The Commission for Social Justice is the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America and works to ensure equal respect for all people, especially Italian-Americans. Collectively, organizations such as the CSJ represent more than 25 million Americans of Italian decent. Most are descendants of the 3.8 million Italian immigrants who came here between1899-1924. In New Jersey 17.9% of the population claim Italian ancestry – we are the state’s largest ethnic group. Hammonton has the highest percentage of Italian Americans,and Toms River has the largest number, with 27,279 residents of Italian heritage.
Serving as Chairman of the New Jersey Commission for Social Justice is both rewarding and frustrating. For every positive portrayal of Italians and Italian-Americans in the media, there were ten incidents that painted us as gagsters, mobsters, guidos, buffoons, or gigolos. Prejudice, neg stereotyping and ethnic jokes leave lasting impressions on people; perpetuate ethnic, and race problems. Shakespeare wrote “Who steals my purse steals trash,but who steals my good name, steals an inestimable treasure”. Our good names are being “stolen” daily. Why is it so difficult for some Italian Americans to realize that their group reputation is as important as their individual reputation? Laws that punish the use of ethnic insults and reminders to the media opposing their denigration of ethnic groups do not stop the continuing negative portrayal of Italian-Americans. As an ethnic group, we can either join an Italian American Organization that is dedicated to fighting Italian Defamation and Discrimination and be part of the solution, or just sit there doing nothing to defend our Italian heritage. CSJ protests Italian-American defamation for several reasons. One is to honor the Italian parents and grandparents who came here and often suffered discrimination and humiliation when they deserved so much better. “No Italians Need Apply” is a sign we never want to see again. Another reason is to be sure our children and our grandchildren are proud of their Italian ancestry, free from any disparaging images in the media.
Each filial lodge is asked to appoint a CSJ representative. That representative will receive a copy of the Chairman’s monthly report to the Grand Lodge, and we ask that they read the report to their lodge at their next meeting in order to keep the state’s membership informed of the Commission’s activities. This successful program has been in a place for several months, and we hope for 100% participation soon.