Condemn Italian Senator for Racist Remarks

Senator Roberto Calderoli

Target: Vice President of the Italian Senate, Roberto Calderoli

Goal: Apologize for comparing Italy’s first black minister to an orangutan, and resign as Vice President of Italy’s Senate

Vice President of the Italian Senate and senior parliamentarian in the Northern League party, Roberto Calderoli, recently spoke at a political rally in the town of Treviglio where he compared Italy’s new Minister of Integration, Cecile Kyenge, to an orangutan. In a statement to the crowd, Calderoli declared, “I love animals — bears and wolves, as everyone knows — but when I see the pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of, even if I’m not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan.” He went on to assert that Kyenge’s appointment to the position of Minister of Integration influenced “illegal immigrants” to want to move to the country, according to a report by the Huffington Post. He also stated that Kyenge should “be minister in her own country.”

These offensive remarks are not a first for Calderoli, who has been known to spark outrage for controversial and racist attitudes. He has repeatedly expressed his dislike for immigrants, as well as “Muslims and communists.” In 2006, after wearing an offensive, anti-Muslim t-shirt during a news broadcast, he was pressured to resign as reform minister. Since then, he has continued to use racist slurs and display overwhelmingly discriminatory attitudes towards whole groups of people.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Kyenge has faced criticism involving her race since she has earned her minister position. Her attempts to make immigration to Italy easier have been met with fierce opposition, and she has been accused of trying to institute “tribal traditions” and “bonga-bonga government.” In addition, her peers, most coming from the anti-immigration far-right, have referred to her as “Congolese monkey,” “Zulu,” and “the black anti-Italian,” according to the Huffington Post’s report.

Senator Calderoli’s remarks regarding Kyenge have been publicly decried, and Prime Minister Enrico Letta called the statement “unacceptable.” Since the occurrence, Calderoli has made an extremely insincere apology, attempting to justify his statement by claiming that the racist comment was acceptable because it was made during a political rally. According to Calderoli, he “did not mean to offend and if minister Kyenge was offended, [he] was sorry, but [the] comment was made within a much broader political speech that criticized the minister and her policies.”

Clearly, Senator Calderoli feels no remorse whatsoever for his extremely offensive and racist comments toward minister Kyenge. This reveals a disturbing attitude amongst Italy’s far-right groups of discrimination and intolerance. Demand that Calderoli apologize sincerely for his offensive comments and for perpetuating racism in Italian politics, and call for his resignation as Vice President of the Italian Senate.


Dear Senator Roberto Calderoli,

Your recent comments comparing Italy’s first black minister, Cecile Kyenge, to an orangutan reveal a deep-seeded racism and level of ignorance that is entirely unacceptable. Not only were your comments extremely offensive, but they also plainly show the shortcomings prevalent in Italian politics regarding immigration and racism.

Your official apology to Kyenge was anything but remorseful, and serves only to mock the idea that racism is wrong and has no place in politics or everyday life. This is not only disrespectful, but also an embarrassing reflection of character.

I demand that you offer a sincere apology to minister Kyenge and, furthermore, call for your resignation as Vice President of the Italian Senate.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: ZioDave via Flickr

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