January 3

Bill Dal Cerro of the Italic Institute of America [Free for All, Dec. 28] took Dana Milbank to task for allegedly stereotyping Italians in his Dec. 22 Sunday Opinion column, “Godfathers of the Capitol.” But Milbank never used the word “Italian.” He did write “mafia” twice, and he used the phrase “going to the mattresses” once. He also used the term “mob boss.”

In my opinion, it takes more effort than it is worth to be offended, no matter what one’s origins, by any of these words. It seems to me that even in “today’s enlightened era,” to use Dal Cerro’s phrase, we can pretty much agree that Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky were not Italian Americans. They were, however, major players in the American mafia.

Although there is an obvious association with Italians and La Cosa Nostra, by the time this mafia was out of its infancy it was simply organized crime. As time went on it involved members of every race and ethnic group on the planet.

The closest Milbank came to implying an Italian connection was with his mention of a fictional Italian American mob boss, portrayed by the late James Gandolfini, an Italian American actor. That seems to be pretty slim evidence of ethnic stereotyping.

Stephen S. Ripley, Arlington