Unfair Stereotypes
Chicago Tribune, May 12, 2001
used by permission

    Surely Clarence Page cannot be unaware that Italian-Americans are deeply offended by the hideously perverse portrayal of our ethnic group that is continuously and purposefully presented by "The Sopranos" television series. Yet he didn't regard this as being worth consideration, and avoided the issue entirely in his favorable analysis of the show.

    At first glance, it seems odd that Page, of all people, would endorse any film or TV series that debases a particular group through the routine deployment of hostile racial or ethnic stereotypes. In fact, I'm certain we could expect a less-positive assessment from Page if the series treated African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics or Jews in the same fashion.

    Yet that's precisely the point, and we could not ask for a clearer example of the hypocrisy so shamelessly apparent in the media's brand of liberalism than Page's recent column. Criticize the depiction of Shylock in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice," complain about the handling of African-American characters by Mark Twain or protest a football team's Native American icon and the social conscience of the news media is instantly stirred with grave concern over unfair and potentially dangerous stereotyping.

    All of this enlightened sensitivity vaporizes away, however, when Italians are the target. Suddenly there's no hand-wringing over the effect that persistently negative portrayals might have on the self-image of Italian-American children. Suddenly scriptwriters, producers and publishers no longer feel the need to populate their story lines with positive role model-type Italian characters for the sake of balance. Suddenly protesting Italian-Americans are accused of hypersensitivity and of attempting to stifle creativity.

    The only plausible explanation for this unsubtle double standard is that Italians are Euro-ethnic, mostly Catholic and perceived to be socially conservative; thus, in the eyes of liberals, deserving of every slur and insult hurled our way.

Don Fiore
Villa Park, Illinois
Staff writer for The Italic Way Magazine



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