Italy’s First Black Official Already Enduring Racial Slurs and Threats

Cécile Kyenge, 48, became Italy's first black official
Cécile Kyenge, 48, became Italy’s first black official in April 2013, as minister of integration in Prime Minister.

As you know, the United States is not the only nation that has problems with racial discord.  Some nations are really behind in the fight against racism and has yet to give any key roles in their government to someone of color.

But Italy thought they would step out there and make a change by electing Cécile Kyenge, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo that moved to Italy at 19, to minister of integration in Prime Minister making her the first black national official.  But after a couple months in office, she has already been on the receiving end of such pernicious threats as she should be raped…and that came from a city council member, according to The New York Times.

The councilor, Dolores Valandro, who is a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, was expelled from the party after her comment. She claimed that an African man raped a woman and that if Kyenge was raped by an immigrant she would change her views on how she views integration.

“It’s up to the institutions, to the population, to give a response to these attacks,” Ms. Kyenge said in a recent interview in her stately office in central Rome. “I don’t respond because the stimulus for discussion emerges from that. You see the best of Italy when there is a response in the public domain.”

In the U.S., we still struggle with immigration hot buttons over foreign parents giving birth to children in the U.S. that become automatic citizens, yet the parents can still be deported.  But in Italy, foreign parents that give birth to children in the country are not allotted automatic citizenship to their children and the children as well as the parents reside in the country under tenuous circumstances.

Right wing groups like the Northern League would lash out at Kyenge, who has long been an activist over the issue of immigration.  She has made a name for herself as she championed the rights for immigrants and then winning a seat in the lower house to become only the seventh legislator of non-European heritage. In April, she received her appointment as head of the Integration Ministry, which oversees immigration issues.

Italy, she said, is already a multicultural society, “a mix of many cultures and people from many different countries,” she said. “It’s time to reflect on citizenship, to bring forward the discussion because the country has changed, and my role is to speak about that.”

Read more here.

-J.C. Brooks.


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