• Italy's news in English
 

Stamping out racism in Italy

Published: 17 Jul 2013 17:54 GMT+02:00

Racism still appears to be bubbling away in Italy but steps can be taken to stamp out the issue, experts say.

The latest attack by Northern League senator Roberto Calderoli on Kyenge, Italy's integration minister, is just one of many from those in power.

Kyenge has been the victim of several racist attacks, with the far-right Forza Nuova party unfurling a "Kyenge, Go Back to Congo" banner after she took office in April.

In June, Northern League MEP Mario Borghezio was expelled from a European Parliament group for racist comments about the minister. 

The perpetuation of racist views by those at the top is damaging progress towards Italy becoming less racist, says Ferruccio Pastore, director of the International and European Forum for Migration Research in Turin.

But he believes that change can happen.

"There is a process of maturation in Italy on this issue, which is being hampered by top-down racist speech. But I think it is always reversible, and the evolution towards a less racist society is possible," he told The Local.

The move by the European Parliament to oust Borghezio was a step in the right direction, adds Pastore: “The dismissal of the MEP set an important precedent; I don’t think there have been many other precedents against ‘hate speech’ set in the European Parliament with such strong consequences. This is reassuring.”

John Foot, a professor of modern Italian history at University College London, says that the fight against racism must come from the people, not the politicians.

“All progress comes from society below, nothing comes from above,” he says. “In everyday life, in the schools and on the streets, immigrants have been present for 20 years. That’s where change comes from.”

But racist attitudes have been deeply ingrained in Italian society. “We all grew up with jokes and cartoons that depicted Africa as a land of naked cannibals dancing around a boiling pot,” says Alessandro Portelli, a professor at LUISS University in Rome.

It is possible to move away from this warped perception of the 'other', but change must come from within the black community, adds Portelli.

“I don’t think much will be done until black Italians are organised as a political force, as happened in the US,” he adds. “I think the fact that Kyenge was appointed to the administration is a sign that there’s an awareness that we’ve become a multicultural nation."

This may become more likely with a change in the immigration law, according to Foot.

"Current immigration laws don't necessarily encourage racism but they prevent immigrants from having rights and expressing their opposition," he says.

If immigration reforms proposed by Kyenge are successful, Foot says "immigrants would become voters and be given a voice".

Italians are already going against the rhetoric of right-wing parties and standing up against racism, with protests taking place in Rome earlier this week.

Following Roberto Calderoni's 'orangutan' remark, journalist Daniele Passanante launched an online petition calling for the politician's resignation

More than 164,000 people have signed up. “The online petition can help, but the battle for integration is still long,” Passanante says.

The journalist says racist language continues to be used freely by politicians as they “always find a scapegoat”.

Calderoni has not yet resigned, although on Tuesday a lawyer filed a defamation complaint against the deputy speaker.

If convicted, he could face up to four-and-a-half years in prison for his 'orangutan' comment.

The Northern League party did not respond to e-mails or phone calls requesting comment.  

Rosie Scammell (rosie.scammell@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Italy to revisit anti-Isis plan amid growing fears
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the anti-Isis coalition would soon meet in Paris. Photo: John Thys/AFP

Italy to revisit anti-Isis plan amid growing fears

Italy is growing increasingly concerned about the threat of Isis as the militant group makes rapid advances in Syria and Iraq. READ  

Tunisia asks Italy to extradite Bardo suspect
Flowers and messages of condolences outside Tunisia's Bardo National Museum. Photo: Fethu Belaid/AFP

Tunisia asks Italy to extradite Bardo suspect

Tunisia has asked Italy to extradite a Moroccan suspected of involvement in the deadly attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis in March, the interior ministry said on Friday. READ  

'Grexit' poses medium-term risks to euro: Italy
Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan (R) and his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis speak at a meeting at the European Council, in Brussels. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

'Grexit' poses medium-term risks to euro: Italy

Greece crashing out of the euro, or 'Grexit', doesn't pose a short-term risk to the shared European currency but a medium-term one as it demonstrates that the union is not permanent, Italy's finance minister said on Friday. READ  

Italy’s ex-foreign minister wins cancer battle
Emma Bonino has overcome her battle against cancer. Photo: Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy’s ex-foreign minister wins cancer battle

Italy’s former foreign minister Emma Bonino has overcome her battle against lung cancer. READ  

Producer warns of global Prosecco shortage
Leading Prosecco producer Bisol has warned of a possible shortage of the tipple this summer. Photo: Dinner Series

Producer warns of global Prosecco shortage

Sales of Prosecco surged last year but lovers of the Italian bubbly might want to moderate their drinking amid fears of a global shortage. READ  

Italy moves to battle rampant corruption
The bill follows scandals surrounding Italy's public works, including the Mose flood barrier project in Venice (pictured). Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Italy moves to battle rampant corruption

Italy made progress towards tackling rampant corruption on Thursday after approving a bill that will see tougher action against those convicted of fraud. READ  

Italian football chief sacked for 'lesbian' slur
Italy's footballers celebrate after defeating Venezuela in their Fifa U-17 Women's World Cup Costa Rica 2014 third-place match. Photo: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP

Italian football chief sacked for 'lesbian' slur

The president of Italy's amateur footall federation, Felice Belloli, was sacked from his post on Thursday following reports he made homophobic comments against women footballers, according to reports. READ  

First civil unions celebrated in Rome
A total of 17 gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples on Thursday signed the first civil unions registered in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

First civil unions celebrated in Rome

A total of 17 gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples on Thursday signed the first civil unions registered in Rome and called on the government to legislate quickly to make them possible across Italy. READ  

For sale on Chinese site: Italian villa for $16.4m
The property was put up for auction on Thursday on Taobao, the flagship site of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Photo: aaron tam/AFP

For sale on Chinese site: Italian villa for $16.4m

UPDATED: For sale online to a wealthy Chinese buyer: historic Italian villa, starting price $16.4 million, possibility of permanent residency thrown in. READ  

Boat migrant jihadist threat 'overblown'
Right-wing parties say that Isis militants, believed to be pictured aboved, are taking advantage of Europe's migration crisis. Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP

Boat migrant jihadist threat 'overblown'

The arrest in Italy of a terror suspect posing as a boat migrant has fuelled nightmare scenarios of jihadist infiltration of Europe, but experts say the threat is overblown and attacks by homegrown extremists are more likely. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
Student life in Rome
National
Italy starts to show the strains of migrant influx
Migrant gets permit for saving drowning woman
Features
Rude Italian terms that just don’t translate
National
Amazing Italian homes for less than €100,000
Politics
'UK exit from the EU would be a disaster'
Features
Forgotten resistance: Italian freedom fighters
National
5 reasons why Italy is on the up
VIDEO: How to stay clean while floating in space
National
Italians welcome 'royal baby' born on boat
National
Life's better in Italy, say expat mums
National
Are Italians becoming boozier than the Brits?
Travel
Ten must-see places within reach of Rome
National
Italian astronaut has first espresso in space
Politics
Italy approves radical new electoral law
International
Brits in Italy could face health 'black hole'
National
Top ten problems of growing up multilingual
National
How to live in Italy without speaking Italian
Politics
Revealed: the Italians who worship Mussolini
National
My Italian habits that foreigners just don’t get
Culture
Illnesses that only seem to strike Italians
Ferrara lawyers want crucifixes back in court
National
'Italy’s probably the worst place for business'
Ten ways Italians celebrate Easter
National
'I don’t see signs of a turn in the economy'
Business & Money
Ten 'Italian' firms that aren't actually Italian
Opinion
Why are Italians such crazy drivers?
Culture
Pompeii Villa boosts Italy heritage hopes
National
'I want Knox extradited if verdict upheld': lawyer
Culture
Seven ways to get tongue-tied in Italian
Technology
Scientists reconstruct DNA from fascist sperm
National
Italian police: 'Isis flag' was jacket in tree
National
Furore over Naples nude nun billboard
Politics
Berlusconi: Two decades of courtroom saga
Health
Italy's C-section rate among Europe's highest
National
Rome bans Ben Hur filming at ancient site
International
Why Libya is ringing alarm bells in Italy
National
How Islamic college plan has split Italian town
National
James Bond's best Italian moments
Sport
Purrfect catch: Italian twins land giant catfish
National
VIDEO: Massive sinkhole opens up in Naples
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,645
jobs available