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Che vergogna, just an Italian shame?

Hama Tuma
By Hama Tuma

Hama Tuma is an Ethiopian writer,poet and journalst who has been for long active in the struggle for democracy and human rights in Africa. His collection of satirical articles have appeared in four volumes of African Absurdities (the latest one titled Why Don't they eat Coltan?).Some of his books of fiction and satire have been translated into French,Italian and Hebrew.

Posted on Monday, 20 May 2013 08:38

Kyenge is married to an Italian and has two Italian children, but that has not stopped racist insults being rained on her. She has been called a “Congolese monkey” among other epithets.

The insults and profoundly racist remarks have come from many quarters; some expected and others surprising.

Speaking on radio a couple of weeks ago, Italian politician Mario Borghezio from the Lega Nord [Northern League] party referred to the new government as a “bonga bonga government” insisting that Africans “had not produced great genes.” Another politician said “she [Kyenge] can only be a good housewife and not a minister”.

hordes will come to the shores of Europe in their thousands braving death

As was to be expected, Lega Nord party led by the wildly fascist, Bossi – an ally of Berlusconi – has heaped on more insults.

But their bigotry has not only been limited to Africans and women. Refusing to recognise the ability of a black man as the president of the United States, Berlusconi once insisted on calling Obama “tanned” and not black.

It is no secret that Italian fascism is synonymous with racism. Umberto Bossi, Gianfranco Fini, Silvio Berlusconi have an affinity to fascism indelibly tattooed in collective memory. In January 2010, the Vatican said racism in Italy was “a weeping sore that needs to be treated”.

Behind the demeaning racist rhetoric lies a fear to admit that Ethiopians had mercilessly beaten them [Italians] into submission at the Adwa war, and even during World War II.

Although Italians killed no less than a million Ethiopians, using the criminal mustard gas, they could neither defeat nor bring that African country to its knees for more than five years. The defeat at Adwa was a fascist albatross.

It is no secret that Mussolini’s fascism was mostly based on fetid racism towards blacks, gypsies (Roms) and Jews. In this respect, was it far-fetched when the fascist magazine of the time, La Difesa de la Razza, accused the French and British of miscegenation, interbreeding with blacks and being influenced by Jews?

The magazine then went further by calling on them to explain their alleged degeneration and even colonial savagery.

Today, the rhetoric has been replaced by a claim that the Italian race is “pure” and that a black person cannot be Italian; views that were dangerously fondled by Hitler to the dismay of mankind, finally leading to the downfall of his country and himself.

The “pure” race nonsense makes the inability of Mussolini’s fascist troops to steer clear of local Ethiopian women folk even more laughable. Italian soldiers and officers found comfort in the arms of Ethiopian women, they named madamismo (local concubines with no rights), at a time when the virulent Italian media was busily accusing other Europeans of inter-racial relationships.

Mussolini’s hordes killed as much as they interbred in Ethiopia.

British Marxist biologist, John Burdon Sanderson Haldane predicted that there would surely be interbreeding and African blood will flow in Italians, after Italy declared that a quarter of a million of Italians would settle in Ethiopia. Heldane was right. Despite their brief stint in Ethiopia, Italians fathered many Africans.

Berlusconi has himself been too close to North African girls for comfort, with his untamed bunga bunga parties.

In more recent times, the cultural pressure on Italians not to marry Africans and “tanned” foreigners has come to naught. As Italian racists try desperately to hold on to their historical folly, come ingenious black footballers, who – notwithstanding vile racist epithets – continue to excel, with famous footballer Mario Bartolleti leading the way in recent times.

But Italy is not the only culprit. France, accused by the Italian fascists of being lax and liberal, has yet to defeat the evil of racism. With its own Lega Nord, which goes by the name of National Front (Front National, FN), enjoying increasing support from the populace, one wonders whether racism and xenophobia have been uprooted from mindsets.

The campaign of fear by extreme right political parties have made France the most racist country in western Europe according to two Swedish researchers, Niclas Berggren and Therese Nilsson, in “Does Economic Freedom Foster Tolerance?”

Europe’s neo Nazi and racists groups are becoming legion in comparison to the past, as the status quo political parties covertly support them albeit the increasing number of victims racism is leaving in its wake.

Talks of immigration and the arrival of foreigners to Europe as being a cancer has been argued by a great many and political parties are now moving in tandem with that rhetoric.

It was recently revealed on French television that France had made over €3bn ($3.9bn) from the business of immigration after subtracting expenditure from revenue, contrary to the FN’s insistence on only talking about the expenditure.

Britain, on the other hand, is trying to make its immigration laws tough and tight, says Prime Minister David Cameron.

Meanwhile, the present world, still characterised by Africa being plundered by Western and Asian giants, militates against the closed country dream. Africa, according to Oxfam, “captures only one per cent of world trade [and] risks even further losses, despite promises of a ‘development round’ of trade negotiations”.

In the words of the unlamented Muammar Gaddafi “hordes will come to the shores of Europe in their thousands braving death”, suggesting that no one can stop them.

How long will it take to understand that the masses robbed of their birthright eventually become a burden to the greedy? It is called survival. In karma, it is tit for tat. In economics, it is a foreseeable reality.

Recent economics have seen Africa open to another wave of racism from China.

The Chinese are obsessed with the white colour. A famous Chinese proverb says “one white covers up a 100 defects”.

But African students on educational scholarships in China have not succeeded in covering themselves in enough white, and blind racism continues to be their bane.

A relationship between a Chinese and an African are simply branded as an “obnoxious novelty”.

Lou Jing, a pop star of African American and Chinese descent, has endured so much rejection in Shanghai that she has not hidden her wish to leave China and continue her education outside Asia.

Besides China’s interest in Africa lies an irrevocable racism which was underscored by a Chinese official who, when questioned on why Chinese construction diggers have to be imported from China, said that Ghana does not have “such skilled workers”.

But the Chinese can’t do or say certain things without African allies. The regime in Addis Ababa, for instance, it seems, has given the Chinese the right to physically beat all “lazy Ethiopian workers”.

And so it has come to pass that the Chinese have left no stone unturned, exhibiting such crude and foul racism that conjures up memories of apartheid and colonialism.

Back to Italy. Asked about her views on racism in Italy, a Portuguese woman who once lived in the country had the following to say:

“I have been in many European countries but I never seen such a strong hate against blacks like the one I saw in Italy. I’m not talking about skinheads or nazi skins groups,
I’m talking about average Italian people.

“Italians are friendly with white immigrants from all over the world but they really hate black people…”

An exaggeration? Hardly.

Not only has Berlusconi defended Mussolini’s invasion of Libya and Ethiopia time and over again, Italy has also built a monument in honour of Rodolfo Graziani, the man who butchered thousands of Ethiopians and entertained the idea of cleansing Ethiopia of its own people.

Italian racism, to repeat the Vatican’s statement, is a “sore” that is not done justice with the recycled question: are all Italians racists?

As Cecile Kyenge said, all Italians are not racists. But how do we arrest racists and ignoramuses around the world from causing black people so much grief?

Although hurt, the good lady has held her head high and declared with dignity: “I am not coloured, I am proudly black, and Italian”. At the same time she has tried to make excuses for her “ignorant” Italian abusers. Kyenge is kind.

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