black women

Italian Senator Says Black Woman Looks like an Orangutan

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Cecile Kyenge

Even after the Trayvon Martin case, black people are also noticing that racism is a worldwide phenomenon, and that people of color are being stereotyped and mistreated around the globe.  This week, the Italian prime minister was apologizing for a senator who said that the first black government minister in Italy had “the features of an orangutan.”

Cécile Kyenge, is an eye surgeon who was born in the Congo but has citizenship in Italy.  She has been the target of numerous threats and slurs that have come as a result of her recent climb up the political ladder.   She was appointed the minister for integration by Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta.

Kyenge was hit with these ugly remarks by Roberto Calderoli, a former minister under Silvio Berlusconi and senate vice-president of the Northern League.  Calderoli said that Kyenge would be better off serving as a minister in the country of her birth.

“I love animals – bears and wolves, as is known – but when I see the pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of the features of an orangutan, even if I’m not saying she is one,” he said.

The Italian political establishment reacted in horror to the ugly words by the former minister.   Kyenge said that she would not call for Calderoli to resign, but similar to President Obama’s remarks about Trayvon Martin, she called for all politicians to “reflect on their use of communication.”

“I do not take Calderoli’s words as a personal insult but they sadden me because of the image they give of Italy,” she told the Ansa news agency.