The Atlantic

‘Wop’ Doesn’t Mean What Andrew Cuomo Thinks It Means

The New York governor recently repeated a common, but dubious, explanation for the epithet.
Source: Seth Wenig / AP

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently attracted criticism from immigration advocacy groups for describing himself as “undocumented” during a bill-signing ceremony in Albany. “You want to deport an undocumented person, start with me, because I’m an undocumented person,” he said.

What drew less attention was how he explained that provocative conclusion. “I came from poor Italian Americans who came here,” Cuomo said. “You know what they called Italian Americans back in the day? They called them ‘wops.’ You know what ‘wop’ stood for? ‘Without papers.’”

Cuomo’s attempt to express solidarity was a bit overheated, to say the least: He isn’t really undocumented, of course, and as the son of a former governor, he wasn’t exactly marginalized growing up. But his historical justification for slung at them, there is no evidence that the word originated as an acronym for “without papers.”

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
The Unraveling of Donald Trump
As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, some associates of the president predict that his already erratic behavior is going to get worse.
The Atlantic6 min read
Democrats Are Hypocrites for Condemning Trump Over Syria
Presidential hopefuls blasted Trump for abadoning the Kurds—but want the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan under similar conditions.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The Experts Strike Back
Donald Trump has spent his presidency belittling and attacking career foreign-policy professionals. Now that he’s asking for their loyalty, they don’t seem to feel any.