Discussing Italian Discrimination, Past and Present

The Columbian Lawyers Association and its president Joseph Rosato (right) welcomed attorneys Carmelo Grimaldi (left) and Michael A. Scotto (center) for a continuing legal education seminar called, “Italians in America, Victims of Discrimination and Advocates for Inclusion and Diversity,” during their monthly meeting. (Photo by Mario Belluomo via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

A continuing legal education (CLE) seminar in Dyker Heights examined the discrimination faced by Italian Americans from internment during World War II to a lawsuit against CUNY and its hiring process.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Rob Abruzzese covered the Oct. 2 lecture, entitled “Italians in America, Victims of Discrimination and Advocates for Inclusion and Diversity.” The Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn, an organization for people of Italian heritage, organized the event.

Justice Wayne Saitta started off with background on the internment of Italian nationals during World War II.

“It didn’t matter how long you have been in the country, whether you were a permanent resident or an alien, you were considered an ‘enemy alien’” Justice Saitta said. “All Italian immigrants who hadn’t naturalized had to register, they were fingerprinted, they had to carry around their registrations with them.

“They were barred from going more than five miles from their homes without permission,” Saitta continued. “They were also barred from having flashlights, cameras or shortwave radios.

The federal government seriously considered interning Italian-Americans like they did the Japanese, but ultimately [President Franklin Roosevelt] decided against it because of the huge number of Italian Americans and the disruption it would cause to the war effort.”

Attorney Carmelo Grimaldi then spoke of the lawsuit brought against CUNY in the ’90s

…where Justice Constance Baker Motley ruled that CUNY had discriminated against Italian-Americans in its hiring practice. At the time, he said, nearly 25 percent of the student body was made up of Italian-Americans, but just 4.5 percent of the faculty had the same origin.

Go to Brooklyn Daily Eagle to find out whether anything changed at CUNY following the court decision, and what attendees said about Christopher Columbus – from statue removal to renaming Columbus Day efforts.

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