Saturday, March 22, 2008

You're Still Wrong

One more race-related post and I promise I'm done (famous last words). This one concerns a local flavor in the Bigotry In Motion contest, Joey Vento. I've written about the Philly cheesesteak owner, with the welcoming Speak English signs, several times before. See, e.g., here, here, here and here.

"The bottom line is that I didn't do anything wrong," said Vento, 68, who maintained that the sign was a political statement and that no customers were ever turned away. "It's a good victory." (Emphasis added).
So pontificated Vento about the decision of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to drop the discrimination case against him for his "Speak English" signs posted on his South Philly eatery. As reported by the Inquirer, Ruling: “Speak English” sign at Geno’s not discriminatory:
A city agency today dismissed a discrimination complaint against Geno's Steaks for its speak-English sign, halting a case that thrust shop owner Joey Vento into the national spotlight of the contentious immigration debate.

A split three-member panel of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations ruled that a sign in the South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop did not convey a message that service would be refused to non-English speakers.
Vento, you might not have done anything illegal, but it was certainly wrong. It's wrong to treat people the way you do, hurtful and unkind. You should remember how your grandparents were treated when the arrived from Italy, could not speak English and were like the foreigners that you belittle today. They would be ashamed of you. As I've said before, What's With My Paisans?

Of course, Vento doesn't care about the morality of the issue. In fact, Vento has basked in all the media attention that he's received for his ignorant ways. He is even featured in a Guardian piece on the Pennsylvania primary, Obama struggles to limit damage in pastor row as white voters slip away:

Listen for a few minutes to Joey Vento, owner of a south Philadelphia institution that serves gut-busting sandwiches through a takeaway hatch, and the scale of Barack Obama's problems become apparent. Obama is having the worst week of his campaign. It is, some believe, a week that threatens his chances of becoming president.

"That minister, that was terrible, all his sayings. He's preaching hatred," Vento said. "The thing I didn't like about Obama; you're telling me for 20 years you been going to that church and you never heard that?"

Vento, 68, was speaking about Obama's former pastor and spiritual adviser, Jeremiah Wright, whose sermons have been aired repeatedly on US television denouncing the US as racist.

The clips have alienated the white voters, such as Vento, that Obama needs in his next contest with Hillary Clinton, to be held in Philadephia and the other towns and cities of Pennsylvania on April 22. But it goes further than that. The danger for Obama is not just that he could lose badly in Pennsylvania but that senior Democrats will wonder whether the loss of white votes could cost him the November general election.

The latest poll in Pennsylvania by Public Policy Polling puts Clinton on 56% and Obama on 30%.
The best part is the quote of Vento criticizing Rev. Wright for "preaching hatred." Joey, you're a Catholic. You should worry that God will strike you down for your hypocritical, sinful ways. And you do believe in the afterlife (and you're not getting any younger either) -- God will remember and remind you of the hatred that you preached.

Even better, in the Guardian piece, Vento makes it sound like, but for this episode, Obama'd be his man. Not quite. In fact, what Vento doesn't say is that he was a Rudy Giuliani supporter, The Flag Flies, and that he probably already voted for him in the primary (his name was still on the ballot).

That is, what Vento didn't reveal during the interview is that he can't vote in the Pennsylvania primary -- for Obama or anyone else -- because he doesn't live here. He may own a South Philly business, but he's a South Jersey kinda guy. Right, he takes our money and runs -- across the bridge to New Jersey.

As was noted in the Philadelphia Weekly last summer, in Vento Venting:
“Joe Vento is neither the spokesman for South Philly nor a resident of South Philly. He's from South Jersey, as is his attitude.”

Gregory Mario Jacovini, editor of Ciao Philadelphia (formerly The Italian Newspaper), is annoyed.

He says Joe “Speak English” Vento, owner of Geno's Steaks, doesn't even begin to speak for the real South Philly. And he says the media's focus on Vento's confused ramblings distorts the picture of what's really happening in his neighborhood."

* * * *

And that's what's got 28-year-old Montrose Street resident Gregory Jacovini steamed.

“It's not a Philly attitude. It's definitely not a Democratic attitude. It's more of a Republican, suburban mentality to have that kind of animosity to newly arriving people.

But Vento's not into honesty either. He's a Republican after all.

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