Cecile Kyenge: Italy’s first-ever black minister

by , under Enrique

The appointment of Italy’s first black cabinet minister, Cecile Kyenge, 48, is a good example that we can pull together on a difficult issue like race for too many European countries. Kyenge’s appointment has ushered in a new era in Italy politics. Even so, her appointment has exposed in the raw the nation’s ugly race problem. 

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Read full story here.

Writes the Hufington Post, quoting AP, about Kyenge’s appointment: “One politician from a party that not long ago ruled in a coalition derided what he called Italy’s new ‘bonga bonga government.’ On Wednesday, amid increasing revulsion over the reaction, the government authorized an investigation into neo-fascist websites whose members called Kyenge ‘Congolese monkey’ and other epithets.”

A mother of two who lived in Modena with her Italian husband, Kyenge moved to Italy from her native Congo thirty years ago to study medicine. She is an eye surgeon.

Premier Enrico Letta said in his first speech to parliament that Kygenge’s appointment as minister for integration was a “new concept about the confines of barriers giving way to hope, of unsurpassable limits giving way to a bridge between diverse communities.”

How long will it take for Finland to appoint its first-ever non-white minister?

Thank you Anne Ceesay for the heads-up!

  1. Klay_immigrant

    So she’s been an MP for the grand total of 3 whole months and now she’s already in the cabinet. So much for meritocracy.

  2. Mark

    Klay

    And why would she not merit a place in Government?

    Most newly elected governments will also appoint newly elected MPs. Halla-aho was elected an MP in 2011 and was immediately appointed Chairman of the powerful Administrative Committee.

    I suppose you are saying that as a black woman, she couldn’t possibly have been appointed because of her talent and proven political abilities in local politics – it had to be her ethnicity!

    Klay, for someone who claims to be a member of a minority population, you don’t half come out with some racist shit, sometimes!

  3. Klay_immigrant

    Mark, you and I know that being appointed to a parliamentary committee is completely different to being in a ruling government cabinet, so to compare Halla-aho to her is completely flawed.

    My point is a new MP no matter what gender, age or ethnicity after only 3 months and being put straight into a cabinet is questionable.

    Ofcourse you don’t care what she achieves in government whether good or not because as she’s black that’s already a victory in your book, but for me I prefer to have the best person who most deserves to be in that position. That’s the difference between us. This point is proved as you support affirmative action and I don’t.

    • Mark

      Klay

      Mark, you and I know that being appointed to a parliamentary committee is completely different to being in a ruling government cabinet, so to compare Halla-aho to her is completely flawed.

      Completely flawed, you say, and yet you don’t actually say why it’s ‘completely different’. In this case, the post is for Integration Minister, so her political career todate is actually excellent experience for the post. Also, the vast majority of government appointments involve receiving a brief with which most appointees are not that familiar. You could get health, education, transport, agriculture, etc., and indeed, in a couple of years time, you might be shifted to another completely different department.

      That is normal in government. That is why we have civil servants who serve as permanent advisors and experts for departments. The Minister and government provide the goals and priorities, and the civil servants help them sort out a plan that might implement those goals. That’s the real business of government. In fact, Halla-aho’s Committee chairman role was a very influential role to land.

      My point is a new MP no matter what gender, age or ethnicity after only 3 months and being put straight into a cabinet is questionable.

      Absolute rubbish. You know sweet fanny adams about politics, clearly.

      Ofcourse you don’t care what she achieves in government whether good or not because as she’s black

      What an absolutely stupid thing to say. Why would I not care what she does in her position? I would hope that she would manage to push issues of integration in Italy in a way that will protect the rights of minorities. If she doesn’t do that, then clearly I would not be happy.

      for me I prefer to have the best person who most deserves to be in that position. That’s the difference between us.

      It’s not a differnce at all. I’m in complete agreement. I just don’t assume that that person wouldn’t be black and also I wouldn’t kick up a fuss if he or she is black, unlike yourself.

      This point is proved as you support affirmative action and I don’t.

      In political posts, affirmative action has worked extremely well in Sweden to bring gender balance. At the right time and the right place, when all else has failed, affirmative action has brought about the necessary change.

      The alternative is that minorities in Italy would have no serious political representation whatsoever within Government. That’s hardly an acceptable situation in this day and age.

      However, nothing in this situation suggests that this was actually affirmative action, so you are whistling in the wind, you bigoted arsehole!

  4. Farang

    Everyone who makes a number about her ethnicity, is a pure racist.

    For a non-racist person like me this should be no news at all. Ethnicity and skin colour should make no difference. Everyone who is considering this as news is a racist.

    • Mark

      Farang

      Everyone who is considering this as news is a racist.

      Why is the world so black and white for you? This is news precisely because of her ethnicity and because she is the first Minister in Italy to achieve a position in government. It is news precisely against the backdrop of racism in Italy.

      Or are you now saying that reporting about racism is de facto racism, because it talks about ethnicity? That kind of schoolboy error in understanding racism is characteristic of the yobs and thugs that inhabit the English Defence League, Farang. What company are you keeping?

    • Farang

      Reporting about racism is of course not racism, because in those cases the racial issues have been the reason for the crimes.

      But in this case, anyone who considers this nomination as news, is considering that it was a racially motivated nomination. Why else would it be news? It’s only news to those people who make difference based on ethnicity, eg. being racists.

    • Mark

      Farang

      Reporting about racism is of course not racism, because in those cases the racial issues have been the reason for the crimes.

      Confused? Do you mean ‘those cases’ and why are you talking about crimes in regard to racism. There are other things besides ‘racist crimes’ as shown on the books, i.e. job discrimination, stigma, poverty etc.

      But in this case, anyone who considers this nomination as news, is considering that it was a racially motivated nomination.

      No, no, no! In fact, perhaps even the exact opposite. If there is a situation where minorities have been denied an opportunity to serve in government because of their ethnicity and the candidate ends up ‘white’, then this IS a racially motivated nomination in that the ethnic candidate was ‘overlooked’. When a minority candidate who is the most qualified of the potential candidates and her ethnicity is ‘ignored’, then this may have been the first time that is was NOT a racially motivated nomination in situations where the best candidate has been overlooked because they belonged to the minority.

      Funny how you try to turn everything to do with racism upside down. Of course, some like Klay, will claim she was ONLY appointed because she was black and that there MUST have been a better white candidate, and this is the worst form of racism.

      Interestingly, the people calling this a racist decision are the ones that were quite happy to see all politicians in Italy remain white WITHOUT QUESTION. It is simpy ASSUMED that they must have been the best candidates on offer.

  5. Farang

    Mark

    No, no, no! In fact, perhaps even the exact opposite. If there is a situation where minorities have been denied an opportunity to serve in government because of their ethnicity and the candidate ends up ‘white’, then this IS a racially motivated nomination in that the ethnic candidate was ‘overlooked’.

    Now you are making false accusations. Nobody has been denied opportunitues because of their ethnicity. This is only an illusion you have created in your head so that you could make yourself believe in your cause.

    Let me ask you this way: There is 5 nominations made. There are 200 applicants for those positions. 198 applicants are white and 2 applicants are black.

    Now, if you have any understanding about propablities and statistics, you should be able to answer this:

    What is the statistically propable outcome of the nominations: How many white and how many black?

    It is people like you who are ethnicising this situation. You bring up the ethnicity where it doesn’t matter.

    It’s funny how you condemn when ethnicity is brought up if it is negative towards black people, but you consider it good job if is is positive towards black people. This proves how you treat people differently based on their race. That makes you a racist.

    • Mark

      Farang

      Nobody has been denied opportunitues because of their ethnicity.

      Keep taking the pills.

    • Mark

      Farang

      It is people like you who are ethnicising this situation. You bring up the ethnicity where it doesn’t matter.

      Ignoring the political non-representation of ethnic minorities in Italy (8% of population) or anywhere IS ethnicising the issue already, because it’s saying that our ethnicity is of value and yours is not. It is saying that it is OKAY that 10% of the population have NO POLITICAL representation. That is already an ‘ethnicised’ issue. It’s all too easy to ignore it too. And that’s what you choose to do. But don’t tell those that are cognizant of the situation that they are ethnicising it, but it is already ethnicised, absolutely in favour of the white majority.

      According to the demographics, the Italian cabinet would have had on average 2 ministers who belonged to ethnic minorities (total 21 ministers). This would have been the ‘norm’ for the last 20 years. The fact that this is the first illustrates well that minorities will find it extremely difficult to get a fair level of political representation that will match their demographic status.

      This is hardly a point of contention, Farang, unless you just want to bring a wrecking ball to the party!

  6. Farang

    Mark

    Interestingly, the people calling this a racist decision are the ones that were quite happy to see all politicians in Italy remain white WITHOUT QUESTION. It is simpy ASSUMED that they must have been the best candidates on offer.

    Well, I don’t consider this decision racist. I consider the news made of it racist.

    Looking at the backgrounds of this person, I’m confident that her qualifications are the reason for her appointment.

    • Mark

      Farang

      I consider the news made of it racist.

      That’s because you are ignorant and stupid and fail to see even the most obvious social landmarks as ‘news’. Ironic that you are hiding behind some notion that those that understand the historical importance are racists 😀

  7. Farang

    Mark

    It is saying that it is OKAY that 10% of the population have NO POLITICAL representation.

    You just continue to prove your own racism and can’t even see it 🙂

    Nobody except a racist can say that white person can’t politically represent black people and vice versa. YOU are creating the “us vs. them” view here. You think that skin colour is something that you need to share in order to being able to represent someone.

    In my opinion there are people representing people in government.

    In your viewpoint there are white people representing whites, black people representing black, etc. Welcome apartheid, says Mark.

    • Mark

      Farang

      Nobody except a racist can say that white person can’t politically represent black people and vice versa. YOU are creating the “us vs. them” view here. You think that skin colour is something that you need to share in order to being able to represent someone.

      In your black and white world, I’m sure that appears true. The idea is certainly NOT that a white person cannot represent a black person or vice versa. The question is WILL THEY represent them? Political representation is about someone from your ethnic group being part of the political decision making, and to some extent, having high representation, so as to make your own concerns visible. It’s simply not true that blacks could always ‘trust’ whites to take care of the politics for them. Such a view is naive in the extreme.

      In Finland Farang, legislation increasingly stipulates that any group that are affected by public services should take part in the development of those services. Blind people know about being blind. People with disabilities know about being disabled. Women know about gender discrimination. Mothers know about motherhood and older people know about being old. Immigrants know about integration. But all of these groups benefit from having someone from their group to push their issues onto the political agenda. That is what is meant by ‘having political representation’. This is a little different from the basic notion of a ‘political representative’, which refers to the fact the person has been voted to represent a party in the parliament. Try not to confuse the two concepts.

      YOU are creating the “us vs. them” view here.

      Time and again you are caught in this cart before the horse scenario, Farang. The issue is how do you go from a society in which ethnic minorities are discriminated against to a situation where they are fairly represented? It isn’t by ignoring the racism or the lack of representation or making excuses for it or simply denying that it exists.

      Italy has had nearly 10% immigration levels for nearly 20 years, with serious immigration beginning in the early 1980s. And in all that time, not once has someone of immigrant origin been in the cabinet. There have been 21 cabinets/prime ministerial terms since 1980 in Italy. That’s 441 Cabinet appointments. For a population of 10%, one might expect perhaps around about 44 different appointees if one’s demographic was being fairly represented. 44 Farang. And this is the first appointment. You cannot claim that there has been no discrimination.

      Only a fool would close their eyes to such obvious statistics.

    • Mark

      Farang

      In your viewpoint there are white people representing whites, black people representing black, etc. Welcome apartheid, says Mark.

      Are you so UTTERLY INCAPABLE of understanding or describing another person’s point of view?

  8. Farang

    Question to you Mark. Most of the MP’s in Finland are white. Please tell me how many decisions they have made which would have any affect to people based on their skin colour.

    I mean, when was the last time MP’s of Finland made any decision that would favour white people.

    • Mark

      Farang

      I mean, when was the last time MP’s of Finland made any decision that would favour white people.

      It’s a good question. I’ll get back to you on it. Enough to say that your phrase ‘favour white people’ is not straightforward, as it can mean that legislation that ignore the specific needs of non-white minorities can ‘favour’ whites. Another issue relates to the sheer lack or evidence or research or data gathering on discrimination can work against the interests of ensuring fair employment policies and opportunities. This ‘blindness’ to the issues relating directly to inequalities between minority populations and the majority ‘white’ population is itself something that can favour ‘whites’. In sum, there are several distinct ways in which this question can be approached.

      In some Finnish policy making but especially within EU policy making, it is quite typical to make what are called ‘social impact assessments’, which much like health impact assessments or environmental impact assessments are designed to anticipate the impacts on specific or relevant groups of people, among them being minorities or ‘vulnerable’ groups. While carrying out these assemssments goes some way to addressing the issue of ‘fair representation’ in the decision-making process for minorities, the existence of an assessment is not a guarantee that minority rights will be protected – only that they are considered. The reality is that economic interests are invariably competing as are political interests. However, the absence of such assessments represents a failure in social and political accountability in many respects.

      This ‘cross-assessment’ issue affects many areas of policy making, including areas such as the environment, health, education and welfare. Typically decisions in one area of policy can have negative effects in other areas, and as these areas lie in another area of expertise, the difficulty in goverment is to ensure that different departments are accountable also to other departments in terms of decision-making. Ethnic minorities are not unique in having to ‘trade’ or ‘fight’ therefore in order to gain proper representation in policy making. This is a common problem.

      This is important to understand because it illustrates immediately before we even look at legislation what are the inherent challenges in producing effective and fair policy making. This is not news, so it would not be controversial to say that the vast majority of legislation that is enacted does not give account of its social impact. This idea of accountability is growing, however, and more and more policy making requires a ‘social impact assessment’ in Finland.

      I’ll come back to this question in more detail when I have time to do some appropriate research.

  9. Farang

    Italy has had nearly 10% immigration levels for nearly 20 years, with serious immigration beginning in the early 1980s. And in all that time, not once has someone of immigrant origin been in the cabinet. There have been 21 cabinets/prime ministerial terms since 1980 in Italy. That’s 441 Cabinet appointments. For a population of 10%, one might expect perhaps around about 44 different appointees if one’s demographic was being fairly represented. 44 Farang. And this is the first appointment. You cannot claim that there has been no discrimination.

    You just proved that you are unable to think with your brais.

    Demography has NOTHING to do with it. It is the amount of people who are willing to go as candidates.

    I tell you an example, because I think you are unable to understand otherwise.

    We have two groups of people, A and B. Both makes 50% of the population. Now, there are bunch of candidates out of which the parliament is elected. 90% of the candidate are from group A and 10% of candidates are from group B.

    Now, statistically, should the parliament be formed as 90/10 or 50/50?

    With the logic you described above, the parliament should be formed based on the population. But that is only the people with no intelligence who think like that.

    Any person with brains would understand that the parliament should be formed based on the candidates.

    • Mark

      Farang

      Demography has NOTHING to do with it. It is the amount of people who are willing to go as candidates.

      Excuses.

      We have two groups of people, A and B. Both makes 50% of the population. Now, there are bunch of candidates out of which the parliament is elected. 90% of the candidate are from group A and 10% of candidates are from group B.

      More idiotic sophistry from the Farang. The issue with demographics is that it doesn’t matter whether there is a 99% or 1% distribution between elected groups, demographics is something that you would expect to be evenly distributed throughout unless there were specific mechanisms operating to diminish those distributions. For example, few people over the age of 85 would feel capable of participating in full time political life. You would therefore expect politicians to be below a certain age. If women are holding responsibility for a job and family responsibilities, then this mechanism of unfair distribution of responsibilities immediately disadvantages them to take a full role in the public arena of politics. Indeed, this is typically the case. One could look at all sorts of mechanisms right down to the employment level, the living environment and various other factors to see which are acting as obstacles to political involvement and civic engagement.

      So, demographics gives us an idea of what in an ideal situation would be the typical representation, all other factors taken into account. You then work back from there to identify the obstacles to political engagement.

      Any person with brains would understand that the parliament should be formed based on the candidates.

      That’s like saying we only have to take into account the things on top of the rug and anything that has been effectively swept under the rug can be ignored. 🙂 History is written by the vanquishers! 🙂

    • Farang

      You still don’t get it. If there are only 1 candidate from group A, with your logic that candidate should be elected no matter what.

      That is insane, Mark.

    • Mark

      1% is not necessarily 1 candidate, unless you want to restrict the sample to completely unviable levels of statistical probability – oh, you do! 🙂

      Farang, we are talking about populations of millions and hundreds of thousands. We would expect a fair and proportional distribution of demographic groups within the political process. Surely you agree with that? Or do you think that skewing the system so that it only allows a cohort of 40-50 year old wealthy white males to do all the decision-making is just fine and dandy!

    • Farang

      If a group is not active enough to put up candidates, then they can’t expect anyone to be elected.

    • Farang

      You still don’t understand. Let’s say there is a ethnic minority of 100000 people in the country. These people are not very politically active and among these 100000 people there are only 2 persons who are interested in politics.

      Therefore these 2 people go as candidates for parliament.

      Now, do you really mean that these 2 people should be elected, even if they don’t get votes?

      And then, how can you think that these 2 persons would even represent the other 99998 people of their group? Is it your racism again that speaks? You immediately assumet that these 2 persons are racists and they would only drive the cause of the 99998 people who are of same ethnic background? That is racism.

      All people should be driving the issues that are important for ALL people, not only for some people. Everything else is racism.

    • Mark

      Farang

      These people are not very politically active

      Pardon? I thought you were always trying to tell us how ‘political’ these foreigners were all trying to be, trying to ‘change’ things. Now you are telling me they are not that political really.

      there are only 2 persons who are interested in politics.

      hahahhahahahahahahhahahahahah take a breath hahahhahahahahahahahahah breath, breath!

      You muppet! 2 people out of 100, 000 are interested in political representation for their ethnic grouping??? Your squeezing of reality to fit your ridiculous denials of racism in politics is staggering!

    • Farang

      It was just an example to should you how insane it is to assume that political representation should be distributed equally with population.

    • Mark

      And as an example it was completely useless. It’s really simple – politics should reflect the demographic more or less, or else parts of the community are not ‘well-represented’, and in some cases, they are very poorly represented, as in the case of the Roma.

      It’s not that people from different groups cannot learn or understand the group-specific issues, it’s just that people are best represented by their own communities. Otherwise, as in the case for ‘assimilation’, it is already decided from a Finnish ethnocentric point of view what is ‘good’ for that person or group.

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