Thursday, February 5, 2009

You Thought Things Were Bad? They Can Get Worse

I want you all to think of what you would consider the most outlandish, ridiculous and unexpected form of discrimination that you could ever imagine. You know like a way to discriminate against people that seems so unbelievable, so crazy that nobody could ever think it made sense.

And then I want you to read this article from Racialicious.

Bet you didn't think of that.

I don't blame you. My first reaction when I read that article was to make sure it wasn't from The Onion. You'll have to excuse my shock, while I thought that nothing related to racism could surprise me, clearly I was wrong.

So, basically, people in Italy are even racist when it comes to their food?

It's not like I didn't know Italy had a problem with racism and xenophobia. Anybody whose paid any attention over the years knows that both of these issues are problems throughout Europe, and Italy and Spain have fairly acute problems. Truthfully, if somebody would have asked me beforehand which European country would be most likely to pull an outrageous racial stunt, I would have chosen either Italy or Spain.

But, never in the deepest recesses of my mind would I have thought that racism and discrimination could extend to food. I can understand discrimination in who gets to eat food, after all I am black, but restricting what types of foods can be served in general just seems unthinkable.

Now, I know some of y'all are saying, "But Big Man, isn't this really about who gets to make money, not about what type of food is served?" You know what, y'all are right. That is the root of the problem here. Italians don't want to compete with immigrants for customers, so they've found a slick way to prevent the growth of immigrant businesses, while also pretending to still be a capitalistic and democratic country. I understand that.

Shoot, if you really pay attention to the article, you'll notice that one politican basically admitted that immigrants are willing to work longer hours in the their restaurants so they can charge less money for meals. This means that can undercut traditional businesses when it comes to price, and it makes them more profitable in the long run. So it's obvious that this is really about money.

But, you wouldn't know that if you listened to some of the other arguments being used. These folks are talking about protecting traditional Italian values and a traditional Italian way of life. Some of them are pointing out that this ban affects McDonalds just as much as it affects those pesky Arab restaurants. But, for some reason, I get this sinking feeling that "traditional" is a euphemism for "white."

The funny thing is that none of the famous cuisine in Italy is wholly Italian. As the article points out, many of the most famous ingredients in Italian dishes come from other countries.

What's sad about this whole fiasco is that ultimately there are millions of people in Italy, regular people trying to make a living, who could see their livelihoods negatively impacted because of these new rules. Moreover, there will be millions of other folks who will think that's perfectly ok because those folks who get hurt aren't "real Italians." The situation has a sickening familiarity to it for someone who grew up in the United States and has studied its history.




ch555x said...

That sounds strange since it would be next to impossible to accomplish given the amount of imported stuff to begin with in their so-called cuisine.

Anonymous said...

I was in Bordeaux in southwestern France, at the central place with old stone and a beautiful old Cathedral. What was it that surrounded it? Arab restaurants and bodegas. It made me sick.

I don't mind those but how bout keeping a little decorum so I still know I'm in France? I did eat lunch there since I was hungry, some hot dog mergueze sausage in french bread but it bothered me that the menu was also in Arabic.

But Darth Whitey, you racist cracker, who are you to say that a French Cathedral ought to only have French restaurants and cafes in its vicinity?

Yea, well how would you feel if the French quarter in New Orleans were suddenly filled with Arabic restaurants? No more crepes, no more jambalaya, no more booze. Yea? Answer the question.

I saw the same thing in Brussels and Cologne.

What you have to understand about Europe is that it has an identity, a real identity. It's not like the U.S., a huge melting pot of everything with no identity to threaten, no romantic image of how life is supposed to be. But Italy, and France, well they do. How bout if Morocco were suddenly invaded with Spanish restaurants surrounding mosques? yea I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Darth Whitey kinda used my argument.

I mean, honestly, this isn't anything that's really new especially when it comes to small town America and various tourist attractions across the US. Granted you can drop down to the French Quarter and a get a variety of food, I almost here their point.

Same in the black neighborhoods.

Many of us would be up in arms if a random Italian food restaurant--not Leona's--decided to set up shop from the local black diner or soul food restaurant. I think what makes this particular situation in Italy so egregious is the bad PR behind it. They mince no words over what their actual intent is. But how many times have we heard the word "traditional" used in all cultural settings. "Traditional" in this sense may be synonymous for "white" but it still just means "we're not open minded to 'other' and 'new things.'"

Many people use "traditional" as a code word for "we like things the way they are because they've worked for us and we don't want to change." We use it when it comes to older generations' reference to music, how one views religion, sociology and various culture norms.

But, I'll up Darth Whitey one--Big Man how'd you feel when Ray Nagin made his declaration that "New Orleans will always be Chocolate City?"

Big Man said...

The problem is that the Italian restaurants are disappearing because they cannot or will not provide service at an expected price.
Like I said in my blog, this is not really about protecting culture. It's about the fact that immigrants have come into Italy and provided a service that people can afford and want to support, and the Italian restaurants don't feel like they should have to adapt because it's "their culture."

It's one thing to rail against illegal immigration in America because folks are breaking the law and taking jobs from folks who are following the rules. It's another thing to complain that you don't want to have to compete on a level playing field because you're Italian and they are not.

This is a classic European, or white, argument. These "democracies" love to promte the idea that they are meritocracies where everybody has an equal chance at survival and things like discrimination and racim are not a problem. But, when they are asked to compete against folks who are willing to sacrifice more to get ahead, they refuse to do so because they don't want to step outside of their comfort zone. These immigrants aren't cheating, they are just sacrificing certain comforts in order to get ahead. It's the same way a young person at a job may be willing to work longer hours and work certain holidays so they can get ahead, while an older person values their personal time more. That older person has made a choice and they need to live with that choice. It would be totally unfair if that older person tried to get a law pass that said that no matter what, only people who had been with the company a certain amount of years were eligible for promotions or raises. That would be an unfair advantage designed to limit competition and punish those willing to sacrifice.

Finally, I could care less about New Orleans and its "culture." I live here because it's where I grew up and where my family was. I don't have any special connection to most of its traditions. I rarely visit the French Quarter, I don't celebrate Mardi Gras and I think beignets are overpriced donuts. It's my home, so I love it for that, but I would not be someone who was marching in the streets to protect its "culture."

Anonymous said...

Well Italy is the birthplace of fascism, after all.

And really, I find nationalism or fascism or whatever you want to call it that is linked to cuisine about as laughable as saying that none of you folks should get to wear silk because my greatgreatgreatest grandpeasant were the first to cultivate the magic worms. It's stupid.

If it weren't for immigrants bringing their food and willingness to bust a sweat at the business of serving it, then the British would still be gumming their meat pasties and horrible mash instead of glorious curries and kebabs.

I loved the food in New Orleans but guess what? It's also home to some of the best vietnamese food in the entire world. I don't see The Court of Two Sisters going out of business even though you can get tasty and affordable pho right down the road.


I do think you guys are crazy with that chicory nonsense though. Mess up a perfectly good pot of coffee, grumble grumble.

Big Man said...

I don't drink coffee eithe Lolo.

But you ain't lying about vietnamese food. That ish is like crack. Those little sandwiches are great!.

Anonymous said...

Ha! That's cuz you guys put chicory in it.

Oh yeah, banh mi is a CLASSIC example of how a food gets interpreted into something new and amazing. The French go to Vietnam and make a mess but bring that bread with them. The native population gets used and abused but the collision results in some of the most amazing sandwiches the world has ever known. Bad cloud, silver lining.

I'm not trying to belittle anything, at all, but I highly doubt that Bolognese sauce is going to get lost beneath a wave of turmeric and couscous. If someone believes otherwise then "Ciao Bubba"

Anonymous said...

Big Man: what you describe in your scenario is pretty much how a union operates. If you go to any auto mechanic shop, the old guy in the corner sitting there smoking all day is making more money than the young guys sweating it out all day. It's all about seniority. Although there are egregious examples of unfairness like that, unions are for the most part a good thing since they protect those who have put their time in, so that management can't use em up and throw em away.

Anyway, that sucks you don't value N.O. culture. I'd hate to come visit and see churros instead of beignets!

Anonymous said...

BTW, you wrote "could care less". Shouldn't it be "couldn't care less"?

Raving Black Lunatic