|If Roger Spurback really thought
Sam Fruscione was in the Mafia, he probably wouldn't have said a word. His "Mr. Mafiaoso" posting seems to be clearly a denigrating
reference to the fact that Fruscione is Italian.
|Roger Spurback (above), Andrea
Galyn, Anne Gregory and others took to using ethnic stereotypes that look a lot like bigotry.
However, Spurback was man enough to apologize.
The ugly specter of bigotry reared its head in Niagara Falls, and the media and other watchdogs usually charged with monitoring such prejudice stood by passively, or worse yet, allowed themselves to become accessories in the unpleasantness.
The anger expressed toward the “council majority” these past six weeks regarding the council’s votes to reduce funding to the NACC, the Block Club Council and the Niagara Beautification Commission has caused something to come about that we were displeased to see: a hateful streak of intolerance and bigotry pointing directly at Italian Americans.
Councilmember Sam Fruscione, an American of Italian descent, is a loving husband and devoted father who has spent his adult life teaching children in the Niagara Falls city school system. He is the furthest thing from any sort of criminal you could imagine.
Yet he has been labeled in various media outlets as a mafia member, a “mafia wannabe” and worse. One respected daily left out any mafia reference, but recently defined Fruscione in an editorial as “odious,” a distasteful word on the usually reserved pages of that newspaper.
A letter writer to the Niagara Gazette, a woman named Anne Gregory, dropped the mafia bomb on Fruscione, while Block Club Council President Roger Spurback posted a Facebook remark calling Sam, “Mr. Mafiaoso.”
According to Fruscione, artist Andrea Galyn, who ought to know better, mocked him by writing her version of how Italians speak on Facebook.
What was rather surprising is that Spurback and others received a lot of “atta boy” and “go get ’em Roger!”
We all know the old game of bigotry. It’s an ugly part of our nation’s history – so let’s not pretend we don’t know what’s going on. Labeling an Italian as a Mafioso is the same as calling an Irishman a drunk, a Polish person “dumb,” a black person “lazy,” or a Jewish person “cheap.”
To his credit, Fruscione would take none of it. He got angry and contacted the people who demeaned him, and by extension, all Italians. He also contacted the American Italian Anti-Defamation League and his lawyer, and threatened to take action to expose the bigotry.
"I didn't do it for myself, and I did not do it only for Italians,” Fruscione said, "but I was determined to censure public displays of bigotry."
Spurback came forward at Monday’s council meeting to formally apologize for his online comment. He acknowledged that the term was offensive, refusing to repeat it in public, and stated that he would never use it again on Facebook or any other public forum.
Apparently, Spurback realized that he had crossed the line and did not want to be portrayed as the bigot his words suggested he was. That is a good thing.
While no one wants censorship and, at the end of the day, we must never make speech, even hateful, denigrating speech, illegal, everyone generally benefits from a filter, particularly when dealing with the world at large.
Spurback realized this.
If this ethnic discrimination against Italians festers and grows, will we next hear words in the public arena such as: kike, pollock, mick, wetback, fag, towel head, dyke, wop or nigger?
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," Edmund Burke once wrote.
Here in Niagara Falls, we should be reminded that a few good men can do something.
And in this case, they did.