Mercoledì, 19 Settembre 2018

'Proud to be black' says Kyenge after slurs


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, May 3 - Italy's first black minister said
Friday she was proud to be black after several slurs against her
from a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League and
anonymous racists.
"I'm black and Italo-Congolese and I want to underline
that," Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge said at her first
press conference since being sworn in in Enrico Letta's
unprecedented right-left government last weekend.
"I'm not coloured, I'm black, and I say that with pride,"
said the 48-year-old doctor.
Kyenge said she felt "quite safeguarded" after the bigoted
attacks but would have liked to see a more public show of
support from officials and Italians at large.
"There has been (private) support from the premier and all
the members of the government. Public support should have come
out too, of course, but I feel quite safeguarded about the
solidarity regarding these attacks,"
In response, Letta and his deputy Angelino Alfano quickly
issued a statement lauding her 'proud to be black' remark and
stressing they were "also proud to have Italy's first black
minister in our new left-right government".
Centre-left Democratic Party deputy head Letta and
centre-right People of Freedom party secretary Alfano voiced
"full solidarity" with Kyenge over racist attacks she had
received since being sworn in last weekend.
Despite the displays of bigotry, Kyenge said in her
experience Italy is not a racist country.
But it lacks a "consciousness of others," she told
"Italy has a well-rooted culture of hospitality...but does
not see diversity as a resource," Kyenge said.
She added that she had "learned much" from the attacks on
In other topics relating to her coming job, Kyenge said
violence against women is not a problem exclusive to any one
race, color or nationality.
She said "violence against women does not effect only
Italians or immigrants. Violence has no color. What needs
changing is the culture of how women are treated".
An online petition was launched Thursday to oust Northern
League member Mario Borghezio from the European Parliament, or
at least sanction him, following racist comments he made about
Borghezio called Enrico Letta's new executive a "bonga
bonga government" and claimed Kyenge would seek to "impose her
tribal traditions from the Congo".
Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
has risen through the ranks of Letta's centre-left Democratic
Party (PD) since she came to Italy in 1983.
Another woman cabinet member, former Olympic kayak champion
and Sports Minister Josefa Idem, on Wednesday called for the
police to take action on several racist slurs against Kyenge
including Borghezio's and a slogan daubed on a Padua high
Kyenge graduated in medicine from Rome's Sacred Heart
Medical University, specialized in ophthalmology at the
University of Modena and now lives in the northern town of
Castelfranco dell'Emilia.
She was elected to the Modena city council in 2004 for
the Democratic Left (DS), the PD's predecessor, and later
became the provincial councillor for the International
Cooperation Forum for Immigration.
In 2010, Kyenge accepted the post as the national
spokesperson for the association Primo Marzo promoting immigrant
and human rights and has long worked with the national authority
responsible for drug regulation in Italy, AIFA, to promote
pharmaceutical regulation in the Republic of Congo.
She became the only black member of parliament for the PD
when elected last February.
Kyenge's appointment has been hailed as a breakthrough
across the political spectrum and greeted warmly by Italian
society and the sports world where black athletes have been
making an increasing mark.
Italy's national soccer team coach Cesare Prandelli
applauded Kyenge's appointment, saying that Letta's choice
represented "the future" of the country.
"In my opinion, this is an opportunity to understand a
different way of seeing things. It will help open minds and
encourage people to listen," Prandelli said.
Prandelli has been vocal in the fight against racism in
the world of soccer and has stepped up to defend players like
Italian-Ghanaian striker Mario Balotelli who has been subjected
to racist abuse on and off the field.
Kyenge, along with Moroccan-born PD MP Khalid Chaouki,
PD MP Roberto Speranza and ex-PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani, have
proposed a change to the country's current citizenship law which
dictates that only the children of Italian citizens can
automatically become citizens themselves, while those born on
Italian soil to non-Italian parents become eligible on their
18th birthday.
A famous example is Balotelli, one of Italy's biggest
soccer stars and a forward on the national team, who was born in
Italy to parents from Ghana.
"The appointment of Cecile Kyenge is a huge step forward
towards a more civil Italian society, more responsible and aware
of the need for better and definitive integration," Balotelli
said on Saturday after Kyenge's swearing-in.
The new law was part of Bersani's eight-point program
proposed as the basis for a PD-led government that he tried, but
failed, to form.
It calls for Italian citizenship to children born in Italy
of foreign parents.
Kyenge has been a victim of racist abuse by other Northern
League members who posted insults on Facebook and also in daily
life, including an incident when she was shooed out of a shop
being called 'blackie'.
"We must treasure the desire for new Italians and the
nomination of Kyenge is a concept that turns barriers into hope.
A community based on integration is built in the halls of
schools and universities," Premier Letta said at her

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