represents Italian citizens living abroad in North and Central America in the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament (Camera dei Deputati).
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