Italian Americans continue to embrace their ancestry years after they have left the Italian enclaves
2000
The U.S. Census reveals Italian American identity is still strong.


The uniqueness of United States as a multi-cultural nation is underscored by the prodigality of nationalities and ethnic groups that constitute the fabric of society. Although historically northwestern Europe was the background for the majority of Americans, it is significant that the 2000 Census saw a diminution of such people with these ethnic backgrounds as fewer identified themselves as English American, German Americans, etc. Even identification as Polish American dropped sharply as these Eastern Europeans identified themselves as simply "Americans" rather than as members of an ancestral group. Standing in sharp contrast in the 2000 Census was the consequential increase by 7 percent over the previous census of those who identified with their Italian ancestry.

Self-identification as Italian Americans is important for several reasons. In part this may be a reflection of the relatively recent and continuing ties of first and second generations with the land of their ancestors, while such a connection on the part of older European stocks have been attenuated. There is also the observation that Italian Americans enjoy a more visible place in business, politics, sports, entertainment, and the arts in American society, without having to hide their ethnic background. Eschewing chauvinism, another reason is the conclusion that a sense of comfortableness that inheres in the notion of describing one self as of Italian heritage, even as exogamy increasingly characterizes marriage patterns. Another important reason is that, notwithstanding the at times harsh welcome immigrants received from the host society, their descendants are proud of their role in American society. They regale in the realization that Italian food including pasta and as pizza and art forms such as fashion and music have become recognizable staples of American life. This does not mean, of course, that discrimination and stereotyping are things of the past. Indeed the realization that they continue to confront denigration and stereotyping serves to strengthen their resolve.

The phenomenon of Italian identification is remarkable; it appears to contradict the notion of ethnicity in twilight because of increased mobility, intermarriage, and improved education. A dualism is most likely at work in that notwithstanding the termination of the heyday of mass Italian immigration and that considerable assimilation has taken place, nevertheless Italian Americans, more so than other Americans of European descent, acknowledge their ancestry. Although many of the older, provincial and regionally-based Italian American societies have disappeared, other vibrant organizations that cut across regional boundaries have emerged. Perhaps only in American could this happen. Italians as the second largest immigrant group have affected a posture of unquestioned loyalty to the United States, while retaining a hearty sense of their ethnic heritage.

Italian Americans continue to demonstrate their ethnic pride in a variety of ways.




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