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Italy: Why do we tolerate this racist?

The vice president of the Italian Senate is “an unrepentant racist.”

Sarina BiraghiIl Tempo

The vice president of the Italian Senate is “an unrepentant racist,” said Sarina Biraghi. Roberto Calderoli was forced to apologize this week after he said Italy’s first black cabinet minister, Congolese-born Cécile Kyenge, looked like an orangutan. At first, he defended his remark, saying he didn’t mean to be insulting but was merely making an “aesthetic observation.” But soon his party, the anti-immigrant Northern League, became alarmed at the global headlines and pressured him to call Kyenge with an apology. This is hardly the first time Calderoli has exposed his racism and xenophobia. When protesting the planned construction of a mosque in the northern city of Lodi, he brought a live pig to defile the ground with its excrement in hopes that imams would reject the site. He explained Italy’s 2006 World Cup win over France as “a victory of Italian identity over a nation which sacrificed its identity by fielding blacks, Muslims, and communists,” and referred to immigrants as “a load of bingo bongo who have only just come down out of the trees.” Why do we tolerate this talk? If we as a nation are scandalized at racist chants in soccer stadiums, “how can we bear a political leader who calls a colleague an ape?”

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