Italian senator rapped for racist crack
ROME — Premier Enrico Letta has harshly criticized a top Italian senator who likened the country's first black cabinet minister to an orangutan, the latest episode of high-profile racial tension in a nation grappling with immigration.
In a statement on Sunday, Letta denounced Roberto Calderoli's words as “unacceptable” and “beyond every limit.”
Calderoli, the Senate's vice president and a leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, made denigrating remarks about Immigration Minister Cecile Kyenge while he was speaking at a party rally on Saturday in northern Italy, the populist movement's power base.
“When I see images of Kyenge I cannot help think, even if I don't say that she is one, of a resemblance to an orangutan,” Corriere della Sera newspaper quoted Calderoli as saying. Calderoli said he was making a joke and meant no offense to the minister.
Kyenge is a Congolese-born doctor who became Italy's first black minister when Letta's cabinet was sworn in in April. Reactions to her appointment have added to political tensions in Italy this summer, and Letta's coalition government, which faces economic and other pressures, is extremely fragile.
Calderoli told the rally that Kyenge has done well to become a minister, but “perhaps she should do it in her own country.” He further was quoted as saying she “makes so many clandestine migrants who come here dream” that they will find “America” in Italy.
The Northern League isn't in the government but has long been the closest political ally of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right party, which is Letta's main partner in the coalition government. Calderoli's remarks sparked calls for him to resign, including from one of Kyenge's fellow ministers, Gianpiero D'Alia.
D'Alia, a centrist who serves as Letta's public administration minister, told Sky TG24 that Calderoli's comments recalled the ‘‘language of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Kyenge said politicians should take the occasion to ‘‘reflect on what kind of debate they want ... about content or about insults.”
Last month, Kyenge, who has lived in Italy since 1983, received death threats before she visited the northern region that is Calderoli's party base. The xenophobic Northern League expelled a local politician after she suggested on Facebook that someone should rape Kyenge so she “can understand what victims of atrocious crimes feel.” The League's leaders blame immigrants for violent crime in Italy.
Northern League secretary Matteo Salvini said Calderoli ‘s orangutan remark was a ‘‘shocking wisecrack, an out-of-line” comment.
Kyenge has in the past said that such racism is really directed at all Italians, not just her.
Immigration is a relatively new phenomenon in Italy, where past centuries saw many Italians leave in search of work in North and South America and Australia.
Kyenge, interviewed by Sky, said Italy needs to develop a culture against racism.
She said racism “is about hate, the fear of what's different.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Iraq’s split into 3 states becomes a reality
- Syrian casualties surge amid rise in attacks by Islamic State
- Libya torn by worst fighting since 2011 revolution
- Pakistani mob attacks minority Muslims, suffocates 3 over Facebook rumor
- Israeli PM warns of ‘prolonged’ campaign in Gaza
- Obama, European leaders agree to new Russia sanctions
- Fighting in Ukraine prompts residents to flee
- Gaza sides agree to lull, but truce efforts stall
- South Africa Boy in hijacked …
- UN school in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed
- U.S. evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes