I’ve learned that certain things which may be considered totally acceptable in one country aren’t okay in another. That customs and cultures don’t necessarily translate. Even the things that we find to be horrifically offensive aren’t universal.
Recently, I visited my family in Italy. I got to talking with my cousin, and she explained to me that the term “finocchio” (literally: fennel) is an offensive term to describe someone who is homosexual.
“You would never, ever use it,” she said, her green eyes wide.
It’s a reminder that words have power, that even something innocuous can be offensive if you are crossing cultural lines.
That being said, I do not consider this to be innocuous. I consider this to be seriously effed up:
That is a poster for a recent production of a play (“Othello darf nicht platzen” – literally, “Othello may not burst”) featuring two white guys in blackface. When I saw it in the Munich subway, I found myself just staring blankly, my mouth hanging limply open.