On April 17th, Cecile Kyenge was named Italy’s first black government Minister. Kyenge is Italy’s new Minister for Integration. She was born in the Congo and moved to Rome in the 1980’s to study medicine. While working at a hospital in Modena, Kyenge met her Italian husband, who was a surgery patient in the hospital.
Kyenge was elected to Parliament in February. She is most recently noted for introducing a child citizenship law that would make immigrant kids born on Italian soil, citizens. Currently, the law states that children must have bloodlines of past Italian citizens in order to become citizens of Italy.
Kyenge hopes to change the immigration policies that effect a large population of the country. For every five children born in the country, one is born to a foreign parent. These generations of children have been forced into lower-paying jobs that were rejected by Italian citizens. Kyenge has her work cut out for her; growing racism in the streets and within the Italian parliament has fueled the argument.
Since her appointment, however, Kyenge has been subjected to racial slurs and outright defamation. Most recently, Roberto Calderoli, the vice president of Italy’s Senate, publicly called her an orangutan. Though he has issued a public apology, some are asking for Calderoli’s resignation. Throughout her campaign and since taking office, Kyenge has been called “Congolese monkey”, “Zulu” and “the black anti-Italian.” Mario Borghezio, a member of the European parliament with a history of violent physical and racist verbal attacks against others, attacked Kyenge for wanting to impose “tribal traditions” in Italy as member of a “bonga bonga” government.
As a result, some Parliament members like Borghezio have been expelled and asked to step down after taunting the African Minister.
Aside from the obvious discrimination, in 2002, the Italian government passed a law requiring all non-Italian residents to have their fingerprints recorded as part of the process for applying for residency.
The cabinet of the new Integration Minister has set their main priority as balancing the budget to fix the country’s damaged economy.