Guest Editorial

craig cantoniBY CRAIG CANTONI  |  DECEMBER 29, 2010

Go ahead and racially profile Italians

You know the headline story:  TSA agents are groping passengers and using voyeur technology to see their bodily nooks and crannies because political correctness keeps the agents from engaging in profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion, and national origin.

Political correctness and a lack of profiling were the causes of an infuriating incident several years ago when I flew with my aging mother, who has severe dementia and an artificial hip.   When I tried to explain her medical condition to a Barney Fife look-alike and present a card from my mother’s doctor with an x-ray image of her artificial hip, the crackerjack TSA agent ignored me and proceeded to treat her as if she were a Muslim terrorist with a bomb implanted in her hip.  After the x-ray machine beeped as expected, she was pulled aside for the hand-wand treatment.  Confused and frightened, she had difficulty following instructions.  Seeing her distress, I approached her to help.  The TSA goon barked, “STAY AWAY!”   He was totally insensitive to the protective feelings that Italian sons have for their mothers.  Apparently, this cultural heritage is not covered in diversity classes, because all whites are seen as exactly the same and not from different cultural heritages, unlike the diversity among Hispanics, Asians, and blacks.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d have no problem with Italians being profiled if there were a good reason for doing so.  For example, if agents were trying to find Mafia dons and capos, I’d give them this advice:  Don’t waste your time going to county fairs in rural Minnesota to keep an eye on Swedish Americans.  Instead, focus on Italians, especially those in zoot suits who whisper to each other and act suspiciously as they stand outside of Italian social clubs in Little Italy.  You might also want to put the entire garbage hauling industry in New Jersey under scrutiny. And for heaven’s sake, don’t hand-wand elderly Norwegian women with dementia if you’re trying to find contraband weapons on an Italian mobster.

Will I get pissed off if an agent profiles me in a search for Italian thugs?  You betcha.  But as long as the agent acts with courtesy and professionalism and stays within constitutional limits, I won’t be pissed off at him.  I’ll be pissed off at the Italian thugs who give other Italians a bad name and make the profiling of Italians necessary.  No doubt, being pissed at them is the reason why Rudy Giuliani went after the Mafia with a vengeance.  It’s also the reason I lambasted the corrupt garbage industry in New Jersey when I lived in the Garden State.

This isn’t just an academic point with me.  My family lore includes a story about federal agents peering through the keyhole of the front door of my grandparents’ flat in the Italian section of St. Louis known as the Hill.  It was during Prohibition, and the agents were looking for moonshine – with good reason.  Grandpa worked as a barkeep in a speakeasy frequented by St. Louis politicians.  The agents didn’t waste their time looking through the keyholes of WASP mansions in the leafy suburbs.

The incident ended with Grandma pulling a straw from a broom and sticking it through the keyhole into the eye of the agent.

In front of the Catholic church in my grandparents’ old neighborhood is a statue of an Italian immigrant family carrying everything they owned in a few battered suitcases.  Knowing the thinking of first- and second-generation Italians, I can say with some authority that the Italians represented by the statue would not have waved Italian flags and demonstrated about fictitious rights if they had been profiled by police looking for illegal Italian immigrants.  They would have told the illegals to get their papers and stop making it difficult for everyone else. 

They also wouldn’t have demonstrated that Italian non-citizens should be admitted to state colleges and be subsidized by working stiffs who don’t attend college.

On a related note, it’s very curious that when college students, citizen or not, demonstrate against tuition increases at state colleges, no reporter ever asks them why taxpayers who don’t go to college should subsidize them so that they can make more money than the working stiffs who subsidize them. If college students haven’t thought about this unfairness on their own, they don’t have the intellectual curiosity to attend college.
In any event, I guess I’m a racist who hates Italians.

Mr. Cantoni can be reached at