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Merited Whiteness: Why Chris Cuomo Responded Violently to “Fredo”

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Instead of talking about the obvious wrong of comparing “Fredo” to the n-word, let’s discuss merited Whiteness and Cuomo’s response.

While out with his family, Chris Cuomo was accosted by a man who compared him to the Judas Iscariot of the Corleone family, Fredo Corleone. It’s easy to see why Chris would have perceived the sudden hurling of “Fredo” as an insult, who wouldn’t. Fredo was a man out of his depth. He was intelligent, sure. But he lacked the cunning necessary to navigate life in the mafia. Fredo was a soft-hearted, loveable idiot who said more than he should have to the wrong people. His unintentional slight got him in trouble with a community that felt entitled to his allegiance. This is the very same entitlement that possessed a stranger to believe he held the authority to pull Chris Cuomo’s merited whiteness card.

Fredo’s offense in many ways is seen as something lateral to Chris Cuomo’s presence as a journalist at CNN. The child of the 52nd Governor of New York and brother of the current Governor, who is a staunch critic of Republican politicians and their constituents, Chris stands on the wrong side, to some, in a fight for “American Values.” He is outspoken and detached from his beginnings as a political analyst on Fox News. Being the descendant of a family that is only two generations removed from their Tramonti, Campania Italian origins, The Cuomo’s represent a side of American history that is not often discussed, the assimilation of European immigrants to American whiteness.

When Italians began immigrating to the US, they were not looked upon favorably. But like the Irish and members of other European communities, they united in their “othered” state to gain acceptance, overcome their backgrounds, and race toward the American Dream. But the American Dream isn’t a big house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog, it’s whiteness. To be White is to be distinctly American, devoid of cultural attachments and devoted to racial supremacy. But like the Borg, whiteness requires assimilation and shared consciousness. Like their hive-minded chant, Magats would also believe “Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”

For families like the Cuomo’s, who were privileged enough to own a business and accumulate wealth shortly after their arrival, the trajectory to acceptance was higher than most. As Henry Pratt Fairchild said when discussing the bestowed privileges of whiteness to immigrants, “If he proves himself a man, and rises above his station, and acquires wealth, and cleans himself up — very well, we receive him after a generation or two. But at present, he is far beneath us, and the burden of proof rests with him.” So how, after a single generation, did the Cuomo’s ascend their station? By becoming fast friends with the Trump family.

After Mario Cuomo represented Fred Trump in an undisclosed legal matter, their families maintained contact. Golfing trips in Florida and New York, letters filled with flattery, and partnerships that benefitted the Trumps as developers and the Cuomos political ambitions. Beyond the business relationships of the two families, you have to wonder what values they grew to share. Judging by a 2008 remark regarding Barack Obama where Andrew spouted “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference.” and Chris’ false equivalence of Fredo and the n-word, they share quite a few. Still, you must wonder why “Fredo” would elicit such a response from Chris. Is it because he feels his status demands subordination? Is it because he felt his whiteness was challenged?

Perceiving the use of “Fredo” as an anti-Italian slur, Chris Cuomo found himself feeling as immigrants did upon their arrival to the “land of dreams.” As explored by Maria Elisa Altese, there is a perception that Italian-Americans have forgotten what it is like to be targeted. Chris Cuomo has lived comfortably in the US as a white man, never before having his status challenged. As written by Robert F. Forester, in a country where the distinction between white man and black is intended as a distinction of value… it is no compliment to the Italian to deny him his whiteness, but that actually happens with considerable frequency.” So in his rage, Chris expressed how entitled he felt to the benefits of whiteness, it’s inclusivity, and how no one like him wants to be Black.

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What a Viral Twitter Thread Can Teach Us About Love and Trauma

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After a chance meeting with a New York legend, Chaédria LaBouvier, the Guggenheim Museum’s first black female curator, promised herself if she experienced another special encounter on New York’s MTA bus service, she would live-tweet it for the world. Probably sooner than she expected, she found herself giving her followers a play-by-play of a man and woman discussing their relationship, its problems, and how they can solve them.

According to LaBouvier, everything began with the man telling his girlfriend, “I love you and I want to make this work but you’re mean AS FUCK and it’s wearing me down.” Her tweets then went on to describe the man explaining that she doesn’t know how to communicate her concerns in a healthy and productive way with him and pleading with her to seek help from a mental health professional. 

The woman acknowledges not only his concerns but also her own frustration with her actions and her reservations about therapy. “’I know I don’t communicate my feelings…I didn’t grow up with that and I had to teach myself… what if therapy doesn’t work for me? What if I’m just angry?’”

To some, LaBouvier’s tweets hearkened back to the problematic “#PlaneBae” incident in which a comedian’s live-tweets of flirtatious meet-cute between two fellow passengers on her flight from New York to Dallas included photos of the unsuspecting pair. Many, though, are hailing the unidentified MTA man’s devotion to his relationship and LaBouvier’s (@chaedria on Twitter) account as a beautiful example of love, commitment, patience, and compromise. 

In the exchange, the man affirms his girlfriend’s feelings about her anger and recognizes how difficult it can be to change learned behaviors, especially when the raw emotion of a lover’s quarrel come into play. Often times, couples fail to acknowledge the impact of their actions while focusing on the recipient, but both participants here succeed in validating the other and showing empathy for one another at the same time. “’I want a better YOU not someone else… would it help you if I went with you [to therapy]? I’ll ask my mom if she has any recommendations,’” the man offers 

However, what he likely doesn’t understand is that just any old “therapy” isn’t always the answer. Our MTA heroine arguably needs a trauma therapist specializing in PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – as evidenced by her brief detail of her childhood experience and the shame she feels every night. By her own admission she continually tries to correct her behavior yet fails, and a trauma specialist could not only better understand her situation, but also potentially reduce the pain she feels, slow the frequency of her “blackouts,” and address any other side effects. 

When thinking of the traumas that can affect any of us, it’s important to remember that what scars us individually may not scar us collectively. Whatever she experienced may not be immediately understandable or accessible to us (or her boyfriend whose race remains a mystery while LaBouvier identifies her as a woman of color), but it still grieves her daily. Imagine breaking a limb – you may get a cast and lollipop at the hospital, but that pain still remains until the injury is fully healed. Equally, that pain still affects our interactions with other others. All human interaction is dependent on our relationships and when our feelings are hurt, those relationships are thrown into chaos until the injury is healed or at least back in a working state.

This couple’s relationship may not be perfect, but their willingness to work together through their weaknesses is a sign all love is not lost. While therapy is not a cure-all, the right therapy can heal a lot of injuries. 

Check out the full thread on the flip and let us know what you think. Can therapy help their relationship? Do you have a personal experience you’d like to share?

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