Let's talk about the Tascinigate, that is the recent controversy that arose around the racist words of the well-known game designer Daniele Tascini.

You know that we Seekers are quite seldom into board games, because we are much more focused on role playing. Therefore, initially I did not want to talk about this story, because it takes place in a field that is not mine. However, the discussion and affirmations born in the gdt community made me think. And this article was born from thinking.

First, this article will briefly summarize the story of the Tascinigate, or rather the controversy involving the game designer Daniele Tascini. Secondly, you will read some of my reflections on the subject.
I want to specify that this article does not aim to attack Daniele Tascini's person. However, he will be very critical of his words. Therefore, it will not be said that Tascini is a racist, because it would be a judgment given to his person, but it will be reflected on the fact that his words are racist. We must not make a person coincide with his actions, but neither can it be denied that actions are important and have a big impact on reality.

Tascinigate: what happened?

The controversy surrounding the racist claims of Daniele Tascini, also known as Tascinigate, is quite long and complex. I will try to summarize it in the next paragraphs.

Jeremy Howard's post

On January 16 of this year, Jeremy Howard post on the Facebook group BoardGameGeek the screenshot of a post by Daniele Tascini, with the English translation on the side. The post is as follows:

Tascini's post that started the Tascinigate
Tascini's post that started the Tascinigate

This, however, is the screenshot of the translation of the aforementioned comment by Tascini:

Screenshot of the translation of Tascini's post, also published by Howard at the beginning of Tascinigate
Screenshot of the translation of Tascini's post, also published by Howard at the beginning of Tascinigate

Howard does not tell us where this comment by Daniele Tascini comes from. However, on the Board Game group, one user claims in this discussion that the post was written in the context of a discussion on role play and racism towards June 2020.
The discussion in which this comment was written is on January 15, that is only one day before the outbreak of the Tascinigate, and concerns an interview with Tascini and another game designer, Martino Chiacchiera. This interview, made by the site Rotating die, speaks, ironically, of inclusiveness in board games and had been criticized for calling two white men to talk about a minority issue. On January 17th, Rotating Die published an apology post for his lightness in dealing with these topics.

Jeremy Howard's comment

Jeremy Howard is a member and content creator of the YouTube channel Man vs Meeple, which deals with commenting and reviewing video games and board games. Howard commented on the screenshots of Tascini's post with the following words:

This message was shared with me. It is from one of my favorite designers period Daniele Tascini “T game”. I want you to know several things after you read this.
1. I don't wake up looking for people to screw up. Im extremely disappointed and hurt like some of you may be.
2. He “regularly” uses the N word around his African friends

-there are a small group of folks who sign off on this. If you know how the vast majority of black people with be either turned off or angry by the use of that word, just don't use it. Don't put yourself in danger. Plenty of words in the English language to use.
-If you want to use that word, you better not step outside with that energy… for your safety and your friends.
-African and African Americans can sometime contribute to the normalization of this derogatory term by allowing it to be said. Its even worse when they allow white people to think it's cool.

I'm just deeply hurt by this. Some of my favorite games are designed by him. I have principles that I just can't bend for board games. I will not cosign for this behavior. I don't expect anyone to throw games out. This is meant to inform you. I'm angry inside, but I'm used to this as a 42 year old .. thats what's most unfortunate. I can't ESCAPE to a board game like some others can.Take care

Updates to Jeremy Howard's post

Subsequently, Jeremy Howard edited his post, adding two updates regarding Tascini's reactions to his post.

Update 2: the designer has made a statement on his behalf. You can read it and decide for yourself. I've read several apologies like this before. When words get caught up, you gotta save face a bit. I apologize YOU FEEL THAT WAY is often the route to take. I have to take this statement with a grain of salt at this point. I've had half Italian speakers go both ways on this and that validates most of my reaction. Just for clarity, I didn't wake up at the ready to trash one of my favorite designer EVER!

Update: Daniele has contacted me and explained his position that he is not a racist and his statements were to condemn racist. Some of his other explanations really don't jive with me. Excusing Italian or Italy for their social norms is not how the world works. Also the example used is also not the move. Im still struggling with this, but I give him some credit for not reaching out to me in anger.

The post of apology by Daniele Tascini

Between the publication of Jeremy Howard's post with the screenshots posted above and its update with the two updates, in fact, Tascini also intervened on the matter. Indeed, Tascini has published an apology post, again on January 16:

Tascini's apology post, which however did not stop Tascinigate
Tascini's apology post, which however did not stop Tascinigate

Daniele Tascini is a well known and awarded author of board games. Among his most successful titles are On the trail of Marco Polo, Sheepland, Tzolk'in: the Mayan Calendar e Teotihuacan: City of the Gods. You can view a full version of his profile at this link.

Board & Dice's answer

Also on January 16 came the reaction of Board & Dice, a board game publishing house that at the time of the Tascinigate was collaborating with the aforementioned game designer. We leave you the screenshot of their location below, but you can also read it from their site, at this link.
Essentially, Board & Dice agrees with Jeremy Howard that Tascini gave an apology committed more to justifying himself and his actions than to showing actual repentance. Therefore, the publishing house has decided to cut ties with Tascini and not to renew the collaborations stipulated with him (although those currently in progress will end).

The reaction of the Board & Dice publishing house to the Tascinigate
The reaction of the Board & Dice publishing house to the Tascinigate

Reactions from the board game community at Tascinigate

The reactions of the board game community, national and international, were not long in coming.
Numerous comments were born under Jeremy Howard's post, but one of the platforms on which the international gdt community discussed the most is the Facebook group Board Game Spotlight. This discussion contains over 500 comments, for example.

But the Tascinigate has seriously exploded in the Italian community and, mainly, on the Facebook group Table games. Two main discussions on the subject arose here: one of January 17, after the B&D announcement and with 1138 comments, e one of January 23 with nearly 400 comments, after an article on the subject.
The aforementioned article, Entitled Conglomerandocene: Tascinigate, board games and politically correct, was published in Rolling Stone and takes the defense of Tascini. I will not link it because I find it of low quality and largely guilty of benaltrism, but you can easily find it on Google. However, it must be said that the term Tascinigate was invented by the author of this article.
Another article that attempts to analyze the question is this.

Reflections on the Tascinigate

Now that we've summarized the story, it's time to comment on it. Let's see why Tascini's words are racist and what we can do to grow and move forward.

Why are Tascini's words racist?

Why the word n ** ro it is also offensive in Italy and is still used as a racist insult.

No, the etymology of a word has nothing to do with its current meaning

Of course, in defense of Tascini, some individuals immediately arose who, armed with the powers ofetymology, they pointed out as the term n ** ro in Italian is not offensive because “it derives from Latin and was once used fluently”.
Now, as a linguist I am very keen to clarify this point.

Linguistic history of black e n ** ro

It is true that the term n ** ro comes from the Latin Niger and that in old Italian (and also not very old) it was used as synonym of Nero. We see this term used without any kind of offensive meaning by Petrarch and Leopardi, for example.
However, words can change in meaning over time and depending on the historical and social context. In fact, if n ** ro it is historically well attested, it was also the preferred adjective to talk about "n ** ra", even in contexts of discussion on the presumed purity of the race. Therefore, even in Italy, in the early twentieth century, n ** ro it was used in contexts and in communicative situations in which derogatory and inferiority judgments were conveyed towards black people.

Subsequently, in the seventies, n ** ro it has been associated by several Italian translators with the English pejorative n * gger, thus preferring to translate Black with black. This choice was not accepted unanimously, but public opinion subsequently changed when the debate on politically correct that was raging in the US in the XNUMXs was brought to Italy. Since the nineties, then n ** ro it is not only perceived more widely as a racist and offensive term, but is also actively used as such.

If, therefore, the use of n ** ro was not always offensive and his role as a racist slur is relatively young, we can't pretend that nowadays this term isn't, de facto, an insult. Its nature as an insult is not even a novelty, because almost thirty years have passed since the XNUMXs. It is therefore difficult to live in Italy without knowing the negative meaning of this term.

WEB sociologist Du Bois, who proposed replacing colored with n ** ro
WEB sociologist Du Bois, whom he proposed to replace colored with n ** ro
A further clarification: uses of n ** ro e n * gger in the United States

Since we are on the subject, I think it might be interesting to make a brief digression on the use of the word in the United States n ** ro. Because yes, even in the US this term has been widely used for some time.
Smith (1992) report briefly the story of how the epithets used to refer to black (or at least non-white) people in the United States have changed. An abridged version can be read Thu.

In the second half of the 1800s, the most common term for referring to black people in the US was colored (colored). Colored it was generally accepted by both whites and blacks, as it was generic enough to also refer to children of mixed couples. However, according to some colored it was too general, as it could also refer to Asian people and all non-white people in general.

Thus, in the late 1800s and early 1900s the word began to impose itself in everyday use n ** ro, also supported by famous black personalities, such as the sociologist WEB Du Bois. The latter, in fact, believed n ** ro more versatile than colored and also much more semantically correct. However, around the same time there were blacks who believed n ** ro a term used by whites to make them feel inferior, as Roland A. Barton writes in a letter to Du Bois in 1928. Anyway, in the Thirties n ** ro became the most common and accepted term to refer to black people, also being used by most black-run organizations.

How Black e african-american supplanted n ** ro USA

However, in the XNUMXs, with the rise of the civil rights movements, even the word n ** ro it was questioned as it was perceived as being imposed by whites. Groups like the Black Panther instead proposed the word Black. Black it became a well known term also thanks to the essay Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (1966), by Stokely Carmichael, leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

In this time, Black it began to be used mostly by young black people and to be seen as a progressive term, opposite to n ** ro, felt as more conservative. However, there was no shortage of people (both white and black) who heard Black as more offensive than n ** ro. In the meantime, however, slogans such as black power, black is beautiful e black pride. Thus, by 1969 Black it was perceived as a more positive term and in the mid-XNUMXs it became the most used term to refer to black people. Subsequently, the urge emerged from the American black community to prefer yet another term, namely African American (african-american).

Currently, second different dictionaries, n ** ro it is perceived as an archaic and racist term even in the US, comparable to n * gger.

That said, one would think that Italian translators which, in the XNUMXs, introduced the use of saying black in place of n ** ro in Italy, probably they did not do it because they associated n ** ro a n * gger, but rather because they were aware of the cultural changes in the US and the new questionable value of the term n ** ro.

Stokely Carmichael / Kwame Ture, who proposed the use of black instead of n ** ro
Stokely Carmichael / Kwame Ture, who proposed the use of Black in place of n ** ro
Reclaiming offensive terms VS using offensive terms without having the right to

There are also those in Italy who claim to be able to use n ** ro towards their black friends, if they are not offended. It is therefore good to remember here that many words can undergo a re-semantization in restricted contexts, losing their negative charge. A similar phenomenon happened with words like queer, gay, fagot o n * gger/n * gga, for example.

However, there is a fundamental difference between these two examples. In fact, terms like fagot o n * gger they were redeemed by the same communities that were (and still are) insulted with these words. The fact that these communities appropriate them is a positive act, because they help disarm these words from their negative meaning and take them out of the hands of racists and homophobes. However, for this process to happen it must be the insulted communities that reclaim these terms.

The fact that white people use the term n ** ro to refer to black people, even if with non-racist intentions, is not the same thing. However, it is an imposed act and a strategy for self-absolving, giving oneself the right to speak n ** ro because he feels he is not a racist. However, in this way it is taking over a debate that is not about us white people. Indeed, the only people who can clear the term n ** ro are black people, for they are the ones who suffer the effects.

And no, the fact that a black "friend" of ours is not offended if we define him n ** ro it is not general customs clearance. It can indicate a personal linguistic pact between two people. Or it can also be caused by the desire of the black "friend" not to be heavy, too sensitive, too easily offended, "which ruins the atmosphere", as often happens to women who find themselves witnessing sexist jokes.

The words of a person directly interested in the topic

I close this part by quoting the words of manager of the Ludopub Victorian Monkey, a black queer man who saw his club suffer a racist and homophobic attack last year,:

From a person who less than a year ago found that epithet written [n ** ro ndR] on the shutter, I say it's right. The use of certain terms in a small circle or in a self-deprecating manner does not authorize their use in social networks. And also the "Never bad have always been black, it has nothing to do with the color of the skin", is an evident lack of historical notions. To all of you who "And vabbeh, what will ever be", you do not know what it is, what it was and what it will be. So please, when you expose your ideas do it from outside, thinking about what those inside live. And maybe, when your African friend laughs because you use that epithet, look into his eyes what awakens him. Which will never tell you anything but sandpaper on an open wound.

Why does Board & Dice no longer want to work with Tascini?

Because a company that wants to have the widest possible audience must take care to maintain a non-offensive communication. If an employee of that company has an offensive communication, it is the company that gets lost. If a random company, for example, hires a consultant who is unable to relate decently with part of the clientele, this company has the right to cut ties with that consultant.
Probably, therefore, Board & Dice no longer wants to collaborate with Tascini because his words are racist and because the word n ** ro it is offensive (and no, it is not new, it is not a knowledge known only to a few).

The Ludopub Victorian Monkey logo
The logo of the Ludopub Victorian Monkey

What can we do now?

Personally, I believe that one of the reasons why we tend to get upset and get so defensive when we are pointed out that our behavior is racist (or homophobic, or transphobic, for example) is that we are used to seeing racism as a binary switch. Click: you are Martin Luther King. Clack: you are Hitler. There is no middle ground, there is no gradualness.

The dangers of implicit racism and micro-aggression

This type of representation is also given to us a lot by the media and by the way in which they tend to represent the realities that are guilty of hate crimes. The racists are always exaggerated, they never stop at just words, but go directly to lynchings and unjust laws. In this way, the representation of the most common form of racism, namely the implied racism.
The implicit racism is not evident, it is not made up of sensational hate gestures, but it is made above all of micro-aggressions, which are often done in a manner unaware, or even with benevolent intentions.

Racist micro-aggressions are the paternalistic attitude with which we tell of Africa and the African peoples as an enormous amalgam of people all the same and all perennially very poor and reduced to hunger. But they are also attributing certain characteristics to a person based on the cultural stereotypes associated with his ethnicity (Asians are all good at math, blacks are aggressive). And squeezing her purse tighter when a black man walks past us. And the saying that "I can't be racist, I have so many black friends!". I will now stop here, but if you want to know more about micro-aggression I recommend the book Microaggressions in Everyday Life by Derald Wing Sue (2010).

How can we not have racist attitudes? Learning and listening

From these examples, however, it should be clear that racism is not a binary switch, but a big gray scale. Many racist actions require time, self-analysis and a willingness to listen to non-white people who point them out to us, in order to be noticed and then addressed. Since we live in a society with a never fully addressed colonial past and different political forces that leverage racism, we Italians also have a whole series of unconscious racist behaviors, of which we often do not even recognize the gravity. However, having racist behavior does not automatically make us Hitler, or monsters.

Having racist behaviors, even unconscious ones, makes us people who make mistakes. The only way not to be people who make mistakes (and therefore have racist behavior) is to recognize the mistake and learn not to make it again. The only way to recognize the mistake is to listen to those who point it out to us and thus make self-criticism.
It is absolutely useless, however, to hide behind the fact that “in Italy n ** ro has a different meaning and is not offensive”.

A collection of reactions from the Italian community of gdt to the Tascinigate, by Frignoni ENORMI in RPGs
A collection of reactions from the Italian gdt community to the Tascinigate, by HUGE frignoni in RPGs

Some concluding words on the reactions of the Italian community to the Tascinigate

Daniele Tascini suffered the consequences of having written racist words. This question doesn't go much deeper than that.

However, what particularly struck me and definitely bothered me was the reaction of a noisy part of the Italian board game community. A part of the community that used the Tascinigate as an excuse to throw up not only more racism, but above all to defend Tascini using a victimistic and benevolent rhetoric.
I don't even have to come and tell you about how much the politically correct, especially from people who apparently want to feel free to call people n ** ro how much they want. If Tascini's words are racist, the reaction of part of the gdt community makes the blood run cold.

Against politically correct and "feeling offended"

Regardless of the fact that someone may feel offended (and now it is worth a bit for everything, you can no longer do or say anything that someone boils down to you in some way) I regret the 80 / 90s where this sick respectability was not there no one cared NOTHING and I stress NOTHING. Those who "felt offended" shrugged or retorted in turn, and it all ended in a cloud of soap.

This comment reminds us that in the legendary eighties and nineties simply people who were offended did not have the means to argue and make themselves heard. It's not that fagot was less offensive forty years ago than today.

And for the record: Americans have fooled us for decades with pizza mafia and mandolin .. I doubt that anyone has ever really given a damn ..

Italians who lived in the US and were refused jobs, apartments or basic working rights would have something to say.

The bogey of the asterisk

OK THEN FROM TODAY ON THEN ENOUGH DECLINATIONS ONLY ASTERISKS FOR ALL WORDS THAT HAD A SEX OR I REPORT ALL BASTARDS

As many have done, use the card benaltrismo and moving on to a discussion of using the asterisk is a common technique.
The asterisk, in fact, would seem to be a very frightening theme and therefore it is perfect for unleashing the hysteria about the "linguistic dictatorship of the politically correct", which not only prevents the use of racist words such as n ** ro, but also to pay attention to non-binary people. Obviously, the use of the asterisk has nothing to do with the matter. But if you want to know more, we have written an article on the subject.

The meandering fear of being racist and not knowing it

But all that aside, what I read from the reactions to the Tascinigate is that part of the gdt community is afraid. He's afraid he is not progressive enough or into social issues enough not to make a mistake, especially when he sets foot in an international context. He is afraid to question himself and to discover that, although he considers himself anti-racist, he still has racist behaviors within himself. Except, generally, he doesn't have black people to deal with and therefore doesn't recognize his own toxic behaviors.
And now, when she has confronted black people and found herself guilty of racist behavior, she prefers to shut up rather than think about it and grow up.

Well, as we Atlantean Seekers have said several times about sexism, even the path to get rid of racism is, in fact, a percorso. It is not a switch that King has on one side and Hitler on the other. You don't suddenly become "non-racist". And we are not "non-racist". Because "non-racism" is not a state of affairs, but a way of behaving. For this reason, we must continue to act in a non-racist way. And to do this we must measure our words and reflect on our actions always. We need to learn to behave in a non-racist way.
And the best way to learn not to be racist is listen to the voices of non-white people.

Igiaba Scego is an Afro-descendant Italian writer who has written several useful books to better understand racism
Igiaba Scego is an Afro-descendant Italian writer who has written several useful books to better understand racism

Voices of black people to listen to to learn more about racism

To lend a hand to readers who want to know more about the topic of racism (in this case, racism towards black people), here is a list of articles, books, popularizers and journalists / and blacks / and that have helped me to better understand the issue of racism. If you have other names and other titles to propose, do not hesitate to write them in the comments!

YouTube channels
Information sites

Black Post,

Writers and journalists
Other books and articles
Associations