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Racism in Italy – Part 4 1/2 – Toni Iwobi

Before I post Part 5, I’d like to introduce you to a “controversial figure”.

His name is Toni Iwobi and he inspired me to write “Civil Duties” which I’ll submit in a few days.

Iwobi was born in Nigeria, one of 11 siblings. He went to study in the US where he graduated in Computer Science. In 1976, he moved to Italy, where he got an accounting degree and decided to stay.

Despite being highly qualified, his first jobs were modest: stableman, bricklayer, garbage collector, just to name a few. In 1980, he founded an IT company: it was a solo project until the early 2000s, when his business grew enough he could afford to hire personnel.

 

In 1993, he joined the League, a right-wing party. Back then, it was known as the Northern League. It was the only party that embraced federalism at the time.

He was elected to a municipal council in 2010 and was asked to lead the party’s immigration and safety department in 2014. (The party strongly opposes unrestrained immigration.)

In 2018, he was elected to the Senate, where he became the first Senator of color in Italian history.

 

Some say the League is a far-right party but I disagree because the Italian political arena has true fascist parties, although very small, that are way more extreme. However, some politicians are known for racist remarks and the leader Salvini doesn’t help by spreading propaganda.

Borghezio was condemned to pay a € 50k fine to the former Minister Kyenge (Democratic Party), due to slander with the aggravating circumstance of racism.

Calderoli, who said she (Kyenge) looked like an orangutan, was instead sentenced to 18 months in prison but I doubt he served any as a first-time offender.

Because of these individuals, Iwobi is often labeled as “traitor of the black people” and worse epithets such as the O word. It stands for Oreo, by the way. Yum!

 

Mario Balotelli, a soccer star who experienced racist abuse, criticized him by saying “Maybe I’m blind or maybe they haven’t told him that he’s black yet.”

Iwobi mockingly replied Balotelli should stick to what he’s great at, soccer, and avoid talking of politics. He must be annoyed by all those who ask him how it feels to be a person of color in that party. After all, the League is thought to be exploiting him to cleanse their reputation, and that’s what Balotelli probably meant by that. I agree it’s a gimmick but can’t really blame them. Iwobi says he doesn’t think of himself as black but as a global citizen, a human being with the right to think on his own, without being judged for having certain views and a certain skin color altogether.

Iwobi said he isn’t too concerned about the “Kyenge cases” because they were allegedly part of a political confrontation and should not be taken seriously. What did he mean?

I think he meant the racist remarks were not caused by innate racism but a consequence of arguments, opposed views and general disdain towards the Minister’s work.

I believe he’s right about the intentions but I disagree the matter is to be taken lightly because the intention doesn’t justify the action: those words were very offensive and unrespectful.

 

Many long-term immigrants are hostile towards this new immigration trend that’s out of control as it ruins their image. Same for the African-Italians who are targeted by the new wave of racism or confused with refugees or illegal immigrants. Some of these people support the right-wing, others support the left-wing, and I believe they should be allowed to support whatever pleases them, without further judgement, because calling them traitors would in fact be racist.

  • What’s your opinion about Toni Iwobi?

    • Positive
    • Negative
    • Neutral
  • Do you think the minorities that support right-wing parties are traitors of their people?

    • Yes
    • No
    • Sometimes

What do you think?

15 points
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Written by sabtraversa

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16 Comments

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  1. I always say that there are good and bad people in every race, color …. In our country, most people have comments that we do not know where they belong to. They move from party to party, change opinions, etc. How can such a man make honest decisions for other people.

    • That’s true, people often mind their own business and don’t care about the situation on a national, or even global, level. Politicians will aim for “the armchair” and voters will go for whoever promises immediate benefits, with no interest in improving the future, but just in getting a full belly in the present.
      It’s easier this way, especially when the majority of the population is old and poor, just attempting to survive and not willing to make any change.

  2. There are various reasons why he might join this party. When politicians here do a similar thing I have thought it was partly, or mostly, a “big fish in a small pond” thing. Easier to become known faster, a welcome anomaly for the party to cater to and support, … Here, I have not had much respect for people who do the same. I don’t know enough about him or the policies of the party to condemn him.
    Another thing about the “self made man” – he suffered discrimination and worked hard to overcome. Now he appears to lack empathy for others in a position that he experienced. It seems weird; but, maybe he knows they can survive as he did so he is less likely to express sympathy or acknowledge the need for help.
    It is also the case where I lived that long time immigrants were not so in favor of new immigration.

    • Great comment, thank you!
      He joined the party in 1993, I doubt he expected to “come in handy” 20 years later, it looks more like a coincidence. 😄
      I guess you’re right, his successful career made him stricter and more demanding. I don’t think he lacks empathy but has a different view about how to help, just like all mothers care about their children’s health whether they approve or reject vaccines. After all, many migrants become victims of exploitation, the so called “modern slavery”, and he wants to stop that by giving the chance to immigrants to live with dignity, but all he can do is to talk because he doesn’t have the power required to make a change.

        • Nope, I’ve never seen that video before.

          LOL Beppe Grillo and the “F off day”. 😂
          There are few people from the Lega I quite like, Salvini is not one of them, but sometimes I think he’s taken too seriously. Sure, he speaks in a way that increases hatred and prejudice, but most countries act way worse than how Italy does. It wouldn’t justify Italy in case it became stricter, but most of what I hear is hypocrisy and it’s not fun. 🙁 That “street cleaning” was about taking criminals from the streets and move them elsewhere (including illegal immigrants perhaps, who are criminals by law), and not by shooting them on sight or else.
          The Lega has some despicable people but it also comes with few who look and speak decently, and Salvini was the guy who asked them to join. I’m grateful and very frustrated at him at the same time. 😆

          Interesting how John Oliver had to do almost nothing because the Italian political arena is comedy by itself. 😅

          • Jon Oliver has had a field day with our “elections” here as you can well imagine. Anyone in the world can find solace in the reality that their country has no fiasco to compare with whatever those really are.
            Yes, the “F-day” is completely funny. … It is human nature perhaps; but, the first thing I learned in Italian (other than art and food) was that phrase. “Great, thanks for teaching what I cannot say politely. Now let me practice for you right now …”

  3. Racism is a mean thing , never to be taken lightly. In this global village every country has its people living in every part of the globe, we need to learn tolerance and acceptance before we become right wing or left wing or anything else.

        • I know the continent is quite homogeneous in terms of race, especially in the Far-East, I’ve heard about Japan many times, for example. It’s difficult to adapt to such a change when you’ve been accustomed to live with the “same-looking people” for ages. I don’t justify it but I understand.
          What country is that, by the way? Asia is pretty huge but I know very little.
          Africa also experiences racism, the most known case would be South Africa but, from tribal hostility to historical prejudice towards people of darker skin, the plague is spread all over that continent too.

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