Philadelphia is such a closed-minded, one-party town that Democrat mayoral nominee Jim Kenney is already being called the "mayor-elect."
Kenney has only nominal opposition in the next Tuesday's election to succeed popular Mayor Michael Nutter and he's been going around town making appearances before various groups in a sort of pre-victory lap.
Last week Kenney spoke to a luncheon of the city's Justinian Society of Italian-American lawyers and, though we weren't present at the event, we're told that in a manner of speaking Kenney used the 'W' word, and we don't mean "whatever . . . "
No, we mean W as in w-o-p!
In fact, we hear that Kenney specifically spelled out the word (letter by letter) explaining to his audience that it was used in a derogatory sense against Italian-Americans but actually meant "without papers." Well, Kenney doesn't know what he's talking about. According to Merriam-Webster, wop's first known use was in the United States in 1908. The dictionary is unambiguous that it originates from a southern Italian dialect term guappo, meaning thug, derived from the Spanish term guapo, meaning handsome, via dialectical French, meaning ruffian or pimp. It also has roots in the Latin vappa, meaning wine gone flat. It has nothing to do with immigration papers or documentation of any sort. It's an ethnic slur, pure and simple -- a slur just as vile as the "n" word.
Mind you, this history would hardly be news to learned Italian-American lawyers in the city and their friends and families. They certainly need no lecture on the journey that they and their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have traveled. They know full well how hard it was for Italians of certain generations to get into college and law school and then find jobs as lawyers and/or start their own law firms.
The discrimination and the struggle have been well-documented.
Anyway, we're told that, mixing anecdotes and off-the-cuff bromides, Kenney then attempted to link his own story as an Irish-American to the Italian-American experience, partially using that as an argument for immigration reform today and a more welcoming approach toward undocumented immigrants (aka illegal aliens).
Memo to Kenney: You don't have to resurrect vicious ethnic slurs (whose meaning you do not understand and which should have been shelved years ago) to make your point.
Remember: In instances in which they came from elsewhere, our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents came to this nation legally. They assimilated; they sought no handouts or special consideration; they disdained victimhood, then and now; they learned English; they embraced the culture and the American Dream and they succeeded against all odds without bitterness or ill-will toward those who would have held them back. Strengthened by faith and family, theirs is a story of remarkable triumph. In many cases, they are that much more keenly aware of their history precisely because they have surmounted it.
In a million different ways they've earned the right to call themselves Americans -- and that's the one label they're still proudest of as well as the one you're well-advised to stick to going forward.