A fertility booklet shows a white group of friends as ‘good’ and a group of black friends as those to ‘abandon’.
Italy: The place to go for delectable cuisine, breathtaking culture and that creeping sensation that you’re living in worst of the 1950s. From Berlusconi’s many, many gaffs to the abuse thrown at black footballers, news from Italy has made us despair on many occasions.
The latest reason to shake our heads comes from Italian health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, and her nosy insistence on butting into women’s lives to increase the birth rate in the country. Earlier this month, Lorenzin launched a series of posters to promote Fertility Day, which took place on 22nd September.
The posters featured women with hourglasses to demonstrate their ever dwindling biological clock and included slogans such as “Beauty knows no age. Fertility does” and “Reproducing is the best way for young couples to be creative”.
The Italian government and Lorenzin were roundly mocked for the sexist and ageist campaign, which was reminiscent of the fascist slogans of 1930s that encouraged women to have more children for the country.
This was topped by a new booklet released on Fertility Day which illustrated good and bad personal habits for fertility. It featured a whiter than white group of friends happily posing on a beach as an example of good habits and another group that included black people taking drugs as an example of “the bad ‘companions’ to abandon”.
When you get over the ‘wouldn’t this be funny if it was merely a storyline in a topical comedy show I love’ feeling you realise this is real life and a European government has validated dangerous sexist and racist remarks.
The release of the booklet has caused outrage in Italy and many have called for Lorenzin’s resignation for the use of negative and outdated stereotypes. There was a protest on the streets of Rome, and Twitter users ironically used the hashtag #FertilityDay to call out their disgust with the government.
Italy is no stranger to controversy. The killing of Nigerian asylum seeker, Emmanuel Chidi Namdi, who was attacked while defending his wife Chinyere Emmanuel from racist insults in the central-Italian town of Fermo, shocked and saddened the country.
Any black person I’ve met who’s ever lived or even holidayed in Italy comes back with a story or two to tell about the overt or covert racism they’ve experienced. Many black women have been mistaken for prostitutes. Even the first black female government minister Cecile Kyenge has been called a prostitute on top of the host of racist incidents she’s had to deal with.
Any black person I’ve met who’s ever lived or even holidayed in Italy comes back with a story or two to tell about the racism they’ve experienced
If Italy is saddened by the death of Emmanuel and truly believes the Fertility Day campaign was racist, then that is step forward for the country, but they must go further than that to make any useful change. This must seem laughable coming from a black woman in the middle of Brexit-land, but it’s true. Twitter status’ and hashtags won’t end racism alone.
Even the protest against Fertility Day mainly focused on the sexist nature of the campaign rather than the racism that surrounded who the Italian Government wants to procreate. If you break it down, the government is showing who they think of as Italian and who they want in their country. Bright-eyed young white couples of course, not marauding gangs of black people who would obviously be taking drugs; what else do we do?
While living standards and wages don’t look set to rise any time soon, people are holding onto the nationalism they know best
Across Europe there has been a rise in far right politics and sentiments. The migrant crisis is currently on the UK’s doorstep but for the rest of Europe it’s in their living room. While living standards and wages don’t look set to rise any time soon, people are holding onto the nationalism they know best with both hands, and placing all blame for everything that’s gone wrong in their lives firmly at feet of migrants and people of colour.
In a statement refuting the accusations of racism the health ministry said: “The photos represent a homogeneity of people, as is the multi-ethnic society in which we live. Racism is in the eye of the beholder.”
The more worrying problem is not that the health ministry do not see a problem with the booklet but more that they think that the depictions they published are normal. This is how they think black people live; drug users whose lifestyle shouldn’t be replicated by the rest of society.
Racism certainly is in the eye of the beholder, but if you’re only focusing on your own point of view, how will you ever see it?