In one particular picture, he was a new relative in the Huxtable relatives from “The Cosby Demonstrate.” In an additional, his encounter was superimposed on the entire body of Michael Jordan as he glided to the rim. In an additional, he was positioned in a scene from a traditional Italian movie in which the actor Totò, sporting Blackface, plays an ambassador from a fictional African nation.
When Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign minister, returned to Rome from a getaway on the island of Sardinia, it took small time for Italians to discover his deep tan. By Aug. 25, photographs and memes featuring Mr. Di Maio in a kind of Blackface appeared across the Italian net. A single of these cases depicted Mr. Di Maio as a Black migrant on a crowded boat.
Rather of criticizing the photographs, Mr. Di Maio embraced them, sharing some on his very own Instagram account, which include the ones of Mr. Jordan, Totò and the Huxtables.
“Guys. I guarantee that subsequent summertime I will place on 50 SPF sunscreen,” Mr. Di Maio wrote in a caption underneath the photographs. “And thanks for building my day lighter.”
In the United States, racked by concerns of systemic racism, some public figures who have been caught in Blackface have been forced to resign or have been fired. The practice has also develop into taboo in most of Europe, in which it is, at the quite least, thought of very offensive.
But possibly much less so in Italy, in which performers nonetheless seem on tv in Blackface to perform notable figures this kind of as Louis Armstrong or Beyoncé.
Final yr, the Italian airline Alitalia pulled an advertisement that featured an actor sporting Blackface to portray former President Barack Obama. In 2008, Italy’s former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, termed President Obama, “young, handsome and tanned.” When he was chastised for it, Mr. Berlusconi mentioned it was a compliment and that folks essential to cease currently being so uptight.
Representatives for Mr. Di Maio, a energy broker in Italy’s governing 5 Star Motion, created a equivalent argument.
“The minister has been categorically towards any kind of racial discrimination or violence in any of its types,” mentioned Augusto Rubei, Mr. Di Maio’s spokesman. “It was a self-mocking submit about the tan the minister received soon after a handful of days in Sardinia. Blackface is not one thing that is understood in Italy,” he mentioned, incorporating that Italian culture did not have the very same sensitivities as other nations.
Nonetheless, the photographs posted by Mr. Di Maio, who has a popularity for gaffes, did not go with out criticism in the nation. Some argued that they reflected Mr. Di Maio’s provincial worldview, one particular that does not consider into consideration international conversations all-around racism taking place outdoors Italy. Other folks mentioned the photographs ignored the discrimination faced by Black folks in Italy, in which African migrants typically grapple with violence and intolerance.
Igiaba Scego, a Somali-Italian author who focuses on Black research and colonialism, mentioned Italy has by no means faced its colonial and fascist previous.
“In other nations, they know that practices this kind of as Blackface lead to violence,” she mentioned. “In Italy, they just really do not consider insults to Black folks significantly.”
Rather than getting the posts hurtful and surprising, “the minister observed it humorous,” she additional.
Mr. Rubei, the spokesman, also defended the minister’s cameo subsequent to Totò, the Italian actor, by saying he did it since each guys are initially from Naples, and that no one particular in Italy linked that effectiveness, from the 1961 movie “Totòtruffa,” with racism, or “thinks Totò is sporting Blackface.”
In other phrases, he mentioned, folks had been building one thing out of nothing at all.
“He did not paint his encounter Black,” Mr. Rubei mentioned of Mr. Di Maio. “He was genuinely tanned.”