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To the editor:
On his last full day in office, January 19, 2021, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that “Multiculturalism is not who America is.”
This is a curious statement from a former diplomat whose family immigrated here from Italy. [Hey, Mike, unless you are 100% Native American, you are a descendant of immigrants.]
It runs counter to the United States’ long held pride being a melting pot of culture and the motto of the United State “E Pluribus Unum or out of many, one.” And, I might point out that when the great wave of Italian immigrants, along with Jews and Slavs, fleeing poverty and political instability at home arrived here from 1890 onward that they were not exactly welcomed with open arms by the people who were already here— Germans, Irish, British, and Scandinavians.
These nativists did not want the new immigrants who did not speak English and clustered in ethnic communities like “little Italy’s” to take over what was essentially a White Anglo Saxon Protestant English speaking country, with the exception of the Catholic Irish.
By this time, the Irish who arrived in the 1840’s due to the Potato Famine had begun to assimilate so they did not welcome the newcomers.
Humorist Robert Benchley once remarked “We call England the Mother Country because most of us come from Poland or Italy.” Like the Irish, most Italians were Roman Catholic in a mostly Protestant nation…“many Italian immigrants suffered–and endured. We are all proof of this fact.
Italian immigrants–as many immigrants from other lands–helped build this country. They helped defend it. They assimilated. They became citizens. Paid taxes. Sent their kids to school. And here we are….over 100 years later and many in our country are still ambivalent or even dead set against immigrants.”
Over 100 years ago, if your last name ended in a vowel, like Pompeo’s you would be set apart. Ronald Reagan, whose ancestors came from Ireland, referred to the great diversity of America as a “shining city on the hill.”