What did she say? Rossana asked folks (on social media) to pick one of four ways to honor Italian Heritage in Chicago; 1. an “Italian ice monument, 2. ” a “Bialetti (espresso maker) monument, 3. ” a “Columbus statue” or 4. “Other: write in comments.”
Shocker, that didn't go over too big with the Italians. Badabing. Then again, she does deserve credit for reminding me of my favorite Toto song.
City Council member defends herself following controversial tweet about Italian culture
By Hank Sanders
Jul 08, 2023 at 11:28 am
Northwest Side Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez defended herself late Friday against backlash she’s received for promoting a Twitter poll that several leaders in Chicago’s Italian American community said they found offensive.
Short of an apology, Rodriguez Sanchez, 33rd, said the poll she posted on her political Twitter account late last month seeking opinions about “the Best Way to honor Italian Heritage in Chicago” was intended to be “playful” and “lighthearted” and was instead being “spun into a narrative of disrespect.”
Responding on her same social media account, Rodriguez Sanchez shared screenshots of insulting and hateful messages she received in response to the poll, including one that disparaged her Puerto Rican ethnicity and said “your heritage is inferior.”
“It’s sad to see my lighthearted tweet spun into a narrative of disrespect,” she wrote. “To be clear: this narrative isn’t based in reality. I deeply respect Italians, Italian-American history & their role in building our city amid discrimination faced by immigrant & minority communities.”
The furor broke out because in the poll the options Rodriguez Sanchez offered for ways to honor Italian Heritage in Chicago were limited to an “Italian ice monument,” a “Bialetti (espresso maker) monument,” a “Columbus statue” and “Other: write in comments.” As of Friday, the post had been viewed 45,000 times and the poll had garnered 1,800 votes, with the Italian ice monument receiving the most votes.
“Not only did she disparage and marginalize a community (that has) … contributed so much to the core and growth of this great city, she welcomed and encouraged others that follow her on social media to join in the ‘fun’ at the expense of the Italian American community,” Lou Rago, president of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago and president of the Rago Brothers funeral homes, said in a statement. “This is purely racist and unacceptable.”
Some of the loudest words of frustration surrounded the comment section of Rodriguez’s post. One user recommended a statue of a cannoli, to which Rodriguez’s account responded, “How did I miss this! Yes.” A second Twitter commenter proposed a beef juice fountain, to which Rodriguez replied, “I’m with that.”
Another local Italian leader argued if Rodriguez Sanchez had made similar comments that stereotyped another ethnicity or group by reducing them to products they enjoy or invented, the backlash would be more severe and perhaps lead to calls for her resignation.
“She not only posted that as a backhanded slap in our face but also fostered community engagement from her followers that gave continual, negative, stereotypical, racist remarks, And she was complimenting them,” said Ron Onesti, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.
The Tweet storm is only the most recent dust up between members of Chicago’s Italian American community and some city leaders who successfully had statues of Christopher Columbus, who was Italian, removed from public locales. The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans is suing the city over former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to remove a Columbus statue in Little Italy.
Others, including current Mayor Brandon Johnson, have expressed support for replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.
Rodriguez Sanchez, a member of the City Council’s Democratic Socialist Caucus, has supported the anti-Columbus efforts and in her response Friday to the criticism over the poll she noted one of the options was a statue of Columbus, “a man responsible for so much violence, genocide & enslavement.”
“I’m fully aware of the positive impacts Italians & Italian-Americans have had,” she wrote on Twitter. “It fills me with hope to see so many Italian-Americans in this city committed to celebrating their heritage in ways that embrace the full complexity of history.”