It’s very shameful that Cecile Kyenge, the first black cabinet minister in Italy, is being subjected to ugly racist and sexist slurs. Kyenge, an eye doctor and Italian citizen originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was recently named integration minister by Prime Minister Enrico Letta. She is one of seven women in the new government.
Cecile Kyenge has been called a “Congolese monkey,” “Zulu,” and the “first black anti-Italian,” Reuters reports.
She also faced race-tinged insults from Mario Borghezio, a European parliament member of the pro-devolution Northern League, which has been allied in the past with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In reference to Kyenge, Borghezio called Letta’s coalition a “bonga bonga government” – a play on the “bunga, bunga” antics under Berlusconi – and said she herself appeared to be “a good housewife but not a minister”.
Kyenge dismissed the comments, which the speaker of the lower house Laura Boldrini labelled “racist vulgarities”. Kyenge plans to push for legislation, opposed by the League, that would allow children born in Italy to immigrant parents to get automatic citizenship instead of waiting until 18 to apply.
“I arrived in Italy alone at 18 years old, and I don’t believe in giving up in front of obstacles,” Kyenge, who left DRC so she could pursue her studies in medicine, said.
She also rejected the term “coloured” used to describe her in many Italian press reports, saying: “I am not coloured, I am black and I say it with pride”.
Hats off to Cecile Kyenge for staying strong and defiant in the face of ignorance.