Divided On Italy, Racism And Cabaret

The Milanese walk, whether a cabaret performance for media attention or not, was necessary

In Milan, on March 2, people walked through Piazza Duomo to manifest their support against racism, discrimination and hate on a “People’s Day.”  The event was organized by People, a network that brings together the realities of civil society in the name of human rights. Many other organizations collaborated, such as Insieme Senza Muri (Together Without Walls), ActionAid, Anpi, i Sentinelli, and Amnesty International. The day received a wide media reaction with actors and political leaders attending the walk, but not everyone was happy.

Beppe Grillo, the leader of the Five Star Movement political party now leading the government in Italy, stated on his blog, in an article titled “Italy divided on nothing”, that anyone who has some sense would not see any racism, but rather an increasing social selfishness. “It seems that [Italy] does not want to confront with its own ‘real ghosts’.” He went on to say that he would have supported the walk if it was against selfishness, against the “me over you” ideology, or maybe a walk against our mafia. Grillo found that, instead, the walk ignored to support those thousands of poor people, and favored a rightist ideology, “a cabaret rather than a fight.” And so then, when it comes to racism, how is Italy handling it?

Is Italy fighting against racism on a real basis or is it all cabaret?

Only during the summer of 2018, thus within two months, 33 aggressions against blacks, romas, or foreigners were registered. A map shared by Mind Hacks last year, based on data collected by Harvard researchers of 288.076 white Europeans between 2002 and 2015, shows that Italy scored high (red) in the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a reaction-based psychological test to measure implicit racial bias. Czech Republic and other East European nations registered the highest peaks within Europe, although Italy scored highest among all Western European countries.

This shows IAT scores in Europe, with blue countries scoring low and red ones scoring higher. Source: Mind Hacks

Statistics within the EU

A brief three-page governmental report, compared to the extremely long ones handed in by the United Kingdom and France, indicates that, between September 2010 and December 2017, 2030 crimes resulting from a form of racism and discrimination were recorded in Italy. 764 of those 2030 are based on direct discrimination, 51 percent of which relating to race and, in the latter percentage, 60 in 100 were then filed as violation of the law. Another set of data provided by the government to the OSCE (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights), shows that hate crimes recorded by the police increased from 71 in 2012, to 803 in 2016. France seems to be scoring higher with 8700 recorded hate crimes. Nonetheless, the numbers are particularly different and are based on each country’s definition of hate crime.

In 2016, the Italian government put together the Jo Cox Commission against intolerance, xenophobia, racism and episodes of hate, producing a final report. This document highlighted some concerns: Italians know the least within the European Union when it comes to immigration — thinking that immigrants make up for a higher percentage of the population, while they only take up 8 percent. Moreover, 48 percent of the employers think that “Italians should come first”, 68,4 percent see roma people, who often are Italians for many generations, as foreigners and generally unwelcome as neighbours.

What we seem to be observing here, is a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding, a cultural aspect we migth say. This does not justify the hate crimes committed; in fact, those should be condemned, as the law does not protect you from lack of knowledge, for the very reason that one’s simple understanding of an issue does not make you right. Otherwise, we would all be right, and then nobody would be. Therefore, some cabaret is necessary.

We need to smash down a wall to open the discussion. The Milanese walk, whether a performance for media attention or for sharing a matter that affects us all, it does not matter: it is necessary, as it is an issue that needs to be discussed. One only has to look at the fact that I am here, and I am talking about it.