Wed, Aug 28, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Italian politician compares black minister to prostitute

TENSIONS:As Italy experiences large-scale immigration for the first time, cases of benevolence toward migrants have been offset by repeated incidences of racial abuse

The Guardian, LONDON

An Italian politician has likened the country’s first black minister, Cecile Kyenge, to a prostitute in the latest in a barrage of racist insults that has shed light on resistance in Italy to racial integration.

Cristiano Za Garibaldi, the right-wing deputy mayor of Diano Marina in Liguria, suggested on his Facebook page that Italian Minister for Integration Cecile Kyenge frequented an area used by prostitutes, many of them black.

He wrote that it was unlikely he would meet Kyenge because “I don’t hang out at night on the Rettilineo di Ceriale,” the name of the road in question.

Kyenge, 48, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and moved to Italy 30 years ago, has grown accustomed to the intolerance of right-wing Italian politicians, notably Roberto Calderoli, a former government minister with the Northern League party, who compared her to an orangutan last month.

Since being appointed in April, Kyenge has pushed for a law granting Italian citizenship to the children born in Italy to immigrants, and more recently suggested second homes in Italy could be rented out to the homeless.

That provoked Za Garibaldi’s comments, as well as an even stronger reaction from respected northern Italian winemaker Fulvio Bressan, who allegedly called Kyenge a “dirty black monkey” on his Facebook page last week, prompting a debate in the wine world about boycotting his wines.

As Italy experiences large-scale immigration for the first time in its history, there have been episodes of benevolence, such as the human chain formed in the sea by bathers in Sicily this month to help migrants land in rough water from their beached vessel. However, racist attitudes hold out on soccer terraces, particularly at SS Lazio in Rome, where one section of the stadium was closed at the weekend after racist chanting.

In May, Northern League member and Member of the European Parliament Mario Borghezio forecast Kyenge would force “tribal conditions” on Italy and create a “bongo bongo” government.

Africans had “not produced great genes,” he added.

In June a local councilor for the Northern League called for Kyenge to be raped, so she would understand the seriousness of the attempted rape of two women in Genoa by a Somali. Bananas were thrown at Kyenge during a public speech last month.

Za Garibaldi repented on Sunday, saying his comments were “in bad taste and offensive,” adding that he had made them because he was under stress from having to pay high taxes in Italy.

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