This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Soccer as a Metaphor for Racism in Europe

My older son, John, is Professor of Organizational Behavior at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, and has been attentively following the European Soccer Championship. A couple of days ago, as the Germany-Italy game was about to start in Warsaw, he tweeted that "the teams walked out on the field carrying big flags saying 'Respect Diversity' (in English) and representatives from each team read a statement about why we should respect diversity." As I have noted here several times before, Europe has had an uncomfortable time integrating its increasingly large immigrant population and racism is a big issue in the region. Soccer games have, unfortunately, been scenes of racism and xenophobia and so it was encouraging to see this plea for restraint on the part of the players.


In case you missed the score, Italy beat favored Germany 2-0, and both goals for Italy were scored by Mario Balotelli. He sounds pretty Italian, right? The New York Times brings us the story:

Born in Palermo from Ghanaian parents but raised by an Italian family in Brescia who legally adopted him when he was 18, Balotelli has become an icon of a country still struggling with notions of citizenship and legal rights.
Even as fans and commentators have cited Balotelli as a symbol of Italy’s new multiethnic society, there are some Italians who still believe that nationality is a question of color.
 Yet while he was still playing in Italy, Mr. Balotelli, like other black athletes who play here, was subject to racist episodes. When newspapers reported that he had revealed in June after a visit to Auschwitz that one of his adoptive parents was of Jewish heritage, an Italian extreme right group posted unprintable slurs on its Web site.
“This past year there were 59 racial incidents during the Italian soccer championship, almost all of them linked to color,” said Mauro Valeri, a sociologist and expert in racism in sport. Fines of more than €400,000 were issued, he said. “Even though measures have been implemented to halt the violence, the fact racism persists should make you think.”
Equally telling of Italy’s unresolved issues with immigration has been the resistance among lawmakers to change citizenship legislation, which currently confers birthright citizenship to the children of Italian citizens and not to children born in Italy of foreign parents.

Since Europeans had historically seen much more emigration than immigration until just a few short decades ago, dealing with "strangers" in their midst has proven to be a very hard adjustment, but we can hope that soccer may move things forward. Italy plays Spain tomorrow in Kiev for the championship. Stay tuned--update: Spain won 4-0 and Balotelli thus did not score.

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