My Problem with Jersey Shore

How much TV actually affects people

I was substituting for an art teacher at  local high school recently. The kids had to turn in their homework- an assignment to design and draw their own superhero. I was sifting through the pictures, having a laugh, when I noticed that one kid had chosen to design “Super Guido”, complete with green, white, and red spandex, greased black hair, and a big “G” on his chest.

Growing up Italian-American, I’ve been taught to be proud of my heritage. I was raised on stories about my ancestors- Roman conquerors and engineers, Medieval writers, Renaissance sculptors and thinkers, Baroque architects, and hard-working immigrants who built new lives from nothing in a foreign land. Not to mention our fabulous cooks, and my personal family history that includes bakers in Roseto Valfortore, a policeman in Penne, and a connection to St. Gabriel Possenti, who was buried in my great-grandmother’s town of Isola del Gran Sasso, Provincia di Teramo, in Abruzzo.

Every Italian-American family has stories like this. Every Italian-American has a history to be proud of. It’s true, we are different from native Italians, as the most recent chapters of our history are different. Still, we share the same proud heritage stretching back thousands of years.

Italian-Americans, like all ethnic immigrant groups in America, have the right to be proud of their culture. They have the right to be respected for the work they have done to help build this country, and the contributions they will make in the future.

Racial slurs and negative stereotypes have NO place in this country. I don’t care what color you are, what ethnicity, when you came here, or what state you’re from. If America is going to succeed, we each have treat each other with respect. Non-WASP groups have had to work extra hard for CENTURIES in order to get the equal respect they deserve. Our society isn’t perfect yet, but our progress to this point should not be discounted.

Calling an Italian-American a “giudo” is wrong for the same reason that it is wrong to use any racial slur. My grandfather’s name was Giudo. He was a hard-working family man who gave this life everything he had. The cast members of Jersey Shore disgrace themselves and the culture they claim to represent when they use words like that. It’s as bad as when African-Americans call each other the n-word. It’s degrading and disrespectful. It has no place in our society.

The worst part of this whole thing is that MTV is influencing a whole generation of people to think that it is ok, acceptable even, to refer to Italians as “guidos”. If there were a show on TV that encouraged people to use the N-word, it would be off the air in a matter of minutes.

Back to the classroom…

After considering the situation for a while, I decided to privately explain to the student that their design was offensive. Sure enough, as I expected, the kid was a fan of Jersey Shore and had absolutely no idea that calling an Italian a “Guido” was offensive. The student offered to change the design, but I told them not to worry about it. It was just homework and I’m not against freedom of artistic expression. I just think that people should be made aware of what’s offensive. If they want to be offensive, that’s another issue.

Thank you Jersey Shore, for teaching kids that racial slurs are cool.

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