Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter in Italy Too
Words by Kristal Trotter
Italy has its own names, but nobody will say them.
Image by Natasha Alexsandrov, Milan
In response to the police killing of unarmed African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests lead by the Black Lives Matter movement erupted in the streets to demand justice and new budgets for community based solutions, all through defunding the police. While police brutality is the immediate issue at hand in the United States, and community led public safety one of the proposed solutions, the push for conversations around systematic racism and the important role allies play to help dismantle it has been a game changer for the movement. Thanks to social media and the efficiency of sharing concise and informative content, the politicized statement around the importance and dignity of black life has now reached a worldwide audience that is now beginning to understand how insidious racism really is and how being a self-proclaimed “non racist” is not enough to help shift the status quo.
Just like many other countries, Italy has organized its own protests in solidarity with the unrest coming from the United States and the organizers used this moment as an opportunity to point out the hypocrisy of Italian society. Italians who continue to say that Italy is not racist, while partaking in lazy performative activism with quick Martin Luther King quotes on their timeline, show how much they notice the African American experience abroad and ignore the African and Afroitalian experience in Italy. It is worth noting that Italians confuse the Black experience with Black culture and think this anti-racism stance is just another trend that will fade once the next big thing comes around – hence why it is absolutely correct to state that there is a love for black culture, but not for black people. During these protests, the “I can’t breathe” chant changed into a different slogan, but the message remains the same.
Con un ginocchio sul collo o affogato in fondo al mare non riesco a respirare.
“With a knee on my neck or drowned at the bottom of the sea I can’t breath” is a reminder of how Italy struggles to accept black lives in its own country. Migrants who cross the sea looking for asylum are often turned away from Italian shores and many migrants die at sea in the indifference of Italian citizens. Anti-blackness is hidden behind immigration policies that make it harder for migrants to have rights and easier for them to get deported. Anti-blackness and anti-otherness shows in the unacceptable requirements to obtain Italian citizenship for children who were born and raised in Italy to foreign parents, but have to wait until they are 18 years of age to apply for it. Eligibility is still not guaranteed.
As we say the names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and, although not loud enough, the names of the victims who were part of the LGBTQ community like Tony McDade, Italy has its own names to say.
Mohamed Ben Ali, Assane Diallo, Sylvester Agyemang, Idy Diene and many more.
Protester in Piazza Politeama, Palermo
Image by Elide Lattuca