Dennis Hopper on Sicilians
From the film True Romance; screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. Cliff (Dennis Hopper) is talking to Sicilian mobster Coccotti (Christopher Walken).
Oh, don't bother. I got one.
(he lights the cigarette)
So you're a Sicilian, huh?
You know I read a lot. Especially things that have to do with history. I find that shit fascinating. In fact, I don't know if you know this or not, Sicilians were spawned by niggers.
All the men stop what they were doing and look at Cliff, except for Tooth-pic Vic who doesn't speak English and so isn't insulted. Coccotti can't believe what he's hearing.
It's a fact. Sicilians have nigger blood pumpin' through their hearts. If you don't believe me, look it up. You see, hundreds and hundreds of years ago the Moors conquered Sicily. And Moors are niggers. Way back then, Sicilians were like the wops in northern Italy. Blond hair, blue eyes. But, once the Moors moved in there, they changed the whole country. They did so much fuckin' with the Sicilian women, they changed the blood-line for ever, from blond hair and blue eyes to black hair and dark skin. I find it absolutely amazing to think that to this day, hundreds of years later, Sicilians still carry that nigger gene. I'm just quotin' history. It's a fact. It's written. Your ancestors were niggers. Your great, great, great, great, great- grandmother was fucked by a nigger, and had a half-nigger kid. That is a fact. Now tell me, am I lyin'?
Of course, the history lesson delivered by Dennis Hopper is not 100% factual. But that in no way stops me from finding the scene amusing -- and it is even more amusing when people like RM are oversensitive to it.
Quentin Tarantino on his inspiration for the above scene:
I had heard that whole speech about the Sicilians a long time ago, from a black guy living in my house. One day I was talking with a friend who was Sicilian and I just started telling that speech. And I thought, “Wow, that is a great scene, I gotta remember that.”
If you've ever been tempted to accept as fact "history" you learn from movies, here is a good example of why that's a bad idea. Saracens no doubt left some genetic imprint on Sicily (though I can't quantify the extent to which they may have altered the racial character of the island). But:
(a) Contrary to the opinion of Tarantino's Afrocentric friend, the Saracens were not (predominantly) Negroid.
(b) It is unlikely that most Sicilians ever "were like the wops in northern Italy. Blond hair, blue eyes." Sicily had genetic ties to the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa long before Moors invaded.
The actual racial history of Sicily
Here, a scientist recounts the population history of Sicily and summarizes previous genetic research on Sicilians.
The making of the indigenous population of Sicily entered its final stages during the early centuries of the first millennium B.C. in the passage from prehistory to recorded history. The first of three waves of colonization to reach Sicily by sea, the Sicani, probably came from northern Africa by way of Spain and later settled the westernmost half of Sicily. In the eighth century B.C. a second mass migration led the Sicels or Siculi, an Indo-European population from the Italian peninsula, to occupy the eastern half of Sicily. The last population to colonize the extreme western area was the Elymians, coming from the Near East, most likely from Anatolia. The marked cultural differentiation that this type of colonization produced between eastern and western Sicily is known to us from archeological excavations and ancient historians, such as Thucydides, Herodotus, and Diodorus Siculus (La Rosa 1989; Moscati 1980, 1987, 1994; Pallottino 1981, 1984; Tusa 1994).
Since the end of the second millennium B.C., Carthaginian or Punic traders, descendants of the Phoenicians in the western Mediterranean, established trading posts along the Sicilian coast. After the Greek invasion during the mid eighth century B.C., they withdrew to the western half of Sicily. The Greeks then rapidly occupied the eastern coast, leaving only the mountainous center in the hands of the increasingly hellenized Siculi and Sicani. The eastwest cultural subdivision of Sicily gradually disappeared with the spread of Latin language and culture imposed by the Romans (third century B.C. to fifth century A.D.), then again under Byzantine (fifth through eighth centuries A.D.) and later under Arab rule (ninth through eleventh centuries). From the Middle Ages onward, Sicily was spared further mass migration to its shores. Whatever cultural subdivision had existed began to fade with time (Finley 1985; Moscati 1980, 1987, 1994; Pallottino 1981, 1984; Tusa 1994).
Once the waves of foreign invaders had ceased, local movements of individuals or small clusters began to characterize Sicily's history. Usually associated with marriage, this short-range migration causes gene flow between local populations. Genes circulated within the same or similar gene pools and consequently led to gradual genetic homogenization of geographically close local units and possible isolation between populations at larger distances. For a better understanding of the phenomena, researchers have sought to answer two questions: (1) Do cultural variability and genetic variability somehow correspond to one another; and (2) are there any traces of the ancient cultural dichotomy in the genetic structure of the present Sicilian population after so long a period of mainly short-distance movements?
For about two decades Cavalli-Sforza and others have related the patterns of some present genetic variations to the spread of ancient populations [summarized by Cavalli-Sforza et al. (1994)]. According to this relation, Piazza et al. (1988), using some classical genetic markers (HLA-A, HLA-B, ABO, Rh, MN, KEL, and HP), seemed to have data suggesting a genetic difference between eastern and western Sicily that could reflect the early pattern of colonization by the Greeks and the Phoenicians. Guglielmino et al. (1991) and Zei et al. (1993) used rare surnames in an effort to validate the hypothesis that the geography of human genes in Sicily maintains the memory of the genetic subdivision of the island following the ancient invasions.
An opposite result was reported by Rickards et al. (1992) and Walter et al. (1997) in their papers based on 10 erythrocyte polymorphisms and GM and KM allotypes. In their studies detailed analysis of the distribution of these markers in all nine Sicilian provinces highlighted a more complex pattern of genetic variability within the Sicilian population than a simple east-west differentiation. Clearly detected in the extant Sicilian gene pool was a clue for more recent gene flow of people from northern Africa and the Middle East superimposed on a predominantly Greek contribution.
[Rickards et al. Genetic history of the population of Sicily. Human Biology. August 1998 v70 n4 p699(16).]