Why Italians were considered non Whites in America?

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,831
Dispargum
#2
I have heard reference to Italians having sllightly darker complexions than Northern Europeans and that this slowed the melting pot process of assimilation, but I never heard anyone go so far as to say Italians were not whites. A bigger obstacle to Italian-American immigrants than skin tone was their Catholicism, America still being an overwhelmingly Protestant country at the time.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,920
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#3
I have heard reference to Italians having sllightly darker complexions than Northern Europeans and that this slowed the melting pot process of assimilation, but I never heard anyone go so far as to say Italians were not whites. A bigger obstacle to Italian-American immigrants than skin tone was their Catholicism, America still being an overwhelmingly Protestant country at the time.

You're quite right. There is even who says that JFK had murdered because he was a Catholic President, so imagine ...


A part this, today the Italian American Lobby is even more important of the Israeli American Lobby, so I would keep the condition of Italian Americans in the right context.
 
Jul 2009
9,782
#4
A lot of Italian immigration came to North America in the wake of WW I from southern Italy - Calabria, Sicily etc. A hot, dry climate can have long term effects on populations' appearances. It is similar in southern Greece. Not to overplay the North African impact on Sicily, which was many centuries ago, there can still be Arab resemblances among some descendants of Sicilian immigrants.

I was in college with a guy who was of Italian/Sicilian descent, and if you did not know that he could easily have passed for an Arab. The friend who was best man at my wedding comes from Brooklyn (Sicilian descent) and he is darker complected as are many (not all) of the people he introduced me to. He is from Bensonhurst where virtually everyone is either mostly southern Italian or Jewish.

Northern and southern Italy are quite different in many respects, but most of the immigration did not come from the north. I do agree that some prejudice was religious in nature. "Them and us" is still around today.
 
Last edited:
Oct 2013
6,207
Planet Nine, Oregon
#5
"In late 19th-century America, there was a growing prejudice against Italians, although they were recruited to satisfy the demand for cheap labor. They were immigrating to the American South in large numbers because of poor conditions at home and to fill the shortage of cheap labor created by the end of slavery and the preference of freedmen to work on their own accounts as sharecroppers. Sugar planters, in particular, sought workers who were more compliant than former slaves; they hired immigrant recruiters to bring Italians to southern Louisiana. In the 1890s, thousands of Italians were arriving in New Orleans each year. Many settled in the French Quarter, which by the early 20th century became known as “Little Sicily.”[4]
In a letter responding to an inquiry about immigration in New Orleans, Mayor Joseph A. Shakspeare expressed the common anti-Italian prejudice, complaining that the city had become attractive to "...the worst classes of Europe: Southern Italians and Sicilians...the most idle, vicious, and worthless people among us." He claimed they were "filthy in their persons and homes" and blamed them for the spread of disease, concluding that they were "without courage, honor, truth, pride, religion, or any quality that goes to make a good citizen."[4]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March...nchings#Anti-Italian_sentiment_in_New_Orleans
 
Jul 2009
9,782
#6
@Todd Feinman,

The anti-Italian remarks of a New Orleans mayor are ironic. That city is heavily Catholic; it is located in one of the most notoriously corrupt states in the Union, and it is (at least in my experience) one of the dirtiest cities I have ever been to.

Guess it must be the Italians. :lol:
 
May 2017
183
Virginia
#7
In the United States "white" for a long time just meant "Anglo" or "WASP". The Italians were not alone in this regard. Greeks, Russians, Poles, Portuguese and even the Irish were not considered white or at least not "white white". In parts of the Midwest, even Swedes were not considered white for a while IIRC. I know Benjamin Franklin considered them and the Germans as part of the "swarthy" peoples.
 
Likes: sparky

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,847
US
#8
In the United States "white" for a long time just meant "Anglo" or "WASP". The Italians were not alone in this regard. Greeks, Russians, Poles, Portuguese and even the Irish were not considered white or at least not "white white". In parts of the Midwest, even Swedes were not considered white for a while IIRC. I know Benjamin Franklin considered them and the Germans as part of the "swarthy" peoples.
Exactly. When Italians, and other southern and eastern Europeans began to immigrate in large numbers, they were considered "swarthy," among other things by the native population. Even the Irish were often portrayed as monkeys:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment
 
Likes: Futurist
Nov 2017
789
Commune
#10
In the 19th century, with beginnings earlier since Protestant racism did not start in the 19th century, created a dichotomy between "mongrelised" southern European Latins and "pure" northern European Germanics, especially Anglo-Saxons who were the purest and most unmixed Germanics. The "mongrelised" Latins of southern Europe were thought inferior because they had mixtures with Moors, Semites and other racially inferior elements from the Middle East, North Africa and even Europe itself due to Italy's historical place as a Mediterranean port entry to Africa and Asia.

All of this is written most explicitly in Arthur Gobineau's "Essay on the Inequality of Races", which was quickly translated into English by US Americans, though Gobineau's thesis was very much expressed before and was a popular belief. Hegel for instance said the same things as Gobineau only his arguments were culturalist and far less racial, though the racial component is definitely there.
 
Likes: Futurist

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