I am of Italian-American extraction; I had four grand-parents, all born in Italy and therefore by “blood” I am as Italian as anyone walking around Italy today.
I married a girl with the same background; our children are therefore “Italian by blood”. In fact, I can claim dual Italian citizenship if I wanted to go through the legal process. Though my paternal grandparents came here to live and work, they never renounced Italian citizenship. My father thus automatically held dual citizenship; so I am eligible as well.
I grew up in a Little Italy in Brooklyn; everyone’s name ended in a vowel.
I met Jews in high school but didn’t meet my first black man until I went to work full time at age 16.
There was never any question of seriously courting a girl who didn’t come from an Italian background. My grandmother had the vapors when my brother dated an Austrian girl. Memories of World War I.
Much has changed.
My youngest daughter married a Puerto Rican guy and now I have lots of Hispanic in-laws. They met in college; I have no doubt he would take a bullet for her.
My brother married a Jewish woman They are now divorced though she and I have remained close. They had two daughters. Her mother was every Jewish woman. She passed several years ago. I miss her.
A niece married a Korean guy – two weddings, one in the Korean fashion. They have two children, considered “inter-racial” by American racial standards.
Another niece married a woman in Massachusetts. Great wedding. They have two children, one each, fathered by the same Italian man through the “bank”. They own a lovely home, pay their bills and taxes, have straight and gay friends and bother no one.
My eldest daughter married a German – Italian guy. Mostly Italian, not much German except for his name. He roots for Florida State and the Philadelphia Eagles; he and my daughter are both lawyers. He has made my girl very happy.
His sister married a black guy. His family came from Baltimore for my daughter’s wedding. His mother is a fine church going woman who likes big hats.
Both of them too are practicing lawyers, a husband and wife team. They live in a modest home in a well to do neighborhood and have an “inter-racial” son – a black kid by American racial standards. We’ve spent Thanksgivings together and roasted a pig together a couple of Christmas Eve’s ago. I went to their son’s First Communion earlier this year. They stayed at my home about 6 weeks ago.
So my family holiday card list now includes Italians, Jews, Hispanics, Koreans, lesbians, blacks, a number of “inter-racial” nieces and nephews as well as children of a lesbian couple. Additionally I have Muslim friends and during my working days I regularly attended Iftar and Eid dinners at their homes. I still send Ramadan good wishes and they send me Christmas emails from Pakistan.
When I was a young man none of it mattered much. It didn’t affect me or mine.
Now when I see the police shoot a black kid first and ask questions later, it’s personal. I have a black nephew.
When I hear hate speech directed at Hispanics, it’s personal. My daughter now has a Hispanic last name.
Now when I hear skinheads taunting Koreans or other anti-Asian discrimination, it’s personal. A niece has an Asian last name as do her children. And half the DNA.
Now when a crazed churchman holds a sign that says “God hates fags”, it’s personal. I have a lesbian niece.
I never could have imagined my American family 60 years ago. We’ve come a long way.
Recent events in Ferguson, New York City and Arizona however indicate there is still a long way to go.