Italy’s shame

Italy,Flavio Rizzo argues in the wake of the ugly racist attacks on its first black minister Cécile Kyenge,is a racist nation

Written by MEHRAJ D LONE | Published: July 30, 2013 5:46:56 am


Italy’s shame

Italy,Flavio Rizzo argues in the wake of the ugly racist attacks on its first black minister Cécile Kyenge,is a racist nation. But if the birthplace of the Renaissance is a racist nation,it begs asking: why? Rizzo believes it is because in Italy,indeed in all post-colonial countries,“the link between personal and cultural identity in these countries is never made. The other stays the other.” In Italy specifically,he argues,a large part of the population “systematically accept homophobia,racism,and womanising as part of a national weakness,a disease one cannot get rid of.” Is there a way out of this disgrace? “We can only hope that Italians will start to make their own Frantz Fanon scream,‘Oh my body,make of me always a man who questions’,” Rizzo says.


A sermon on race

ACROSS half a continent and an ocean from Italy,America too is seized with a debate on race relations following the killing of Trayvon Martin. And it is no less ugly either. “Many of George Zimmerman’s staunchest defenders found themselves seized by a sudden concern for African-American murder victims in Chicago,” writes Kelefa Sanneh. “Among the strangest reactions of all,though,was an essay called ‘Facing Facts about Race’ Victor Davis Hanson published on National Review Online. Hanson’s broader aim is to focus attention on what seems to him a startling fact: that ‘a small percentage of Americans are committing violent crimes at rates far exceeding their proportion of general population’.” Sanneh adds,“One hesitates to disagree,but research shows something different. Studies suggest that African-Americans are over-represented among both offenders and victims. It’s strange,then,to read Hanson writing as if the fear of violent crime was mainly a ‘white’ problem,about which African-Americans might be uninformed.”


A rogue superpower

Has America,that “beacon of freedom and liberty” gone rogue? To the extent that it is willing to go to any length to silence dissent? It certainly has,argues Tom Engelhardt. Just consider Barack Obama’s war on whistleblowers. His administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers—seven—than all previous governments combined. And the hounding of Edward Snowden has been front-paged across the world. But it isn’t just about Snowden. “In the Cold War years,if you opposed one of the two superpowers or its allies,the other was usually ready to open its arms to you. Today,if you are a ‘dissident’ and need asylum from the only superpower left,there’s essentially none to be had.” Engelhardt says. “If Snowden is proving one thing,it’s this: in 2013,Planet Earth isn’t big enough to protect the American version of ‘dissidents’. Instead,it looks ever more like a giant prison with a single implacable policeman,judge,jury,and jailer.”


Fearless Helen Thomas

IN times when an institution faces a credibility crisis,someone must stand up,speak out and hold out the hope if it is to be rescued. Helen Thomas,the veteran American journalist who died recently aged 92,did just that for journalism,every chance she got. “She talked about the lies that led us into the Iraq War and the pale,puny stuff that was being passed off for journalism nowadays,” Courtney E Martin,recalling Thomas speaking at the Omega Institute’s 2009 Women & Power Conference,says “We were speaking two different languages. Mine was hopeful,perhaps naive; I gave the audience anecdotes that I knew they would be comforted by. Hers was unapologetically blunt; she didn’t appear to care about comforting people.” Thomas stood out because she spoke truth to power at a time “when journalism looked less and less like the province of truth-tellers and more and more like the province of spin-doctors.”

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