Racism Italian Style

photo by hanneorla

Italians are not racists. They don’t want to be racist. The Italians are nice people with pizza and mandolins. An Italian can accept to be labeled in different ways: tax dodger, mafia, corrupt.
That’s not a problem. He finds these are compliments. But if you call him a racist he turns into a beast. And the further he is to the left, the more he gets angry.
It’s a fight with himself. A struggle that has resulted in Italian-style racism. A racism that isn’t there but exists. A racism that makes us all feel better. In other words, the Italian has removed racism.
He has done it with discretion, giving due weight to the news.
If a Polish baby is shot in Naples and dies, if a guy from Sri Lanka is knifed in Milan, or if people from North Africa are buried alive in Puglia during the tomato harvest, the news is given with discretion.
It’s on the tenth page for a day. If the dead person is indigenous, that’s the trigger for the murder hunt.
The death of a foreigner is hardly noticed. The death of one of us is noted much more.
If .there’s the mass rape for 30 euros of children who are foreign, even aged 12 or 13, in the streets of the whole country, that’s folklore.
If one of our girls is attacked it goes on the front page. If foreign children are thrown into the streets to ask for alms or to sell their bodies, that’s folklore. If that happens to an Italian child, the parents land up in prison.
The Rumanian murderer is a monster, the Italian one is a delinquent.
Our foreigners are compared to foreigners living in their own home. Numbers, not people. Who thinks about the 50 people a day who die in Iraq or in the Darfur slaughter? The prisons are full of foreigners who haven’t understood the rules.
Exactly. They are rules that aren’t there. In our country that doesn’t exist, the rules are an option.
The Italian knows that, they get by, they go ahead and survive, they go into prescrizione without ever passing “Go”. However, the foreigner goes directly to jail, because they believe that impunity is a life style, not a crime.
Sarkozy has won to bring back the law. Veltroni has said that the rule of law is a right, without specifying for which income band. Whoever is not yet racist will become racist. It’s the country that wants it.

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 09:28 AM in | Comments (31)
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After having travelled around the world many times and having lived in most countries I have noticed that Racism, Ethnocentrism and prejudice exists everywhere ALL over the entire world!! We are all equally this way, because it is natural and part of the human condition. It is only now that we are talking about it!

Posted by: Marco Vitello | August 16, 2008 07:38 AM


After reading all these accounts, I felt the need to share my own experiences since I am half Chinese and have been living here in Italy for the past few years.

It is true that there always seems to been an undercurrent of prejudice that rides subtly and I always feel that I am treated as someone inferior based upon my Asiatic appearance (even though I am half European) and I have never in my life had to deal with this type of subjugation that questions my identity and self worth. I am not perfect but I am still human and deserve a little respect no?? I have always been thought that my value is determined by my efforts and not by my social or ethnic inheritance. In fact, there was this one irritating experience I had where this ignorant man in his late forties actually spat at me and told to go home to my country! Can you imagine? Never in my life!! Quite an undemocratic experience & I didn't even karate chop him!! I just skillfully swerved out of his unkindly path and powered on ahead! He was just an old fool who doesn't know what the world is about and that's just what it was. Apart from that 'one' little nasty occurrence I have thankfully amidst my social bondings some very nice relationships with Italian friends that have invited me and shared with me their lives with warmth and respect.

I guess when you think about it, this is really quite an old society that has a complex social system that is still hierarchical and so it's no surprise that there is all this frustration coming from us ethnic minorities as we may often sense some type of prejudice at play. We should really try and also see it from their point of view too. It's also quite difficult being different culturally and especially if you tend to fall into stereotypes. Remember that there is an increasing influx of clandestines that are not here legally so maybe it's understandable why sometimes there may be some hint of prejudice or subtle frustration. Unfortunately it's about stereotypes & if you happen to fall into these generalisations than you can expect these types of injustices to play out every now and then. I mean after all this isn't New York or Australia. The social system here works differently.

But you know after being here for a few years, I began to develop more substantial relationships & I realized that all these initial negative projections were only a self-defensive and superficial reaction in face of what they do not identify with. So don't take it to heart if they appear mistrusting or detached and remember that the service sector isn't the best place to form lasting impressions or judgements. it's just that they don't understand how to deal with the difference & they are a people that live and deal with their hearts wide open within a very strong and established self national identity and when placed in face with a different integrity, there is always a struggle to find a mutual balance of trust. Anyhow that balance as I have noted comes slowly with time.

I still remember all those wonderful Benetton ads back in the 80's depicting racial equanimity but alas the handling of multicultural diversity is still in it's infancy stages and us 'stranieri' (or strangers) are going through the teething stages that will somehow have to reassure or accommodate their insecure projections until their cultural perception evolves to a new level of appreciation. But maybe Italy is not ready for this type of experience.

Posted by: Sandra Wei | January 27, 2008 02:23 AM

Romanians are typical East European people who just cannot change hundreds of years of being how they are.......They are suspicious people,devious,sly and cunning.....Maybe people will dis-agree with this.....but every Romanian I have come across is the same...so tell me why this is?????? Its difficult to think differently when they are this way....I can't think differently when they have all been the same...And I certainly don't want to go there and get robbed,or have my belongings stolen.I have seen Romanian beggars in Frankfurt,Amsterdam and London.....so where are the good Romanians???? I'd like to meet some...

Posted by: Fredrico Antonio | January 12, 2008 11:17 PM

Salut! I am Italian and I live in Romania. I own a brewery here, so I live here with my family. But hey guys, what you see is just few bad people, only bad people outside. Inside Romania people are very nice and friendly and the country is very pitoresque! Get rid of these stereotypes, we have the same blood!

Posted by: Mario Nazzo | November 9, 2007 12:37 AM

You are right man. Not a good idea to treat a whole country like that for the mistakes of some gypsies and bad people! But you must realizee that they must punish them for this. Romania must take measures for those infractors. Let's hope that in time, they will decrease in number. Ciao!

Posted by: Giovanni P. | November 9, 2007 12:32 AM

Hello people of the world. From my opinion, I don't think all Italians are racists. And I don't think all Romanians are bad guys. I saw the news about that gypsy from Romania and I agree that he and all bastards behaving like him must be punished. But don't punish a whole nation for a group of retards. The Romanians are not like that, not at all. On the contrary, the real situation is totally different. Tens of thousands Italians live in Romania. All of them feel great. They settled families here with local girls. Some of them do businesses, other teach Italian language in schools, but all of them love Romania. We also had problems with Italian criminals. There were moments of tragedy for those families. However, WE don't hate the Italian race because of some bad individuals. WE consider every nation has its own 'black sheep' and one cannot judge a whole family for the mistakes of a single cheeky child. He must be educated/punished separately. Moreover, please bear in mind that there are 2 categories of people going out of Romania to work: prepared and talented people, hired by companies like NASA, Microsoft, DNA engineering organisations and so forth, AND poor people mostly living in the countryside, that want to earn better money for them, their families, their kids. The problem is that within the second category, one can find some gypsies and bad people that are creating trouble abroad. Those we HATE! However, WE cannot act properly, since they're protected by human rights and if we try to take some action or separate them from Romanians, the whole world would turn against us! Please understand that you have adopted a bad judgment which is against a whole nation because of some filthy bastards. Make sure that you understand that. All best from Romania! (P.S. There is a HUGE misunderstanding in regards of the country's name. The term 'Rrom' (it's double R) indicating a traditional gypsy, has been non-officially introduced within vocabulary after the decline of the communist era(1989). Please have this cleared: Romania and Romanians have no ethnic relationship with Rroms/Gypsies, NOT AT ALL!! Those who say that Romanians are Gypsies are just narrow-minded persons lacking in education. Peace and best regards! A PATRIOT!

Posted by: Alexandru - Constanta, Romania | November 8, 2007 04:04 AM

Italy is not perfect country, but is far behind to many other countries for what racism concerns. It seems like a pastime for some foreigners to base their judgments on prejudices rather than reality. In recent years the media reported riots and streets violence spurned by racism in their own countries and nevertheless they pretend to lecture us about racism.

I had the opportunity to live in different countries in the last 30 years, so I think to have enough acknowledge of what happens elsewhere.

To Filipino visitor, based in Vienna, you should be reminded that if you have any comment to make against racism, discrimination or lack of human dignity, you should do it on behalf of your countrymen living in squatter areas or Smokey Mountain.
I was in Manila for one and half year and to be honest I have hard time to accept your lecture.

Posted by: bruno gasparini | August 10, 2007 08:01 AM

It seems Italy is racist head to toe, far from the truth. It is not perfect country, but I have not doubt there are more racist countries than Italy, and I can say so after living abroad for over 30 years.

To William Gonzaga, you should be reminded that before talk with prejudices against Italy, you should open your eyes at what and how the poor Filipinos are treated in your country, go to squatter areas or Smokey Montain before your stick your nose in someone else reality.
Did I touch your uncovered nerves, not apologies for because I was in Manila for one and half year and I know what I talk about it. Your lecture comes from the wrong pulpit.

Posted by: Bruno Gasparini | August 10, 2007 07:30 AM

The foreign people writing here are fools or just like to the usual international hobby: complain about Italy. Italy IS NOT a racist country and ABOVE ALL considering countries which are the paradise of the most ignorant racism: AUstralia, USA, UK, Germany and France.
The former British colinies are plenty of organisations who claim the defence of the white supremacy and the history of countries like US and Australia is a continuous history of hateful racism towards EVERYBODY who don't speak English.
Would you like to talk about the enlighted and edifying German articles against Italy during the last soccer world cup?
Think before open the mouth

Posted by: Incredible... | August 10, 2007 12:46 AM

Firstly, I am a Filipino living here in Vienna.
My wife & I just came from a vacation in Rome and Italy is truly a racist's paradise. That's why I immediately searched the net to look for a site where I can share our experience. We have been to 5 countries here in Europe (including Berlin, Germany) but were treated fairly well except in Italy. Actually, we were already forewarned that we Filipinos, because of so many fellowmen working as lowly workers, are treated condescendingly. But we thought that since we are tourists, they may act towards us differently; we were so wrong.
Before we left Rome, I almost blew my top in the airport when this guy in the cashier (we bought something to eat)gave my change like he was about to throw it away. Then his woman colleague never took care of our sandwiches we ordered when I presented her our receipt (on second thought, she looked on the receipt but appeared not able to read).
We have other horror stories but what takes the cake is when fellow Filipinos behave like they are not! Racism is a growing disease in this country and infectious.

Posted by: william gonzaga | August 3, 2007 06:19 PM

Another foreigner living in Italy, with a (French) dual nationality son of Italian immigrant parents. Despite being 100% Italian, he comes up against racism every day of his working life. Is interesting how almost eveyone has family who are economic migrants all over the world, but when the same thing happens in reverse, is not tolerated. Have lost count of conversations that begin 'I'm not racist but...' before slating the Albanians/Moroccans/Africans/Chinese. And spot on about the news stories. Just look at Erba - and more recently the murder of the 8 month pregnant woman. Who were the media predicted villains?

Posted by: Elizabeth Shackell | June 15, 2007 12:01 AM

Hi All,
I live and was born in sydney australia to italian born parents. Even though here on the surface it appears that racism does not exists..it in fact it does in a silent way likewhat Beppe said. Even when i grew up here when racism was very evident i was a child i was told to go back to italy because i don't belong here.And i was told that by children my same age..How did they know to say such a thing?? It was their parents!! Now of course everything is ok and now its the people from asia & the middle east that suffer....But the anglo masters in australia still retain the non existant racism that still lurks around. I've been to italy on holidays mny times..Italy is no more or less racist than any other country in the world..

Posted by: anthony gabriel | May 20, 2007 03:45 AM

My cousin is studying Italian in Florence.
She has a masters degree in Sociology. Her father owns a multi-million dollar defense contracting company. She is young, pretty and intellegent.

She has hinted to me that people in Florence act different toward her and have an air of superiority toward her. She says that people talk to her like she is stupid or something. I do not have the heart to tell her, that even though she has an American passport, when asked where she is from, she says her ethicity: Filipino.

Posted by: Flip No | May 15, 2007 02:36 PM

Hello there,
I would like to argue the term “Racist” usually is applied to a race or ethnical group of people, which by definition it wouldn’t be so bad, since the derogatory terms usually are “Rom, Albanian, and Foreigner etc”.
What really strikes me, is the fact that racism usually apply to ethnical group of people from Country usually not so well off.
Therefore these Groups are financially precarious, educationally not as competent and morally questionable.
All of the above definitions, at the other extreme would be “Financially very stable, Very Educated and competent and morally superior?”.
Now these last definitions apply only to Countries Economically better off than Italy, while the first definition obviously to Countries worst off than Italy!
Compiling the results, and since Italy is (I am not sure why?) in the G8 only people from 7 Country are welcome in Italy while (213-7=206 Country!) people from the remaining 206 Countries are welcome.
Other term used for the 7 Countries “Tourist”
Thank You

Posted by: Giacomo Chiametti | May 14, 2007 03:43 PM

Fine. But how many times the term 'racist' has been misused? It should not be used for justifying or accepting any sort of behavior from strangers. Since it has come to be that if you are Italian and you criticize a foreigner you are automatically called a racist. I would not accept some kinds of behavious from members of my family, but even less from strangers.

Posted by: Luca Gualandi | May 13, 2007 06:04 PM

Hello there,
Discrimination is the only way to covet and protect your own incompetence!
Otherwise why Europe has borders still?
Integration and emancipation comes with education and evolution, not by chance Italy is at the bottom in each of the listed category.
Integration will never be regulated and mandate by Policies!
Rest my case, and when in doubt read this blog.

Posted by: Giacomo Chiametti | May 10, 2007 12:54 PM

This Article is so true. Most Italians in Italy are the biggest racist I have met thus far! I lived in Italy as a student for 8 months from sept 2006 to april 2007. If you're not 'Italian' looking or very light skin caucasian expect to get treated like a dog. This is very much alive in Florence!

Posted by: Alexander | May 10, 2007 12:45 AM



Posted by: confucio | May 10, 2007 12:29 AM

We also have to put in this account the fact that a lot of Italians consider foreigners as people far from the common costume and for this, almost automatically, on a different level.
Not lower but different.
The perception of pain becomes less direct when a foreigner is involved with it because of various factors like language, traditions and costumes.

Posted by: Giovanni Principe | May 10, 2007 12:15 AM

Joe: My private life is my own businnes.
I only want to say that not every woman is interested only in fat wallets, intelligent women have other priorities.
But, unfortunately, intelligent women and men are very rare, on this blog and elsewhere...

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | May 9, 2007 11:28 PM

Giovanni Vestri:

You will have fun going through customs next time you fly. That is, if they let you fly at all.

Come visit me in Canada now, if you can!

Posted by: E. Rossi | May 9, 2007 10:58 PM

I was born and grew up in London, from Italian parents and now i live in Italy. Is Italy a more racist place than London (not England, there is a big difference...)? Yes, without a doubt. Are people less used to cultural diversity? Yes, without a doubt. Are the police more an enforcing measure than a deterrent? Yes. Is there any sense on basing an immigration policy on the French and American systems, which have both completely and utterly failed to provide any sense of integration? No. But will we ever see any commentary of this side of the question? No. Not even from Beppe...

Aidan is an immigrant, as i am. I wonder how often she has come up against a prevailing racist attitude. I have, many a time. The fact that it falls away once people get to know me just makes it worse not better. It means that it's not even a belief, just deeply ingrained prejudice against whatever is different.

Posted by: Mattia Garofalo | May 9, 2007 09:08 PM

Hello there!
Actually even better, to solve the Middle East problem and Italian Sicily problem here is the perfect solution!
Give Sicily to the Jewish State and let them move on the isle.
Give them 5 years and Sicily will be the next Caribbean Paradise, plenty of water, no crime, fiscal paradise and Italians GDP will increase by at least 20%.

Posted by: Giacomo Chiametti | May 9, 2007 07:14 PM

Hello there!
To be politically correct and avoid any discrimination:
“Please someone pull the plug on the bath-tub called Sicily”
I am confident from around the world the support will overwhelm and exceed the tsunami by a several factorial factors!

Posted by: Giacomo Chiametti | May 9, 2007 06:37 PM

"have you ever seen a (sexy) woman wooing a man with a low income salary?? I don't!!"

I'm this woman!!!!!!!!!!
My boyfriend has a average income salary, my own salary is higher.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | May 9, 2007 06:35 PM

I am surprised to read you guys chose to live in Italy. Even many Italians would like to leave...

Anyway, hope you´re having a good time there.

Posted by: Stefano Sartori | May 9, 2007 06:17 PM

Fabiano - my family is Irish. Hence my name.

Rafaella and Joe, thanks for your comments, but can we please keep on topic here? It's a very important issue that Beppe has raised here.

Posted by: Aidan Smyth | May 9, 2007 05:34 PM

Aidan and John, where are you from, originally?

Posted by: Fabiano Maneri | May 9, 2007 01:43 PM

Aidan I am also a foreigner living in Italy. What you say has resonance. I do sense my Italian partner has a lower social status having dared to choose a foreigner as a life partner rather than one of ‘their own’.

I see the issue as more than racism. I experience it as ingrained intolerance to difference at many levels of Italian life. Tolerating difference just seems like too much hard work here! One wonders if it may have something to do with the socialising that goes on in those “traditional families”. Speaking of which look at this family day fiasco. Even within Italy, this seems more about intolerance to homosexuals and the de facto families than ‘saving the traditional family’, which by the way does seem to need a bit of saving based on the stats. To me the intolerance which the ‘Family Day’ is founded almost echoes of the old Arian inspired rallies, of an old ally, at a time not so long gone by.

Beppe a possible reason why many Italians so need to be liked is perhaps because so many are guilty of doing many un-likable things, racism being just one of them. Italy also has a 75% bigotry rating on the Eurobarometer which tells something about the values inherent in the society . It amuses me to hear so many Italian men and some women on tv claiming they are not homophobes before launching into an anti-homosexual rant that is based on nothing more substantial than a dislike and fear of people that may be different from themselves. These people seem to need to assure us all they are really nice person even though their following rhetoric will indicates the exact opposite.

So I believe a person can’t really be considered “nice”, even if they make good pizza when intolerance to human diversity exists. Tolerance is a value and I wonder if its time for a serious debate to occur in Italy whether it is a value that needs to be developed ?

Posted by: John Thompson | May 9, 2007 01:15 PM


Thanks for a visit!

Posted by: luciano bove | May 9, 2007 10:45 AM

My immediate reaction to this is to quote someone I would prefer not to quote, Mussolini. But, what he said is apposite here. 'I did not invent Fascism, I took it from the minds of Italians.'

As a foreigner living in Italy, I can say that I know a little of Italian attitudes towards foreigners, but what I see more (but understand less) is Italian attitudes towards Italians - most of you hate each other with a vengeance. This is why the national sport in Italy is feeling miserable and moaning loudly about it - you see and hear it everywhere you go, and especially in the TV news. It's only GOOD news if it is really BAD news (unless, that is, for the usual 12 minutes dedicated to which shoes 'The Hunziker' has decided to wear to the beach this weekend designed to makesus all feel so much better after the previous 18 minutes of torturous despondency).

Nonetheless, perhaps as a balm against the hatred that you feel towards one another, a universal sense of happy misery *can* be achieved by pointing the finger at any story which features a foreigner and saying "Ah! See? I told you so!"

Posted by: Aidan Smyth | May 9, 2007 09:52 AM

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