Italy’s first black minister was forced to endure an ugly act of racism over the weekend when someone in the crowd threw bananas at her during a rally. Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s minister of integration, was speaking to supporters in the town of Cervia when the bananas came from the crowd, falling short of the stage. Police have yet to identiy the person who threw them.
The insensitive incident is not new for the Congolese-Italian minister, who has been seeing a backlash from right-wing Italian radicals since her appointment as minister three months ago. Kyenge, however, shrugged off the incident. On Twitter, she referred to it as a sad waste of food when so many people are dying of hunger.
Prior to arriving at the rally, an unruly group smeared blood-red paint and anti-immigration messages onto mannequins that read, “Immigration Kills.” Just two weeks ago Italian Senator Roberto Calderoli — a strong opponent of immigration — compared Kyenge to an orangutan. The minister has also been referred to as “Zulu,” “Congolese monkey,” “the black anti-Italian” and has even death threats.
Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, moved to Italy in the 1980s to study medicine, later becoming an ophthalmologist. Despite her quick ascent to a top government position, immigration remains a touchy subject for right-wing political groups who believe in “protecting the Italian identity,” by limiting the number of foreigners into the country.