Commentary: Racism Towards Italy's Black Lawmaker Should Inspire National Reflection

A declaration is all well and good, but only a hard look look at the history of race relations in Italy will yield long-term solutions to the ongoing racism thrown at Kyenge.

Posted: 09/27/2013 06:30 PM EDT

Since starting her position in April, Italy’s first Black lawmaker, Cecile Kyenge, has endured such an incessant stream of racism and bigotry that a meeting was held last week to put an end to discrimination across the bloc.

Representatives from 17 EU nations met to condemn the “unacceptable” treatment that Kyenge has faced, and ultimately signed the “Declaration of Rome,” a new pact announcing that lawmakers have a responsibility to combat racism.  

"What has happened to the Italian minister is unacceptable, but we're talking about a widespread phenomenon," said Joëlle Milquet, the deputy prime minister of Belgium, at a press conference.

"It was necessary to mobilize in order to affirm the value of diversity and integration."

Well aware that the declaration was in response to the insults and attacks hurled at her, Kyenge expressed gratitude for the “strong and important response.”

She also added that the declaration would remind Europe of its founding values.

For someone who has had bananas hurled at her, along with other deplorable monkey references, Kyenge maintains such a poised stature.

Her staunch support for her plan to help better integrate immigrants into Italy despite continuous harassment from an increasing number of colleagues is likely considered an admirable quality.

But her even-tempered responses might not be the best shovel with which to exhume Italy’s deep-rooted racism, evidently so embedded in the society that several of the country’s own elected representatives spew racist comments at a peer without shame or regret.  

Each politician’s remark seems to only embolden the next one like an awful snowball growing larger and more destructive with each turn. Shocking Facebook commments about Kyenge posted by an outraged Italian wine maker demonstrate the prevalence of this racism.

Perhaps what is needed is not a reminder of Europe’s founding values, but an honest discussion about the ugly history from which this widespread phenomenon has blossomed.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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 (Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)


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