If only we could blame Berlusconi. In the most widely-reported incident of an Italian politician making racist remarks since Il Cavaliere called Obama “suntanned,” Roberto Calderoli, vice president of Italy’s Senate, likened Cécile Kyenge, the country’s first black cabinet minister, to an orangutan. As many newspapers have reported, it’s not the first time that a legislator from the Lega Nord has made such a remark. Anti-immigration politics constitute the core of his party’s ideology. Nevertheless, the story has gone viral, particularly in the foreign media, which has been quick to vilify Calderoli, and use his outburst as an opportunity to discuss Italy’s problems with racism.
Why now? It’d be all to easy too easy to chalk it up to Italy bashing, such as the kind associated with British tabloids, which tend to obsess over Italian misanthropy. Not that it is wholly irrational, particularly if you read Italian periodicals, and understand the limitation of national news media. This is different. The reasons have more to do with how Calderoli’s story coincides with the Robert Zimmerman verdict in the United States, as well as, more locally, the recent lifting of immunity of Marine Le Pen, in order to prosecute the National Front leader for making similarly disparaging remarks to those of Calderoli. Racism is at the top of news, everywhere.
If anyone is to blame, it’s Europe’s politicians, for choosing to scapegoat the most vulnerable persons under their care. While one might be prone to say it’s a sign of the times, that scapegoating would be less of an issue if the economic crisis wasn’t so severe, take special note of the persons under the microscope. They are professional politicians, with a racist lineage that far precedes the present crisis. Hence, today’s Italian translation. An anti-racist flyer, from Turin, it decries institutional discrimination against migrant workers, holding responsible a local CIE (Centers for Identification and Expulsion) official for the death of a Tunisian under his care.
CIE in Turin Salon
“Baldacci, do you remember Fatih? Red Cross murderers!”
This banner was hanged outside the villa of Antonio Baldacci, Turin CIE supervisor.
Fatih was a Tunisian immigrant without personal documents confined in Turin’s CIE.
On the night of 23rd of May 2008, he was feeling sick. His cellmates asked for help, in vain, all night long. The next morning, Fatih was dead.
No autopsy was conducted.
We don’t know what caused Faith’s death. But we (do) know that in a prison facility managed by the Red Cross, he got no assistance.
Two days later, the colonel and physician Baldacci declared “immigrants are always lying, they lie about everything.”
(These are) words that remind us about persecutors, everywhere.
On 2nd of June 2008, a group of anti-racists went to Baldacci’s house for a cacerolazo. Pots were banged in front of his house, flyers were handed out, banners were hanged.
It was the protest of people indignant over a senseless death.
Today, that protest is filed in the process against 67 anti-racists who have been fighting, and still are, against deportation, the enslavement of migrant labor, (and the) militarization of the streets.
In Turin CIE last week, police beat and gassed the immigrants in revolt after a failed escape attempt. Four were arrested. The following day, another section (of the internment facility) was set on fire.
In CIE struggles, escapes, people cutting themselves to avoid expulsion, are daily events, and daily is the resistance of those who believe that in the Italy of CIE, of deportations, of the dead in the sea, rebelling is a necessity that concerns everybody.
For this reason, we will not accept that the struggles of those years are confined to the court room: we will bring our reasons to the streets of this city, we will bring CIE (to) the salons of Turin.
Saturday 2nd of March
Demonstration through the city center
3pm in Piazza Castello
Anti-racists against repression
Do you remember Fatih?
Translated from the Italian by Giulia Pace. Introduction and photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.