Am I Really White?

Question: Your surname seems of possible Italian descent as is mine, but I am of Southern Italian extraction. I believe that Theodore Roosevelt once issued an executive order declaring that we Southern Italians are actually black as part of a miscegenation ruling. Are we really white?

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


Question:

At first I thought your column title was funny, but then I started thinking, "Are you really white?" 

Your surname seems of possible Italian descent as is mine, but I am of Southern Italian extraction. I believe that Theodore Roosevelt once issued an executive order declaring that we Southern Italians are actually black as part of a miscegenation ruling.

Could you comment?  Are we really white?

Answer:

When southern Italians (and Hungarians, Greeks, Jews and other southern Europeans) came to this country at the beginning of the last century, they were not considered white. The process of "becoming white" took over 100 years, and even today, in certain places (polo matches and yacht races, for example), people who look southern European are not considered truly white.

However, in my opinion, with rare exception, we are considered white. It is worth considering this as we welcome new immigrants into our society. Do we really want them to subjugate their cultural identity, or are we made stronger by building a core of American values (our Constitution) while maintaining the different perspectives of diverse people?

Regarding the other part of your question, I'm well read on American history and do not believe that Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order like that.

 

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