AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Sunday 15 September 2013
Last update 15 September 2013 4:15 am
CALI, Colombia: Italy’s first black minister defended her adopted homeland Friday, insisting it is not racist even though she endured a series of racially charged threats and taunts since assuming her post.
Speaking to a gathering in Colombia of leaders of African descent, Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge defended her Italian compatriots, saying the racial insults do not reflect an entire nation.
“Italy is not racist, it is not xenophobic,” said Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“There are episodes of racism, but this doesn’t allow you to label an entire country.”
Kyenge, the first person of African ancestry to serve in Italy’s
Cabinet, has been greeted in her official duties with strong anti-immigrant and even racist pushback, including epithets and slurs.
An eye doctor who is now an Italian citizen, she was likened to an orangutan by a senior party member of the far right Northern League and had bananas thrown at her at a recent political rally.
Far-right militants even hung nooses in a town where she was due to speak earlier this month.
The minister said that acts of racism directed at her and other immigrants stem from “a lack of memory” in young Italians, who have forgotten that Italy is a “nation of immigration and of emigration.”