Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Italian racism – not just against Roma

After the worrying moves against Italy’s Roma population back in the summer, it seems that racial tensions are on the rise Italy-wide. After all, if the state’s going to sanction the persecution of one ethnic minority, why not start having a crack at the rest? In times of growing economic hardship (and it’s not like Italy’s economy’s been doing too well in the last few years anyway), finding scapegoats is always popular. And so:

In recent weeks, a Ghanaian man, Emmanuel Bonsu Foster, 22, was injured in Parma in a scuffle with the police; a Chinese man, Tong Hongsheng, 36, was beaten by a group of boys in a rough neighborhood in Rome; and a Somali woman, Amina Sheikh Said, 51, said she was strip-searched and interrogated for hours at Ciampino Airport in Rome. Last month, six African immigrants were gunned down in Castel Volturno, a stronghold of the Neapolitan Mafia…

Last week, Parliament debated whether Italy was facing what newspaper headlines referred to as a “racism emergency.”

Now that the governments of Europe seem to have decided to act in tandem to stem the credit crisis (joined around the world by countries from Japan to Brazil), the economic nationalism of the 1930s that did so much to exacerbate the Great Depression seems not even to be an option this time around. Could this in turn prevent a rise in the less savoury, more personal forms of localist resentment that caused so much trouble 70 years ago? Or is Italy, just as it became the first fascist country back in the 1920s, leading the way once again? If the current economic crisis doesn’t sort itself out soon, will such attacks against “foreigners” become more common throughout Europe? It’s not like there’s not already a sizable fear and resentment of foreigners knocking around…*

* See, for example, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights‘ Annual Report for 2007 (PDF), noting a general upward trend in racist attacks EU-wide. Some of this is certainly due to increased awareness and greater levels of reporting and recording over the last decade or so, but still.