Italian Senator Roberto Calderoli feels uncomfortable around immigrants and black people. So can you blame him for telling the country that Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, the country's first black cabinet minister, reminds him of an orangutan? It was just an innocent observation!
"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," Mr Calderoli said during a speech to a rally in Treviso on Saturday, according to the BBC.
He also said that Kyenge, an Italian citizen born in the Democratic Republic of Congo who has lived in Italy since 1983, should be a minister "in her own country."
Prime Minister Enrico Letta denounced the comments and offered "full solidarity and support to Cecile"; that's nice and all, but it sounds like she needs a little more than that. A local politician from the anti-immigration Northern League (Calderoli is also a member; surprise surprise) posted on Facebook that Kyenge should be raped so she "can understand what victims of atrocious crimes feel." Another Northern League member of the European Parliament said Kyenge would impose "tribal traditions" onto the country. Great team, guys! Both men were expelled, but the sentiment — and the disgusting hate speech — clearly lives on.
Initially, Calderoli said his comments were just part of a larger discussion about immigration — ah, yes, comparing black people to wild animals is a standard rhetorical tactic for politicians — but he eventually said he apologized. Will that be enough?
Image via AP.