Paolo Naso: Accidental Racism

We publish here below, the speech that Paolo Naso gave on August 5, 2018 from Radio1 Rai for the column “Essere chiesa insieme” of the broadcast Culto Evangelico. Mr. Naso is the coordinator of the Mediterranean Hope – Programme for refugees and migrants by the FCEI.

Rome (NEV), August 5, 2018 – Unlike no other topic, immigration makes the front pages of newspapers and monopolizes the political debate. It has been that for a while, but news has recently recorded an escalation of violence and aggressiveness that can hardly fail to alarm.

On July 31, in Cala Genone, Nuoro, a group of people in a cafeteria refused to be served by Mamadou Yang, an 18-year-old waiter from Senegal and a rising star of the local soccer team. A stunt will be defined. On July 29, an egg was thrown in the face of Daisy Osaque, a black Italian girl who lives in Moncalieri, a leading athlete who now risks a forced stop although hopefully temporary.

On the same day, in Aprilia near Latina, a group of last-minute sentries killed Hady Zaitouni, a 43-year Moroccan with some minor criminal record, because they thought that he was about to carry out a theft. On 27 July, in Partinico, Sicily, Dieng Khalifa, a young asylum seeker from Senegal, who works as a waiter, was offended with racist insults – the usual “go home dirty nigger” – and then violently attacked by a group of Italian people.

In all cases, police quickly excluded the racist motivation. The vice-premier Matteo Salvini went further and said that racism is an invention of the left and that the real problem is the crimes committed by immigrants. The problem is very serious and deserves more detailed and careful considerations than some good-effect statements perfect for the evening news.

Racism is not only the Racial Laws experienced in Italy in 1938; nor the South African apartheid that imposing the separation between whites, blacks and mestizos until 1991 nor the racial segregation that in the United States forbade blacks from attending the same schools of with students.

Moreover, none of those measures was defined as racist and indeed, still in the 1960s many American citizens claimed the rationality and even the necessity of a system of segregation defined as “separation but in equality”. Racism is rarely acknowledged.

Even in today Italy, the risk is that of interpretive minimalism, that means a widespread idea that we have been witnessing just boyish pranks resulting from the exasperation of innocent victims who have been overwhelmed by a massive migration flow. In short, a good-natured racism, accidental and therefore not worrisome. Just an institutional phone call to the victims and everything is all right.

On the contrary, the churches, the Catholic and the Protestants ones, express a deep concern. And we believe that the Catholic newspaper Avvenire did right writing “Vergogniamoci” (Shame on Us) in the headlines of July 31 issue. A responsible political establishment does not wait for someone to burn a synagogue to launch the alarm against anti-Semitism, but takes immediate action when a loud slogan against Jews is heard in the stadiums. In the same way, the political establishment should take action when a Roma or a black person is attacked.

But we do not pretend from the political establishment a more virtuous attitude than ours one since Martin Luther King – killed in a racial motivated attack – was right when he said that he was not frightened by “the violence of the bad but the indifference of the good”.