How Do You Say Politically Incorrect in Italian?

Human Rights Watch recently published a report about racism in Italy.  I’m going to stay out of the whole debate, but there are times when I am left shaking my head at certain labels or signs that I come across here.

America is obsessed with political correctness so I often find myself thinking “That would not be ok back home.”

Exhibit A:

When we stopped for a coffee on Via Appia, I stole a sugar packet as a souvenir. ‘Moca?’ Black face? Really?

Exhibit B:

Real American popcorn, because we get all our popcorn back home from headdressed Native American chiefs?

13 thoughts on “How Do You Say Politically Incorrect in Italian?

  1. anna says:

    so funny.. i remember i was shocked at carnevale when i saw that a common costume was to be dressed up as a rastafari and they painted their face brown. Same with an obama costume.. the important thing to remember is that the italians don’t do it out of hate…but should maybe study their marketing a little more!

  2. Paula Feldman says:

    Certainly are the typical cliches of life under the Italian sun. Indians in full feather wear for the States. Blacks on sugar packets.But I do want to let you know that not everyone is into this kind of politically incorrect.

    Several months ago there were some sugar packets which had some VERY politically and ethically incorrect comments about Jews printed on them. After a loud thunder clap of protest and such they were taken from the market.

    I remember when I first came to Italy, in the little town where I lived I was the ONLY American they had ever seen. And this is the town where Teddy Roosevelt had summered a couple of times. My nick became l’americana and to this day I am still called by that name. Of course, in the meanwhich there have been lots of other Mericans who came over and are now a part of the scenery. They just get called by name as do the Irish, Scottish and English who have been here forever. I feel rather special considering…

    So don’t get worked up or distressed. Politcally incorrect is almost considered normal here. After all, our Mr. B has been known to say certain things which the American Mr. B(from Texas in case you have forgotten) would have died for…embarassing but true!

  3. Christine says:

    Interesting post! I have not noticed a lot of racism here in Italy, it is nothing like the racism I felt everyday living in Atlanta, Georgia (from all sides).

    I think the sugar package is actually quite darling. I looked up on the Moka website, and some of their products do come from Africa, so that could be the inspiration behind the darker face, and colors of his hat (similiar to many African national flags).

    The Indian for the popcorn does not make any sense, but I will tell you what- I would love a package of that popcorn! I miss Orville Reddenbacher!

    I also agree with Anna that the Italians could use some good marketing classes 🙂
    All the best from Firenze, ciao!

  4. Paula Feldman says:

    Christina – for the popcorn you can go to the LIDL, a chain supermarket which is all over the place in Italy. If I remember correctly there is one in Florence – bus reachable. Look it up and with a little luck they will have the packets of Microwave popcorn available. You could also go to VIVI market : Via del Melarancio 17. 055/294411.

    They have tons of American products. Very high priced but lots of goodies.

    Popcorn is also sold at most DROGHERIE where they sell beans etc.

    Good luck on finding your desires. P

    • Francesco says:

      I see nothing to be ashamed of honestly. Sugar comes from Africa? Slap a black guy’s face with an african-colored hat on it. Corn comes from America? Slap a native american on a popcorn package (an indian chief is also more pleasant to look than a fat guy on a mobility scooter eating a cheeseburger and shooting an M16)

  5. Luca says:

    Why shameful? Is not because of racism, but to give an exotic touch to their products! I love that sugar package! Is just vintage and i don’t find it offensive in any way. The native american on the popcorn box is a little out of context, but… isn’t it cute (in a trashy way)?

    Your blog is funny and intresting.

    Excuse me for my bad english.

    • Carlos A Lacayo says:

      How do you feel now? Did you research black face? It’s crazy to sell sugar with black face in it because it looks exotic.

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  7. Sarah says:

    I’ve just discovered this blog and I’m in love! I’ve recently been toying with the idea of possibly moving to Italy. So i’ve been catching up with the blog for the past two days. I initially was going to hold my comments until I reached the newer posts but when I ran into this one I had to speak up.

    To those who see no problem with the black face image, it isn’t the image that is offensive. Its what it represents. If you look back into the history of American television that exact image that is pictured above (dark skin, big lips) is what was used in the media to degrade African Americans. The media used that image to portray African Americans as stupid, and ignorant (amongst other things).

    So as an African American, when I see something like this I do feel some type of way. The marketing may not be executed with malicious intent, but a little bit of research wouldn’t hurt this branding agency.

    I still would move to Italy though. Simply because I feel (like a previous commenter mentioned) I’m treated better in Europe than I am in my own country.

  8. Maite says:

    Well, as a French couple who has been living in Rome for years now, we often found ourselves thinking the exact same thing even though, from an American perspective, Italian and French cultures might seem very similar. I would point out, though, that Italians don’t live with this burden of colonialism, this sense of permanent guilt that you find within former colonial empires. Or in your case, within a country which had a long history of slavery.
    Also, it is not related but I really enjoy your website !

    • Natalie says:

      Hi Maite! Thanks so much 🙂

      I think you are right! And after many years in Italy now myself, I think my reaction to such designs has changed a bit… but it does still bother me because of Italy’s (attempted) colonial past in Eritrea and the growing anti-immigrant sentiments in the current election cycle.

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