Skip to main content

Seven facts about racism in Italy

Stories and News No. 1317

I would like to put some order on a topic that has always touched me personally, but which I still believe today is misunderstood as inescapable in a country like Italy and beyond.
I'm talking about racism.
I learned to know it literally firsthand since birth. It is enough to say that I was the only black student in the entire institute for my entire course of study almost including university.
I remember that day in high school when I heard one of my teachers saying that there were about 600 students in our institute.
Well, the first thing I thought was that he meant that the "whites" were 599...
This was usual in my neighborhood when I played on the street or the playing pitches. Or when I went to the beach, where things got complicated because I inevitably got darker.
I won't sit here and bore you with the exorbitant amount of episodes of intolerance and discrimination suffered. In part they have become nourishment for stories, novels or theatrical performances and I'm fine with that, because in my opinion writing or acting also serves this purpose, to transform suffering into something different, which perhaps manages to make people smile, think or just generate sharing.
All this, together with the time spent over the years researching and discussing the points of view and above all the experiences of others, is a fundamental premise for what I am about to say, with the hope that it will guarantee me even the slightest degree of authority.
First, racism is not much of what is usually pointed out or identified as such by most, which is often quantified only in a short-sighted and dangerous reduction of the real upstream problem. In other words, the issue is infinitely more complex than that.
Take as an emblematic example the umpteenth episode that went viral following a football match, that in Italy happens very often, with the player targeted by the fans, and the consequent condemnation by almost everyone, the sport and non-specialist press, and even important institutions. It's a scene we've already seen: the discussion lasts a few days, the various stars and co-stars of the show that has to go on in any case declare their solidarity with the victim of the insults, and let’s go with other commercials and T-shirts with the words "no racism" to reassure everyone. If then it is also possible to identify those responsible and ban them from the stadium, the goal is perfectly achieved: the bad guys have been punished and the good ones can go back to the game of life. Obviously, this fragile plaster lasts until the next interruption of the match by another player who can no longer accept the verbal aggression.
Hence, second: racism is not born in a football stadium, it comes from outside. Because the people who offend opposing players because of their skin color are the same  who go home after the game. They go to school or have a job, they have a family, friends, a daily life like all of us and next to us. We meet them on public transport, in the office, inside the traffic, as neighbors or in any other ways. Some may be part of our friends and we don't even know it. And the same is true, generalizing, for all those who distinguish themselves for similar behaviors in any other occasion than a football game, both in the real world and in the digital one, where we now live a second life.
Third, in Italy d racism has been taught to us for centuries since we were children and is now like a sort of congenital autoimmune disease. Without us realizing the fact,  it attacks the healthy part of our degree of humanity. No one should allow himself to feel excluded, because even myself, despite or perhaps especially after what has been said, does not feel like it.
Racism is part of all of us at this point in history.
Regardless of our will, it affects every single moment how we see, perceive and feel the world and the people around us.
To use another metaphor, it is like a system error that we ourselves have inserted into the programs that determine our coexistence. However, I prefer the innate epidemic, because it helps me to better convey the idea of the mistake we are making when we end up limiting our indignation only to the mere episode that attracts media attention, such as verbal assaults or even physical with a tragic outcome. I don't want to be misunderstood, these are serious episodes that shouldn't be tolerated and should be promptly stigmatized, but we must be clear that they are only the symptoms of the aforementioned disease. To use Covid as an example, it would be how to intervene only on fever or cold without worrying about the virus.
Consequently, fourth: the virus of racism is everywhere and must be attacked at its root. And the root is in our laws and institutions. In our history and in our culture. It's in the way we tell each other things about the world and in what we teach every day to the younger ones and not. It is the very scaffolding of our entire society, at every level, from the largest to the smallest, to be racist.
Fifth, there is no other way to recover from an illness than to admit that we are affected by it. Otherwise, there is no hope. Only in this way is it possible to recognize it for what it is and to discover where it lurks and more than ever at what point and moment it originated.
Sixth: for all the reasons set out up to now, we cannot in any way get out of it by saying "I'm not a racist", perhaps because we have never said the famous "word with the N", because we have many "black friends", because we mentions Martin Luther King, because we like the movies with Morgan Freeman or because we has Lukaku's poster in our room. The “non-racist” people are nothing more than an accomplice to the aforementioned epidemic.
Seventh and last: if you really want to change yourself and the world we live in for the better, the only way is to be anti-racist. This requires the foregoing and involves daily and concrete action in combating racism outside and inside yourself.
I'm sorry, but I don't think there are any alternatives.

Subscribe to Newsletter