Italy: A Multicultural Myth?


cecile-kyenge

Cécile Kyenge, born in the Congo in 1964, moved to Italy in 1983. As the Minister for Integration she is the first black member of the Italian cabinet. She believes in the right to Italian citizenship for anyone born on Italian soil, and the country seems to hate her for it.

She has been subjected to very brutal and very public racial attacks on several occasions. A fellow female politician was forced to resign her post in June after suggesting on Facebook that Kyenge “should be raped so she understands how victims of crimes committed by immigrants feel”. Recently she has been likened to a prostitute in reaction to her suggestion of a policy in which second homes could be rented out to homeless people. Cristiano Za Garibaldi, the deputy mayor of the town of Diano Marina in the northern region of Liguria implied on his public Facebook profile that Kyenge frequented a road in an area infamous for being used by prostitutes, many of whom are black.

In July, right-wing Northern League leader and Senator Roberto Calderoli compared Kyenge to an orang-utan and in the same month, whilst speaking at a political rally in Central Italy, a member of the public hurled bananas at her.

However, it could be suggested that Italy does not only take issue with Kyenge’s ideas, but also with the idea of immigration in itself. Shortly before the incident, members of the far-right Forza Nuova group left mannequins covered in fake blood near the rally site. “Immigration kills,” was written on leaflets accompanying the dummies – a slogan Forza Nuova has previously used when referring to murders committed by immigrants in Italy.

Is this a sign that Italy is struggling to deal with the social hurdles that arise from immigration and citizenship issues without creating a controversial and vicious environment? National identity has always been unchartered territory for this regionally-orientated country, after all Italy did not technically exist before 1860, when the peninsula became a unified country under one flag and crown. Dialects and traditions dictated the social norm for many. Communication was almost impossible and isolation was inevitable. It was the birth of modern technology that brought Italy out of the darkness, along with the standardisation of a national language, but regional identity still takes precedence, if only the dialects were mutually intelligible…

Italy barely knows its own self, and yet it snubs those who contribute to an increasingly multicultural society, regardless of their own background, and who desire to become part of it. I just don’t understand it. It’s almost as if an Italian passport is some kind of golden ticket into the Chocolate Factory. Careful now, Italia, let’s not go down that road again…

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