This week, in an attempt to make a point about racism against Italian-Americans, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used the N-word while reading a quote from The New York Times.
According to TMZ, Tuesday, the governor was being interviewed on Albany, N.Y. radio station WAMC when the topic turned to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a counter celebration that has gained popularity with people who believe Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage to the western hemisphere did horrendous damage, particularly to its existing population.
During the conversation, Cuomo steered the discussion to slurs used against Italians in the U.S. To illustrate how his countrymen have historically been discounted in America, he referenced an NYT op-ed published over the weekend.
According to him southern Italians, or Sicilians, were called, “quote-unquote and pardon my language, but I’m just quoting the Times: ‘n****r wops.’ n-word wops, as a derogatory comment.”
To his point, there really was a time when Sicilians were considered “Black” in the South and as a result, was often subjected to the Jim Crow laws of segregation. Because of their skin complexion, they were designated as “Black” on census forms if they lived in the South and weren’t allowed to marry whites. Many were even lynched because of this.
But to many, the validity of Cuomo’s point about how Southern Italians faced discrimination due to their proximity to Blackness still gave him no right to drop the n-word. Some noted how he didn’t even skip a beat after dropping the slur, either. He said it and then continued his vent, this time blasting yet another article in the Albany Times-Union, in which its author criticized him and his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, for their alleged misconception of Italian-American insults.
Back in August, Chris Cuomo made headlines after he was caught on camera cursing out a stranger who called him “Fredo,” insisting the term was an ethnic slur (the name comes from a character in “The Godfather” movies and novels who is portrayed as weak and stupid). At the time Cuomo told the man the term is as offensive to Italians as the n-word is to African-Americans; an opinion that many other Italian Americans vocally disagreed with.
The New York Post reports that Assemblyman Charles Barron, a longtime activist, and former Black Panther, took serious issue with Cuomo’s remarks, calling them “very inappropriate” and “disrespectful.” He also said the governor “owes the black community an apology.”
However, other African-American state leaders backed the governor, stating the understood the point he was attempting to make.
“The Governor was quoting a New York Times story and was using it for context,” State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said of Cuomo’s comments, noting he “didn’t take any offense.”
State Sen. Kevin Parker also wasn’t offended and felt “people are overreacting.”
“The way he said it, it might have been inartful,” concedes Parker. “But it wasn’t inaccurate and he was giving a source of context.”