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The world is reeling with crime from people of all lifestyles. Crime takes a variety of perspectives, but the bottom line is that the criminal justice systems of nations all over the world are staggering under the weight of staggering crime rates.
Crime has been part of humanity since time immemorial; however, this aspect does not make it desirable by any means, as it does not form part of the virtues that societies inculcate in the young generation on its way to adulthood (Moehling and Piehl 750). In the past, scholars have studied crime from different angles to establish its tenets coupled with whether it can be stereotypically linked to a particular group of people such as a race, community, or clan.
Debates have raged on for many decades with protagonists linking groups of people to crime and antagonists discrediting such links. In this respect, in 1901, the Boston Sunday Globe posed the following question, “Is the Italian more prone to violent crime than any other race?” and several individuals of Italian origin responded to the question. This essay sets out to examine the arguments of two individuals, viz. Rev. Fr. Abaldus Da Rieti and Dr. Joseph Santosuosso to find out who among them made a valid point.
Rev. Fr. Abaldus Da Rieti Vs Dr. Joseph Santosuosso
The history of associating criminal activities with a particular race dates back to the 19th century. During this period, the European continent was well on its development path. This aspect implies that the societies that existed within cities and rural localities of the European nations were already well organized and the idea of civilization was not farfetched. Violent crime must have been part of these societies for purposes of property defense through weapons to the extent of killing potential thieves (Calvanese and Colosimo 157).
Rev. Fr. Abadus Da Rieti’s position on the question that was posed stems from a logical argument, which is systematically elaborated to make one to understand ‘the Italian’ based on the author’s own understanding of the question. He divided and sub-divided the native Italians on their respective ancestral origins. He described the general characteristics of the sub-divisions of the Italians generally portraying them as law abiding and useful citizens (Da Rieti 30).
He even went ahead to point out the geographical locations of the various subdivisions of the Italian race. Rev. Fr. Da Rieti goes to great depths to describe the true Italian countenance in a manner that clearly helps the reader to visualize a true Italian (Da Rieti 30). From this move, it is clear that all this pain is taken to alienate the ‘true Italian’ from the blame of having a predisposition to violent crime.
He aims at achieving this goal by creating an atmosphere in which the reader can develop a feeling that indeed the committer of violent crime is not the true Italian. From the argument, one can deduce that the committer of violent crime is a half cast from Italians and non-Italians or simply the non-Italian inhabitants of Italy. The defensive position taken by Rev. Fr. Rieti becomes more evident when he further defends the non-true Italian by finding a scapegoat in liquor (Da Rieti et al. 30).
According to his line of thought, the liquor taken by these descendants of non-true Italians stock is the motivating factor behind all violent criminal activities they engage in during their lifetime. According to Rev. Fr. Rieti, the liquor casts an evil effect on these people, which explains why they engage in violent acts.
On the other hand, Dr. Joseph Santosuosso takes a different perspective on this matter. He begins by criticizing the question’s ambiguity in pointing out what it exactly implies when it links Italians to violent crime.
He strikes a delicate balance between defending the Italians from what appears to him as a scathing attack on the character of Italians and portraying the Italian as a victim of circumstances who cannot be expressly blamed for the crimes s/he commits (Da Rieti et al. 30). It might be a little confusing trying to come up with a distinct position from Dr. Santosuosso’s argument. However, by scrutinizing Santosuosso, it is apparent that he subscribes to the principle of none harm, do none harm, and much less let another person do the same.
He refutes the idea of portraying Italians as murders, as according to him, that is the impression given by the question (Da Rieti et al. 30). He paints a beautiful picture of the Italians and their progenitors to make a point that they are a blameless populace and attributes this beauty to the emotions of the Italians.
According to Dr. Santosuosso, long before he wrote the article, Italians found many emotional outlets in the many noble activities they engaged in. However, around the time of writing the article, Italians found no outlets to release their pent-up emotions. He attributes this phenomenon to several frustrations that Italians faced in Italy, viz. poverty, limited room for bargaining, and poor socio-economic conditions (Da Rieti et al. 30).
However, he is quick to point out that even though he argued to the effect that some conditions were underlying Italian propagated crime, the rates were not extraordinary. He admits that Italians were responsible for some violent crimes, but only to the extents that were comparable with other races.
He also went ahead and gave an explanation for what he thought could be the cause. The word vendetta, which is associated with violent vengeance among Italian families, may paint a history of violent crime, but perhaps this aspect could just be due to the lack of nouns for the same activities in other races. Scrutiny of the history of other races may as well reveal vengeance to the extents that may surpass the levels at which the Italians practiced it.
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These two men cautiously studied the Italians’ way of life in order to come up with the responses they wrote to the question that was posed. The approaches were different, but they both made a point concerning their positions on the matter.
Rev. Fr. Da Rieti’s overall position was that particular groups of people claim to be Italians, but they are not true Italians who are responsible for violent crime among the Italian circles (Da Rieti et al. 30). To propagate such an idea is tantamount to exempting the entire Italian race from any criminal doing and squarely placing blame on one group of which according to Rev. Fr. Rieti, is non-Italian.
This view is the main point of argument propagated by this individual yet it clearly does not add up. The position taken by Dr. Santosuosso is more sensible. He does not get into the details of the Italian people and their bloodlines, but he treats them as Italians for that is how the question does. The gist of his argument is that Italians, just like any other race, are by no means entirely angelic in character (Da Rieti et al. 30).
He acknowledges that a society without crime is remotely conceivable, as supported by the following excerpt: “Regardless of the facts of a rural dwellers nativity, racial characteristics, language, and customs, be they American, German, French, or Italian, the country inhabitant tends to react the same way as regards crime in the rural economy” (Ross 203).
The study of crime over the years has brought people to the understanding that criminal activity is motivated by certain underlying factors. In this line of argument, Rev. Fr. Da Rieti asserts that the few non-true Italians engage in violent crime under the influence of liquor.
Based on this argument, the final position he takes is that, if the multitude of kitchen barrooms in their settlements could be eliminated, crime would be greatly reduced (Da Rieti et al. 30). This argument fully attributes any violent criminal activity to drunkenness. However, this form of thinking cannot be true in a society as causative factors behind crime always vary for people have a variety of personalities and so they will react differently to different stimuli.
Dr. Santosuosso once again points that the crimes that have reportedly been committed by Italians are due to the frustrations that they faced without proper channels of releasing their pent-up emotions (Da Rieti et al. 30). He goes ahead to explain that this phenomenon would be the case with many other people if placed under the same circumstances.
These two individuals both take a defensive position in favor of the Italian race. However, Dr. Santosuosso is keen to point out that his arguments are not hinged on the fact that he is of Italian origin, but are based on a personal understanding of the Italian race and his beliefs. Clearly, the Italian race has been unfairly accused of being a violent race from the arguments of the two individuals. Crime is part of society and it occurs within any race as long as there are ambient conditions.
Calvanese, Ernesto, and Chiara Colosimo. “Kind men’s violence. Quo vadis” Italian Journal of Criminology 2.1 (2007): 157-183. Print.
Da Rieti, Badaracco, Giuseppe De Marco, Joseph Santosuosso, and George Scigliano. “Is the Italian more prone to violent crime than any other race?” The Boston Sunday Globe 4 Aug.1901: 30. Print.
Moehling, Carolyn, and Anne Piehl. “Immigration, Crime, and Incarceration in Early Twentieth-Century America.” Demography 46.4 (2009): 739-763. Print.
Ross, Harold. “Crime and the Native Born Sons of European Immigrants.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 28.2 (1937): 200-07. Print.