• Italy edition
 
Opinion
Stamping out racism in Italy
There have been a number of anti-racism protests in Italy. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Stamping out racism in Italy

Published: 17 Jul 2013 17:54 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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
Tens of thousands in Renzi Rome protest
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Photo: AFP

Tens of thousands in Renzi Rome protest

Tens of thousands of Italians took to the streets of Rome Saturday for a demo organised by Italy's largest trade union to protest Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's plans to overhaul the labour market. READ  

Italy backs Nazi victim claims against Germany
The liberation of Rome from Nazi occupation on June 4th 1944. Photo: HO/AFP

Italy backs Nazi victim claims against Germany

Italy's constitutional court has ruled that victims of Nazi-era war crimes can sue Germany in Italian courts, rejecting a UN ruling and provoking a strong reaction from Berlin on Friday. READ  

Italian town plans separate bus for Roma
The bus segregation plan was discussed at the town hall on Thursday. Photo: F Ceragioli/Wikimedia Commons

Italian town plans separate bus for Roma

A mayor in north-west Italy has backed a controversial plan to create a bus route only for Roma people, a move which has been likened to the segregation policies of Apartheid South Africa, Italian media reported on Friday. READ  

The Local List
Ten of the best students bars in Rome
Rome is a popular city for students. Student s in Rome photo: Shutterstock

Ten of the best students bars in Rome

Rome has a huge and varied number of drinking holes to cater to the constant influx of students to the city. The Local takes you on a crawl of ten of the best. READ  

Vatican probes Italy's 'playboy priests'
Bishop Mario Oliveri has been accused of turning a blind eye to the actions of priests under his direction. Photo: RiccardoP1983/Wikimedia Commons

Vatican probes Italy's 'playboy priests'

The Vatican has launched an investigation into a diocese in north-west Italy following a series of scandals by “playboy priests”, including one being convicted for sexual abuse and another posting naked photos of himself on Facebook. READ  

Italy hit with €340m EU bill as France cashes in
The revelation comes as Italy comes under fire for its 2015 budget. Money photo: Shutterstock

Italy hit with €340m EU bill as France cashes in

Italy will have to pay the EU an estimated €340 million on December 1st, according to a leaked document which shows France is due to receive a €1 billion rebate. READ  

VIDEO
French football fans cause mayhem in Milan
St Etienne fans burn flares at Milan's San Siro stadium. Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP

French football fans cause mayhem in Milan

Around 400 French football fans caused mayhem in Milan on Thursday evening, setting off firecrackers and damaging the city’s metro ahead of a Europa League tie between St Etienne and Inter Milan. READ  

Madonna in sisterhood pledge with singing nun
Madonna posted the above photo alongside her tweet in support of Sister Cristina's remake of Like a Virgin. Photo: Madonna Facebook page

Madonna in sisterhood pledge with singing nun

Pop star Madonna has pledged lifelong sisterhood with an Italian nun who released a remake of her provocative 1984 hit, Like A Virgin, earlier this week. READ  

Italy civil unions
Silvio Berlusconi backs gay union proposal
Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi has backed a proposal for a civil union law in Italy. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Silvio Berlusconi backs gay union proposal

Italy’s ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was once better known for his anti-gay gaffes, has backed a proposal for same-sex unions in Italy. READ  

Italy 2015 budget row
Renzi vows to publish cost of EU 'palaces'
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said "we're going to have some fun" publishing data "on everything that is spent by these palaces". Photo: Emanuel Dunand/AFP

Renzi vows to publish cost of EU 'palaces'

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Thursday announced his intention to make public the cost of the European institutions, as a row exploded over his country's budget plans. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
'Italy is the real sick man of Europe'
Society
Semi-clad tourists dance in priceless fountain
National
Singing nun picks Like a Virgin for debut album
National
Where's the best place to live in Italy?
National
Amorous Italian couple get stuck in frolic at sea
Culture
Test your Italian history with The Local's quiz
Travel
Top ten: Travel warnings for Italy
International
Revealed: The cost of home comforts in Italy
Health
Nurse 'killed 38 patients for being annoying'
Culture
Breaking Balsamic: See US writer's potent parody
Opinion
Is Italy a desirable place for foreigners to work?
Culture
Top ten: Things Italian mothers say
Society
Mayors vow to defy gay marriage registration ban
Travel
How well do you know Italy's geography?
National
Ten Italian 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
Italian student tipped to win British X-Factor
Business & Money
Italy ranked ninth most desirable place to work
Education
Why Milan uni's English switch opened minds
National
The small Sicilian town with nine centenarians
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
National
President's barber: €99k state snippers overpaid
National
Is Italy really a bad place to grow old?
Education
Pisa storms into global uni rankings
National
Unruly Italy is EU's most disobedient country
National
Italy among worst places in EU to grow old
Travel
Brit in bid to set Milan metro travel record
International
Marriage scam: 179 Italian couples claim to live in British mail box
Politics
Italy's state barbers' pay trimmed...to €99,000
Politics
eBay users snub Italy’s luxury official cars
National
Udder joy: Italian man is world's best cow-milker
Business & Money
Chinese fashion titans look to Italy for value
National
Clooney wedding 'good news for the Middle East'
National
QUIZ: Test your Italian language skills
Education
Italy top of the class for teaching English
National
Italians offered €30 a day to host a migrant
Tech
Azerbaijan beats Italy in internet stakes
Society
Marriage scrapped due to 'mummy's boy' husband
Politics
Italy separatists unfazed by Scotland's 'no'
Culture
Ten 'rude' Italian phrases you can get away with
Health
7,000 apply for two nursing jobs in Veneto
Education
Mother laments number of 'foreigners' at school
Health
One quarter of Italian teens has tried cannabis
Travel
American tourists caught with Pompeii relic
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

674
jobs available