Question about Italians and race

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by VenusEnvy, Nov 2, 2005.

  1. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Perhaps a kind Italian can aid me in translating the following for our Italian foreros?....

    I have two questions about how Italians view their race.

    • Do Italians consider themselves white?

      I was speaking to my supervisor yesterday about race and how different races get treated in the classroom. My supervisor is a black woman. After talking at length about how "White female teachers get taken advantage of when their student body consists of all black students", she made an interesting comment to me.... She asked me, "What's your descent?" I told her that my father's side was of Sicilian descent. She then responded, "Ohh. Well, you know that we blacks don't really consider you Italians white, right?" This is not the first time I'd heard this. Why don't people consider Italians white?

    • Do Sicilians consider themselves Italian?, or simply Sicilian?

      My father is of Sicilian descent, and in me, it is (I suppose) apparent to those who meet me. I have often heard that when Sicilians are asked, "Are you Italian?", they respond with, "No, I'm Sicilian." Do Sicilians consider themsevles Italians? Or, is there a divide there?

    Sorry to bring up a touchy topic, but I'd like to know what people think about this. Thanks in advance, everyone!
  2. Mei Senior Member

    Where streets have no name...
    Catalonia Catalan & Spanish

    One of my best friend's father is from Sicily and I consider him as a white men. I think that Sicily and Catalonia has the same feeling about being a "country", of course they are not but... Sicily is an island that had suffer many invasion, I guess that's why most of them don't want to be italians. (The same with Catalonia)

    I'll wait for more opinions, this thread interest me!


  3. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Perhaps you should ask those people, rather than the Italians themselves. This is indeed a very sensitive issue, race always is, but since I've read a wee-bit about it I'll put in my 2 cents, even though I am not Italian.

    In certain places and certain times, Italians, like other Southern Europeans, have indeed been considered 'non-white'. This was the case, for example (but not exclusively) in the U.S., during the 19th century and the early 20th century. The white elite of predominanty Northern European extraction that dominated the country wanted to monopolize power for itself, and one way to do that was to define everyone else as 'non-white'. Since (according to the ideologies prevalent at the time) the white race was superior to all others, making it a very 'exclusive club' allowed them to bar access to power from Southern European immigrants. There were even immigration laws that defined which percentage of each nationality was allowed to enter the U.S. every year, based on their respective race: more Northern European immigrants were allowed in than Southern Europeans, even though in the late 19th and the early 20th century there were more people wanting to come to the U.S. from Southern Europe than Northern Europe.

    The more recent evolution has been very curious, in a way. As the flow of immigration from Italy to the U.S. diminuished, and Italian immigrants became more and more integrated into the American landscape, and as immigration from Latin America became more prevalent, the new category of 'Latino/Hispanic' appeared. And, in spite of the obvious linguistic and cultural similarities between all Southern Europeans; in spite of the fact that the very word 'Latino' is derived from the name of an ancient people of Italy, Italians are not usually regarded as Latino. Madonna, an Italian-American with Italian last name, can innocently say that she 'loves Latinos' at a concert.

    And here's a fun historical fact: the Irish were also considered 'non-white' in the 19th century.

    The lesson I personally draw from all this is that race concepts are fluid and culture-dependent, much more than most people realise. In the end, in our racist societies, 'white' is just a synonym for privileged, and 'non-white', or the various other terms that are employed around the world, a synonym for 'discriminated'.
  4. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Yes, I know of this. Thanks for bringing it up here.

    However, I hear this comment being made today, and wondered why it stuck.... Out of all of the European ethnicities that weren't considered white in the past, why has this "myth" remained for Italians? No one has argued that the French aren't white...
  5. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    I simply get atonished by thinking of Italians as 'non-whites'.

    Only under a very strict concept Italians should not be considered as 'non-whites'. Of course, Spaniards (except Galicians, maybe?) would not be considered 'whites'.

    About Sicilians not being Italians, this is a tricky question. I assume you know that there is a strong regionalist (independentist?) movement in Italy. Their political party is called 'Liga Norte' which is not but a gathering of regionalist movements in North Italy, mostly in Lombardia (Milan), Tuscany and Venice.

    The problem is mostly economical North is rich and is paying for the South (Naples and Sicily) and for the central government (Rome). Meanwhile , South feels they receive some money but most of the insfrastructure and investment goes to the North.

    Moreover, Sicily and Naples were the last unified kingdoms in Italy (around 1860), conquered by both Garibaldi and Saboy Kingdom. They speak a different Italian dialect (while 'standard' Italian is based in Tuscany dialect).

    As well as Catalonia in Spain, Bavaria in Germany and Scotland in UK (and Texas in US?) they feel they are 'special' in some way.

    Anyway, I would say they share both identities, they are 'Sicilians' and 'Italians'. When talking about Verdi they will say they are 'Italians' and when talking about their glorious Greek past they will say they are 'Sicilians'.

    If you go too far, I would say there is no Italians in Italy (only toscanos, sicilians...), Spaniards in Spain (only catalonians, madrileños, extremeños, andaluces...) or British in UK (only Welshmen, Englishmen or Scots), which it is pointless.

    Of course, let us wait for Italian opinions.
  6. stanley Senior Member

    Louisville, KY
    Germany / German

    i dont think that italians are really whites, but in the US you will not see whether somebody is from italy cause mostly there is the big mixture in one person.



    italian=rather white

    that's what i would say...
  7. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    Are German white? Do you think so?
  8. stanley Senior Member

    Louisville, KY
    Germany / German
    Yes, sure they are.

    i think german is the ''best'' mixture.

    Thats how it is.

    Some british ppl are looking different than french, but in germany its the best mixture. lol ;-)

    germans are white.

    What should they be else?
  9. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    I think Germans, post WW2, should have to go to the end of the line.

    They are not allowed to be considered white until after everyone else has had a turn.
  10. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    I think this strays a bit from the original topic of Italians... But, what do you mean by "mixture" and "best"?...
  11. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    A mixture of Slavs, Huns, Swedish, Vikings, Turkish, Romans, Kurds and so on.
  12. stanley Senior Member

    Louisville, KY
    Germany / German
    i dont think germans are the best lol.

    i think that in germany are very different white types.

    You have in north europe other whites( some of them ) than in france or austria.

    in germany you got the perfect mixture lol.
  13. stanley Senior Member

    Louisville, KY
    Germany / German

    there is no mixture with turkish...l
  14. stanley Senior Member

    Louisville, KY
    Germany / German
    What do you wanna say?
  15. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I don't think you can draw many conclusions from one episode. I'd bet that most other Americans you met in your life never gave your race a second thought.

    And it's purely by coincidence that you happen to be a specimen of that 'perfect' mixture, I'm sure. ;)
  16. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    Well, the answer is easy:
    - Some of them do. Not all. I don't know the odds.

    But, if you ask whether it is legitime to be considered Sicilian i/o Italian...then you'll have like 1000 posts and no conclusion at all.
  17. ampurdan

    ampurdan Senior Member

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    This thread is becoming really disgusting! I thought all this racial issues were outfashioned matter, but I see that, as all fashions, it is reborn from its ashes (skinheads, neofascism and so on). I think there is few interesting things you can take out the concept of race, and certainly not the superiority of the german race (I never imagined listening this statement coming from the mouth of German people anymore, wie Schade!).
  18. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I don't think discussions of racial groups has to be disgusting, in fact it's always been a major interest of mine and a matter of much curiosity.

    Are Germans white or brown? It very much depends. My own ethnicity is Frisian, Hessian, Norman/English and Scottish. I am white or brown as circumstances impede or permit-- at this indoorsy stage of my life, my brownness is latent. At a younger and more outdoorsy age, I was brown as a nutshell.

    In the three years I lived in southern Italy, where people are a brownish color I have come to associate with humans in general, I was able to observe Germans who go south on their (generally 2-week) vacations in that part of Europe.

    They sat in folding chairs on the beaches and rubbed themselves with oil and soaked up the sun. I befriended some of them, and they delighted in peeling down a bit of swimsuit to show how variable their coloration was-- like bread, white as flour under the toasty-looking crust.

    They were as pleased with their two-week darkened skins as a drab-mousy-haired woman might be with a brazen-red dye job. Are redhaired people white? Some can hold a nice deep tan, but most of them just peel. How can you be any color, even white, if your skin won't even stay on?

    Germans might not be the "best mixture" but I can vouch that they/we/you are a mixture! The Neapolitans I lived with got darker the more they stayed outdoors too, but they didn't make a career of it. Or a crash-course vacation.

    White's natural color is brown. Staying indoors so much is an "unnatural" exigency of living in colder climes. If you really want to be a racist, eye color is the marker that differentiates-- and vive la différence. But the beauty of the human eye is beyond analysis or description, it's the window into the human soul-- and the soul transcends things incidental and accidental, such as color.
  19. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    All this is most interesting and I enjoy the discussion (but some disgusting posts). The problem is we have derailed the discussion topic.
  20. ampurdan

    ampurdan Senior Member

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    I think there are few things you can take out the concept of race because races are very gross and rude abstractions which cannot even set such a primarly similarity as would be the colour of the skin, which indeed varies between the "members" of a race. It is interesting to watch the differences between people, even the physical ones, but not between races. In addition, you cannot make any racial statement only considering Nationality, because between the citizens of a State (no need to resort to recent immigration) there are huge racial differences (in the USA, in France, in Italy, in the UK, in Spain, in Morroco, in Turkey and also in Germany or anywhere else).

    I believe that talking about the race leads to talk about which race is better, and this is a good way to discrimination.
  21. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I know this is about Italians. But I thought my experience could illustrate your question all the same.
    Sometimes, in the summer, I'm a guide in a French château and we've got visitors from many different countries.
    More than once, I've seen Dutch-speaking Belgians and I asked them
    - So you're from Belgium, are you ?
    They would very often answer
    - No, we're not : we're Flemish.
    (they also insist on being spoken to in English rather than French - I don't speak Dutch -)

    I don't know to what extent this attitude is shared by all Flemings but there must be a reason for them (the ones I've been in contact with) not wanting to be considered as Belgians (while they are, actually).

    I just wanted to point out that this isn't restricted to Italians and Sicilians.
    But then I don't know much about the past history in this region so I won't venture to state an explanation. I won't even venture to say the explanation is the same for both regions (Belgium and Italy) though I believe there must be something there...
  22. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    None of the Italians in the forum have replied to far. Are they shy? :)
  23. Elisa68 Senior Member

    Here I am!;) We are not shy, but I think it is not us who should answer the first question. In my opinion we consider ourselves white, for what it matters (I agree with Foxfirebrand's considerations), but Venus said some people outside of Italy see us differently.
    As for the second question, I am not Sicilian, but I think that Sicilians feel themselves Italians as well. Of course they are proud to be Sicilian (why not, it’s a wonderful island) and the fact that they don't live in the mainland keep them more isolated. However, there is another large island in Italy, Sardinia, which as a real separatist party (I think more or less like Catalonia?) while in Sicily there is not.
  24. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    I still have one question dangling: Why did this black woman say that "they" (blacks) don't consider Italians white? Have any of you heard this before? Does anyone who hold this view care to explain it a little? I've heard several comments regarding the invasion of the Moors, and that perhaps this has something to do with it? I'll do some more investigating into the history....

    I know I'll probably be advised to ask HER why she said it, but I'd rather not get into another race discussion with my boss. Some of her comments sort of get me riled up. And, if any of you know me by now, I don't like to put myself in heated debates, or situations where there is tension...:eek: Besides, it's not the first I'd heard this comment...

    Wow, should I apologize for my original post? I think that if the discussion is moved along by intelligent people who can speak of race without favoring, the issue of "which race is better" should never even be approached. The posts of a couple of niave foreros shouldn't ruin an animated discussion. It's happened in every "controversial" thread we've discussed in the past. :rolleyes: There are always going to be ignorant and naive people in life, no matter the forum for discussion. I usually tend to simply ignore ignorance, and hope that others can do the same, while focusing on the original question....
  25. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I would question your boss' -- or anyone else's -- right to speak on behalf of their 'race'.

    P.S. I mean, I'm not saying you should question her (probably not a wise career move ;)), only that I don't believe anyone has that right.
  26. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Most of the comments here have been insightful, and a few which attempt to establish some "race" or other as better are too silly to merit consideration or reply.

    I think it would be interesting for Venus to ask her supervisor for more detail about what she and others she knows mean by "white". Is it a term used to denote skin pigmentation, behavior, attitudes or something else?
  27. JazzByChas

    JazzByChas Senior Member

    Houston, TX USA
    American English

    I must jump in and put in my $0.02(USD)...(and by the way, Outsider, I am of Portuguese, British, Austrian, and Native American descent!)

    I must say that I agree with Outsider...I am a person of mixed heritage, so race has always been an issue for me. And if you look different from those who are in the "power elite" then you are an outsider (no offense, Outsider :) ) no matter what. You are a "minority" no matter what your numbers. And anyone, as Outsider said, who the power elite don't want to be in their circles, will be discriminated against....period, no matter what term they use for it.

    Amen, Cuchu!]

    As far as being "white", well literally, there are very few people who are very fair, and they tend to come from Northern Europe, where there is less sun and therefore less exposure: the skin and hair are fairer.

    Yes, and there are some rather swarthy French in southern France as well !

    But the real issues is this: whatever country you are from, whether you are fair or not, be proud of who and what you are. In the end, hopefully one will judge you for your character, while enjoying your culture and its glorious richness. I’ve said in other forums that this world would be a very boring place if everyone were exactly alike. As the French say, “Vive la différence!." And even though I am not Italian, Venusenvy, I would say, there are some fair Italians and there are some swarthy Italians…and some of them may be “white”, but at the end of the day, they are Italians (or Sicilians:) ). These are cultural issues, not a matter of social power structure, which I am vehemently against. (Outsider and I agree on this one)

    Be careful, Stanley…there was once a sentiment going around that the Aryans were the “best mixture” as well…a lot of people died as a result. Ironically, the one who purported this theory was not Aryan! :cool:

    OH…and just one more urban myth to dispel: “Caucasians” are just that: Asians from the Caucasis mountain regions. To quote, “Of or relating to a group of three language families spoken in the region of the Caucasus mountains, including Chechen, Abkhaz, and the Kartvelian languages.”

    ::: his chain having retracted, he steps down from his soapbox :::
    (Get me fired up, boy...:eek: )
  28. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    I'll give you some insight as to why my boss and I were even talking about race. (You know I'd have avoided it if possible...)

    I am the only white girl in an adult literacy program. 99% of the students are black, and 99.9% (Guess who's the 0.01%?) of the teachers are black. She has made several comments to me along the lines of, "You white girls need to get a tougher skin", or "You white girls are too timid".... :mad: I recently approached her about her comments, and that is how we got into this conversation. I thought to ask about the Italian comments here first, because if I can avoide talking to this woman about race again, I would. And, I value the diversity of this forum, as well as the insight of my fellow foreros. (This is the same program that prefers calling math problems "math stories...." as to be more sensitive to the past educational experiences of their students... Remember this? )

    But, I've appreciated all of your comments so far. :)
  29. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Actually my first reaction when I read Venus's question was a very plain, down-to-earth one. Well, as far as I can see (giving this verb its first, proper meaning) , Italians are white, that is in fact, "pinkish", like me. :)
  30. JazzByChas

    JazzByChas Senior Member

    Houston, TX USA
    American English
    OMG, Venus...
    After reading that previous thread, I am even more convinced that your boss is just trying to pull you down to her level. (Brings back memories of living in the D.C. area...nothing changes (sigh!)

    I think the thread you mentioned summarizes it well: we'll stoop to anything to achieve "sensitivity" and "politikkal kerrektitude"

  31. JazzByChas

    JazzByChas Senior Member

    Houston, TX USA
    American English
    ::: bowing and tipping his hat :::

    Bravo, mon ami...Bravo! Couldn't have said it better myself…I did, however, make a modest attempt here.

  32. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    To Venusenvy:

    1) To say it shortly: It is POINTLESS to count Sicilians (or Italians) as non-whites. Your boss is probably referring to the short Islamic rule (no black rule) in Sicily during the Middle Ages... which has so much sense as counting Hungarians as non-whites.

    2) I had not noticed the thread you provided a link (poltical correctness) and when I watched the math stories = math problems issue I only can express my impression this way.

  33. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    Just as a curiousity, some may remember the movie "True Romance"(1993) written by Quentin Tarantino. There is a dialogue about exactly what the thread is about. That is just a movie dialogue, and it's indeed quite disgusting! :warning: :warning: :warning: . By all means, I don't agree with what the guy says in it but I just put the link here. Nothing to take seriously. It's just a movie. Maybe you guys would like to read it, maybe not.

    PS:I admit thus, that I like Quentin Tarantino films.


  34. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    Now, we know where Venus' boss takes its deep ethnic knowledge.
  35. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    yep! I guess so :D :thumbsup:
    Hey Venus, did your boss see that movie?
  36. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think Venus is in good company. (See how this race stuff can be relative? ;))

    'Ich bin ein Berliner.'
  37. swingbolder New Member

    English, US
    I can't speak for all black Americans, however I have heard the belief from some black folks that they don't consider Italians to be "white" say like Germans or English or Scandinavian. They do believe they have some "black" in them, in a mixey-mixey way, bc of their close proximity to Africa and their comparatively darker features, and bc of Moorish conquest back in the middle ages.

    Ditto for the Spanish.
  38. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    As I said, Spaniards (and partly, Italians) are a mixture of Celtics (aryans), Iberians ('original Spaniards'?), Moors (black, Arabs, berberians), Goths, Romans, Jews, and so on.

    But, as I said also before, Germans (and consequently, British) have Hun (asiatic), Magyar (hungarian), slav, Jew, etc blood running through their veins.

    Maybe, only Finnish can claim they are pure-white (assuming it has some merit, except for detergents).

    And for Spain and Italy, our tiny black blood percentage come more from African slaves than from Moor occupation.
  39. JazzByChas

    JazzByChas Senior Member

    Houston, TX USA
    American English
    First of all, welcome to the forum, swingbolder! (As a non-mod, I am taking liberties!:)

    Second, I imagine when you come from or live in countries nearer to the equator, you will tend to a) be darker, and b) mix with those who are.

    I would imagine this happens all the time!):cool:

  40. Idioteque

    Idioteque Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    Hello everyone!
    I've just read the whole thread and I was quite surprised that no-one said that RACES DO NOT EXIST!!!

    It has been biologically proven that races do not exist. Physical differences between people just come out from adaptation to the different climates. That's the one difference. I just wanted to say that it's quite depressing and annoying to hear people talking (in 2005) about "perfect mixtures" :eek: and pure races...

    I'm Italian. My mother and her parents are Sardinian, my paternal grandfather was Sicilian and my granmother was Sardinian. So I guess that I'm a mixture of "non-white" bloods! :rolleyes:

    I wonder which Italian people can be considered totally white... :confused: maybe many years before "Northern" Italians were white (not definitely Aryan!), but they mixed with Southern immigrants... such a pity! :rolleyes:
    "Lega Nord" is right... "Padani" should have their own "white" country...:D
    I guess that now all Italians can be considered non-white...:(
    Gosh, I was almost forgetting all those foreign immigrants! :eek: if it goes on like this, we won't be "non-white" anymore: we'll even become black!!!

    Bye, "non-white" Laura

    P.S: Beyond these "racial" diatribes, I would like to say that Sicilians do consider themselves Italian... at least all those that I've met in my life...;)
  41. swingbolder New Member

    English, US
    Thank you for the welcome, Jazzbychas.:)
  42. Idioteque

    Idioteque Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    As far as I know, there are not independentist movements in Sicily...
    "Lega Nord" is just a "party" of ignorant idiots who would like to separate the so-called "Padania" (Valle d'Aosta, Lombardia, Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Trentino-Alto-Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia) from Italy, because of economical resaons, as you said. In reality they do not have many followers, there are only some rude ignorant people who have never studied Italian history and think that their problems depend on Southern parasite "mafiosi".... :mad: I know it's quite embarassing that these people are currently members of Italian government (well, not that shamy, if you consider that it's Berlusconi's government... :rolleyes: )

    Sorry for my poor English... :eek:

    Bye, Laura

    P.S: there are no "leghisti" in Tuscany :D
  43. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    We've dealt with that before. ;)

    Welcome to the forum, swingbolder. :)
  44. Idioteque

    Idioteque Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    Sorry, Outsider, I hadn't read that thread!:eek: I just meant that no-one in this topic had mentioned it... I just pointed it out because I often meet people who don't believe this! :eek:

    Bye, "non-white" :D Laura

Share This Page