Italy: Why Blacks Live in Fear

Published on 6th August 2019

I have a black skin and I’m Afraid

ITALY - Every morning I bring my 20-month-old daughter Sahel to buy bread and milk. She sits happily in the stroller and tries to fasten her seatbelt. Tsavo, his one-month-old brother, sleeps peacefully in his mother's arms. We all have Italian nationality although we are of African origins. A version of this country's "modern family". We lived the past year in Togo, West Africa. At the moment, though, we are spending the summer in Val Camonica.

A Bakery and a bar are just a few meters from the house. Due to the violent episodes of intolerance that recently took place in Foggia against people of our color, I realize, however, that I pay much more attention to approaching cars. Today I consider the possibility of being run over or hit with a stone thrown from a window. A fear as irrational as it is justified.

The image of Kemo Fatty's swollen and bleeding face is impressive. The young Gambian was attacked last July 23rd. A stone thrown from a racing car seriously injured his eye causing him to fall off his bicycle. That of Kemo, you could have known thanks to 'Avvenire', is the fourth episode (reported) in which nine Africans were attacked in the same way in the last month. I know the roads where these attacks take place.

In fact, in 2015 I realized for this newspaper a reportage on the foreign laborers of the so-called 'ghetto di Rignano', located in the countryside between San Severo and Rignano Garganico, 15 kilometers from Foggia. Taking advantage of my skin color, I stayed for two weeks in a slum frequented by thousands of Africans. One of the many realities that, instead of being resolved, is repeatedly exploited by politics.

The climate of intolerance fueled by this government has made me more paranoid. From the event of Macerata in February 2018, when Luca Traini shot at a group of innocent Africans, I walk in the streets looking often over my shoulders. Near where I live, in Florence, a depressed pensioner had in fact killed for no reason a Senegalese a month later, Idy Diene. Every week I read about Africans being insulted, assaulted or discriminated.

"I wanted to kill myself, but then I shot the first person I saw," assured the Florentine pensioner who killed Diene. "I shot but I wanted to hit a pigeon," a man from Vicenza said after wounding a worker from Cape Verde. "It was not a racist act, it was just something they did for fun," were the comments related to the Pistoia incident where a Gambian was shot by kids with a gun. Phrases like these are now repeated every time the aggressor is discovered.

Florence, Cassola, Vicofaro, Macerata, San Calogero, Naples, and many other Italian locations have filled the 'Belpaese' map with black dots, like the skin color of many victims, and red, like unnecessarily spilled blood. And when these and other acts are denounced by those who do not want to surrender in front of ignorance, even in this case there is a risk of being attacked.

For several years those who wanted to attack the 'foreigner', verbally or physically, hesitated for the social disapproval that this would provoke and for the fear of being punished. Now I have the impression that those who attack believe they have the consent of those who govern and the understanding of many.

In this 'new Italy' the unscrupulous politicians prosper. Their language in fact tends to exacerbate the lowest and most dangerous human instincts. The fear of the citizen becomes proportional to the electoral success obtainable.

I left Italy fifteen years ago to live and work as a journalist in Africa. But year after year, when I land on the Italian soil, a strange anguish grabs my heart. A feeling that intensified with the birth of Sahel and Tsavo. This is certainly not the Italy I learned to love and where I grew up. And, unfortunately today, it is not the country where I would like to see my children grow up.

By Matteo Fraschini Koffi

First published in AVVENIRE.

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