Friday, January 6, 2017

Another Note On Racism Among Italian Americans

We have done many posts taking up the question of racism and anti-immigrant feeling among Italian Americans. On a more positive side, we have emphasized commonalities of experience and origins when we could and we have stressed the need for Italian Americans to return to their roots and, at the same time, make a new and better history with people of color.

Some people think that this is all in our heads. Some people think this is identity politics run amuck. We approach the matter in pragmatic terms: we need to struggle from where we are, whatever the limitations imposed on us by that space. "Chi la strada vecia per la nova, sa cosa lasa, ma no sa cosa che 'l trova."---He who leaves the old road for a new one knows what he's leaving but not what he will find. In other words, dare to struggle and dare to win.

Now we find that Saveur magazine, of all publications, supported us last March! They ran an article on the Arabic roots of Sicilian food, something no mainstream Italian American publication would dare do. The opening of the article says:

Seen from the sky—which is to say, observed on the in-flight video map during our final approach—the island appears as a triangularish football being punted toward the Maghreb by Italy's boot. It's a pixelated reflection of Sicilian identity itself, which hovers midway between North African and European. That intersection is what brought me here. I've come in search of a particular idea, a local expression, a secret password into this place's soul: mal d'Africa.

The mal refers to heartsickness, as in the feeling of missing Africa. For Sicilians, mal d'Africa is a kind of phantom continent syndrome, a sense of nostalgia for a lost homeland, a homesick longing for the landmass next-door that played such an important role in shaping their way of life. We all have it in some way, that desire to return to an impossible elsewhere. But people here speak of having mal d'Africa when they've been traveling away from home for too long. They miss Africa; they need to get back to Sicily.

Read the entire article here.

Alright, they're trying to sell you something. But here is the evidence---the traditions we cling to, imitate or call upon come from the Arab and African worlds. The pang of conscience you get when you know Carl Paladino and his friends need to be silenced? Mal d'Africa!   

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