Credit: Dave Allocca/ Startraks Photo: Snooki the Cheerleader

We wondered if Snooki was doomed when she became the victim of a “Gypsy curse” after an old woman yelled at her and spat at her feet as she hawked pizza on the streets of Florence for the Italian chapter of Jersey Shore. But an international human rights expert tells us that Snooki isn’t the one we should be worried about. In this Wetpaint exclusive, Livia Plaks, the President of Project on Ethnic Relations — which works to prevent inter-ethnic conflict in Central and Eastern Europe — explains why Snooki’s run-in may have come about, and why it’s not really funny after all.

Because the Roma is “a population that has been discriminated against and stereotyped,” Plaks explains, “they didn’t have much power and influence. One way to try to counter that has been to try and impress the non-Roma population with the kind of power that supposedly they do have. So the gypsy women have been trying over the years through palm reading or fortune-telling – and by cursing people.”

So is there any legitimacy to the curse? Not really. “Those curses affect only those who allow themselves to believe in the validity of them. You have to be inclined to believe in those kind of psychosomatic principles in order to believe in those curses. They really have no influence whatsoever. It’s a way to assert power from people who don’t have any.”

But Snooki and the woman who cursed her may have more in common than it appears. Plaks explains, “[The Roma] look different, they behave different. And usually societies do not like anybody who looks different and behaves differently.”

When Jersey Shore premiered, mainstream audiences rejected them for their Day-Glo tans and indecipherable slang — maybe if MTV was following the Roma around for a summer, there wouldn’t be so much prejudice!