Monday, June 26, 2017

An Open Letter to Alessandro Gassman

Dear Mr. Gassman,

This open letter is to offer the perspective of a fourth-generation Italian-American on your comments for which you are receiving an unfair amount of criticism.

For those who don't know.. You implied that refugees are the people doing jobs that Italians don't want to do such as picking fruit and vegetables in the fields. 

First, you chose to express your thoughts in our current climate of 100% political correctness. People have become so easily offended by a difference in opinion, it is virtually impossible to say anything without coming under fire.

Second, there is much truth to what you said and as an American, this is common knowledge in my country. 

A decades-long issue in America has been the fight for fair wages by Mexican immigrants working in the California fruit and vegetable fields. Perhaps the difference between the immigrants working in the fields of America and those in Italy is the fact that nobody is fighting for the latter. In America, the Mexican immigrants had Cesar Chavez, a labor leader and civil rights advocate who spoke out on their behalf and brought their stories into the national spotlight.

Civil Rights Advocate Cesar Chavez
Although the efforts of Chavez improved conditions and wages for the workers, it is an ongoing fight. A recent report published by the U.S. Department of Labor showed that farm workers work 42 hours per week and earn $7.25 per hour on average. You can find this information on the website of the National Farm Worker Industry.

During the past few years, increasingly so during Donald Trump's candidacy for president, illegal immigrants have been blamed for taking the jobs of American citizens. Well, it just isn't true because like what you implied about Italians, Americans don't want those jobs. This is not just an opinion. Check out the story below by the Los Angeles Times proving this statement true. 

Wages Rise on California Farms. Americans Still Don't Want the Job.

Perhaps this refugee and immigration crisis is still somewhat new to Italy and nobody has emerged as a clear and effective leader in organizing change. Since America was built by immigrants, we are accustomed to the prejudices and hard work bestowed on the first-generation, whether they be legal or illegal. During the years of mass immigration at the turn of the 20th century when our great-grandparents came to America from southern Italy, they did not work as lawyers, writers, managers or judges. They worked as manual laborers. They paid their dues for us.. who now work in these positions. Perhaps the grandchildren of those refugees in Italy will be the lawyers and doctors of tomorrow. But obviously it's not going to happen overnight. It takes generations to assimilate and to build a family legacy.

Rather than engaging in cheap gossip by attacking you, it would be helpful if your critics would start providing ideas for solving the problem or stepping up as an Italian "Cesar Chavez" and contribute to making the working conditions for refugees more humane and therefore more possible for them to contribute to Italy's economy and rich culture. 

So, thank you for your activism in bringing attention to the ongoing challenges of refugees. Don't be discouraged and don't stay away for too long.

- Italian Cinema Today

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