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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Racism and Xenophobia in Italy

Italy's first ever black cabinet member is C├ęcile Kyenge, an immigrant from the Congo who earned her doctorate in opthalmology in Italy and married an Italian citizen. On the surface it would seem like her appointment to the cabinet would be a sign of racial tolerance in Italy. Apparently not. This week's Economist reports on the attacks that she has suffered, but it seems that the story is not one simply about race. The animosity is aimed at her priority as Minister of Integration:
to make citizenship dependent on birth, not blood ties to Italy. That would make it easier for the children of immigrants to acquire citizenship.
The Northern League opposition party is not happy about this and is attempting to block it.
The row has exposed the hollowness of the League’s claim that it is not xenophobic, only against illegal immigrants. It would be hard to find a shinier success story than Ms Kyenge’s. She entered Italy legally in 1983 to study medicine (though she lived illegally in the country for about a year after a university scholarship she had been led to expect failed to materialise). In 1994, she married an Italian engineer and became a citizen. 
The shameful treatment of the country’s first black minister, and the limited condemnation of it, not only hurts Italy’s image. It also jars with Italians’ widespread belief that they are free of racism. Using data from 2005-07, the World Values Survey found 11.1% of Italians saying they did not want neighbours of a different race, against 4.9% in Britain. Even among Spaniards, who have had a similar experience of rapid, recent and largely unauthorised immigration, the proportion was 6.9%. Ms Kyenge has a tough job ahead of her, in every sense.

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