afro-italians are fed up: ordinary & institutional racism in the days of samuel l. jackson & magic johnson
August 25, 2017
By Johanne Affricot, Celine Angbeletchy and Gaylor Mangumbu / Griot Mag*, AFROPUNK Contributors
If one wants to continue our race in Italy, if we want to call it so, it is clear that we need to seriously start supporting Italian mothers,” said Prestipino, from PD (Democratic Party).
Speaking of a possible extinct Italian race reminds us of the aryan race, of course. The same one that Charlottesville’s Ku Klux Klan style white supremacists were trying to “protect” a few days ago, running over and killing an antifa demonstrator and beating up a young African American man.
“We do not have the moral duty to welcome them in our country, let’s repeat it. But we have the moral duty to help them, really help them, in their countries” was former Prime Minister (from the Democratic Party) Matteo Renzi’s slogan last month.
But where is their home? Being left in the middle of the sea with little chance of being saved by NGO ships, since the government wrote a code of conduct on charities rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean Sea? Their home today is “really” being sent to hell, from Italy to Libya, a lawless territory still at war, where it does not matter if the black and migrant body of a man, an elder, a woman or a child is tortured, enslaved, raped or killed.
“The Ius Soli [temperate] is a citizenship reform, a norm of civilization that has nothing to do with personal security. However, there must be a closed number of arrivals: we cannot blame ourselves for not accommodating everybody,” Renzi wrote.
Sure, what a fantastic idea to create confusion by bringing unrelated topics to the table and associating a Citizenship Reform for people who were born and/or raised in Italy, Italians Without Citizenship (of which 815,000 underage), with human beings who arrive with boats.
Bewilderment, anger, disappointment for a political party that, you understand, is playing with your skin, your black and Italian skin, your black and African skin. A policy that should be on your side but only aims at a handful of potential votes instead. Whose votes then? And in the midst of the summer holidays and our sleep, these thoughts inevitably add up to the stories of ordinary racist madness that filled and colored this Italian summer.
Cervia, 18 June
“I’m sorry, Paolo, but I can’t have any black guys here in [Emilia] Romagna because people are narrow-minded, I’m sorry but I can’t hire you,” writes a restaurateur to Paolo, a guy from Milan of Brazilian origin, after receiving his ID to finalize the seasonal employment contract as a waiter.
Lodi, 19 July
Davide Feltri, a railway controller, claims he’s been stabbed (the knife crossed his palm side to side) by an African with braids. It turns out he made the story up.
Macerata, 21 July
“Africa, go back home! African, you can’t stay here! You nigger never have the ticket, go back home,” shouts an employee of Contram (a transport company) at Martin Nacisse Lekenmo, a Cameroonian Pharmacy student in Camerino. He rips his ticket up, he licks one half and – cherry on the cake – pretends to hand the ticket over before headbutting the student who suffered a concussion and an injury to the nasal pyramid.
Udine, 4/7 August
“A black does not represent ‘Italian beauty’ and therefore cannot participate in a Miss or Mister Italy beauty contest.” And again, “A black does not represent me. We can’t have a black Miss Italy.”
Annamaria and Olivier, two Italian brothers from Haiti who were adopted thirteen years ago by an Italian family, won the selections for Miss and Mr Italia. A few days later a series of racist and xenophobic Ku Klux Klan style comments appeared from white supremacists and ignorant people complaining about the jewish-masonic plot that wants to increase the black presence in Europe with the aim of defeating the pure “aryan” race in all its forms, starting with the Italian one.
Torino, 9 August
“As far as I’m concerned you could hang out with the Monster of Florence [an italian serial killer], but I won’t allow someone who shares their life with an African to come near my store’s counter,” writes a shopkeeper in a message to Chiara, an eighteen-year-old white girl from Vercelli who applied for a job, when he finds out from her Facebook pictures that she’s dating a guy of Nigerian origins.
Margherita di Savoia, 13 August
“I do not want people of color in my house.” Two Italians of Cuban origin had already paid an advance for a seaside home in Puglia, but when the owner saw them, he did not refrain from expressing his disapproval for the dark color of their skin.
Pietraroja, 15 August
“I didn’t get a job as a waitress because I’m black,” says Pasqualina De Simone [Lina Simons on Facebook] in a video message denouncing the discrimination she and her 16-year-old sister had been subjected to before starting working in a restaurant. “The owner’s wife did not want me to work for them because I’m black. She told us horrible things.”
Verona, 16 August
“I have the Italian citizenship, can I enter the contest?” asks Dora B., a fifteen-year-old Italian girl of Ghanaian origins. “No!!! Only Italians born here from [real] Italian parents can participate, you do not become one… This is what I think and the contest is for Italians only,” responds the organizer of the Canta Verona Music Festival. Then he defended himself saying: “I’m not racist, my girlfriend is foreign and I have friends of all nationalities.”
Rimini, 17 agosto
“Fucking niggers, go home”, “I’ll make you have an abortion fucking nigger.” These are the insults and threats of a white Italian couple against a 6 months pregnant African woman (who they tried to rob,) while hitting her bump with kicks and punches.
Pistoia, 17 August
“Swimming pool today”, writes a priest from Pistoia on a facebook post showing a group of African refugees from Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal. It was an award for their work as chefs and waiters for a small NGO. And he adds to the caption, “They are my nation, racists and fascists my enemies.”
Shortly afterwards, far-right leader of Lega Nord Salvini throws his racist shit by twitting, “Massimo Biancalani is an anti-Lega and anti-Italian priest in Pistoia, and this picture is not a fake.”
Unspeakable racial slurs are written below Salvini’s and the priest’s posts, so many that Facebook decides to delete the post. And during the night, some people slashed the tyres of the refugees bikes.
Are you shocked? If all these examples weren’t enough to disturb any real responsible citizen (one day they might be the ones under attack for an idea, a disability or whatever), be prepared because this year we really did our best to impress the world.
Forte dei Marmi, 19 Agosto 2017
Samuel L. Jackson, from Pulp Fiction and a thousand other films, and the famous basketball player Earvin Magic Johnson are on holiday in Forte dei marmi, Versilia, they just finished shopping and now sit on a bench beside their shopping bags. They decide to share picture with the caption: “Sam[uel L. Jackson] and I in Forte dei Marmi, Italy, while relaxing on a bench. Fans have started cueing up to take pictures with us.”
In the mood for a social-psychology experiment, the author and TV comedian Bottura, took the picture and reposted it writing on it: “Boldrini’s Resources in Forte dei Marmi, they shop with our 35 euros.” Obviously, thousands of gullible racist haters who feed on ignorance – we’re aware of that, right? – fell for the meme.
Mayhem and tons of racism followed. What was supposed to be a provocative joke (unnecessary and in a very poor taste), confirms the rampant racism against blacks and the widespread anti-migrants feeling in the Bel Paese. If Bottura and other celebrities like Nina Moric thought of Italy as a country of such wide views, they were certainly wrong. The thing could not go unnoticed and international media agencies like The Independent, Afropunk and others reported this serious episode with astonishment. But if many are still laughing, we’re filled with revulsion.
It is impossible not to wonder how can two world famous celebrities (with the attitude of who doesn’t care about a thing) be associated with migrants just because of the colour of their skin.
Ruud Gullit, former Milan Dutch striker, once said: “If you are a millionaire and you play in Milan, you are a little less nigger,” an annoying but effective way to uncover the hypocrisy often hiding behind the courtesy smiles of certain environments.
It was a real “header” both to emphasise how racism can nudge in unsuspectable subjects and emerge when you leave certain comfort zones and to show that it is a disease that many suffer without being aware of.
So why does migrating and/or being a migrant hold such a negative stigma? Why don’t reiterate that these people who are fleeing or looking for better opportunities can’t get flights because their passports are banned [here you can find the Global Passport Power Rank] in most European countries? Why have 800 Eritrean, Ethiopians and Somali, mostly refugees and asylum-seekers, including women and children, been forcely vacated from an occupied building in Rome on Thursday morning 24 August by the police, using water cannons and batons as if they were murderers and terrorists and failing to find an alternative solution for them? [watch the videos.] And why do we associate Black Italians, people born and/or raised in Italy, with migrants and refugees? How does this cognitive association develop?
Actors, NBA players, migrants, still niggers Jay-Z would say (watch The Story of OJ.)
Nowadays in Italy the trend seems to be going against blacks, as if raising your voice or treating someone badly could reduce the dissatisfaction in the life of the attacker. Because this is partly what we’re talking about, the Italian inability to demand effective and modern solutions from the institutions, which is transformed into racism through continuous regurgitation of people’s life frustration.
Let’s call it ignorance or maybe a trend, given how many fall for fake news instead of fact checking. The logic is: “I follow the trend, I neither use my brain nor my conscience, and then I get away with it saying ‘I’m not racist, but…”
No matter all these perfect examples of “Planet of the Apes” (the real one) behaviour, there are obviously people who decide to act against this trend – and we’re not talking about the ones who see but don’t say anything.
Lucca, 3 July
The actress Lucy Lawless, known for the famous TV series Xena The Warrior Princess, told her fans in a facebook post about the sad episode she experienced during her holiday in Lucca, Tuscany. She was walking around the city when some well-dressed boys started to make monkey noises and shouted “Gaboon” at a black guy riding his bike. According to the actress, she didn’t refrain from pointing out to the group who the real monkeys were.
Cagliari, 1 August
A Pakistani boy jumps on a bus and before he’s able to validate his ticket the inspector starts harassing him and invites him to get off. Dozens of passengers, in face of the unfair treatment, take the boy’s defenses and start insulting the inspector accusing him of racial discrimination [watch the video.]
Cagliari, 19 August
The bathers of a busy beach in Cagliari, Le Palmette, made a human shield to prevent an African peddler from being beaten with umbrella sticks, after some women in their fifties had tried to rob him. Even the lifeguard took the side of the seller and the group of aggressors disappeared before the police arrived.
So whose fault is it?
Is it Salvini’s, his buldozers’, the Lega Nord Party’s, Grillo and the Five Stars Movement’s, the Italian xenofobe far-right’s? It is.
Is it because of the Italian and European policies, which easily smear and devalue black migrant bodies, killing their humanity and preventing the possibility of developing empathy? Yes it is.
What about the Democratic Party, which doesn’t support inclusive policies such as the Citizenship Reform for people who are mentally, culturally and practically Italian? Undoubtedly, yes.
So when in the middle of the summer, when you just want to chill out and relax, just like Samuel L. Jackson and Magic Johnson, you realise that you’re surrounded by so much (Italian) ignorance and racial hate and you start thinking about the black colour of your skin differently, the nigger word as a label somebody glued on you.
Years ago, we thought those who said “I’m proud of being black, I’m proud of my color” were people unable to hide their weaknesses and insecurities. Today, walking with a black body on the street, in the world, is an act of politcal and social resistance in itself. They look at you, they scrutinize you, they eat you, they attack you, they fetish you with those gazes, those words, with no indiscretion and shame.
Being aware of the physical and mental strength you need to face these daily challenges and try to continue existing as if they were nothing, makes us feel that sense of pride in being BLACK. Black Italian. Black Africans.
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*This post is in partnership with Griot Mag
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