An audience member in Rome put more racism on display as a reaction to a public appearance by Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s first Black minister. Kyenge was littered with bananas during a speaking engagement Friday (July 26).
Kyenge, 47, thought she was addressing a group of supporters about a new interrogation program when an unidentified person threw fruit at the stage, but never hit her. The move has become the latest in recurring instances of racial discrimination since she took office. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kyenge came to Italy for college as a teenager. In recent weeks, Italians opposed to a Black person holding government rank haven’t been shy about using racism as a form of expression.
NBC News reports:
Kyenge has faced almost daily racial slurs and threats since joining the government. Earlier this month a senator from the anti-immigration Northern League party likened her to an orangutan and only apologized after a storm of criticism.
Last month, a local Northern League councilor said Kyenge should be raped so she understands how victims of crimes committed by immigrants feel. The councilor has received a suspended jail sentence and a temporary ban from public office.
Shortly before Friday’s incident, members of the far-right Forza Nuova group left mannequins covered in fake blood near the site of the Democratic Party rally in protest against Kyenge’s proposal to make anyone born on Italian soil a citizen.
Official Dolores “Dolly” Valandro (mentioned above) resigned after posting on Facebook: “Why does no one rape her, so she can understand what the victims of atrocious crime feel?” The disrespectful comment came ahead of Italian Senate member Roberto Calderoli comparing her to a monkey. “I love animals—bears and wolves, as everyone knows—but when I see the pictures of Kyenge, I cannot [help] but think of, even if I’m not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan,” he reportedly said.
Kyenge has found backing among some of her colleagues, including Environment Minister Andrea Orlando who expressed the “utmost indignation” for what he named a “lowly act.”
Any other responses will be up to the people, according to Kyenge. “In the end it will be up to the public institutions to respond to these aggressions,” she told The Daily Beast. “The fact that there is a Ministry of Integration at all means there is impetus for change.”