Charges of Systemic Racism Increase as Italians Struggle With New Diversity

August 9, 2004

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On August 9, 2004 The Christian Science Monitor reported, "Italy is fighting allegations of institutional racism by the editor of a major French newspaper. In a letter published last week in the left-leaning Italian daily La Repubblica, Le Monde's Jean-Marie Colombani accused Italian border police at Venice's Marco Polo airport of 'harassing' his 20-year-old adopted son, a French citizen of Indian origin. Guards went through his luggage, questioned him about his private life, and challenged his nationality, he wrote, saying this sort of thing happens every year. The Frenchman's allegations come on top of the release of a new anti-Islamic book by an Italian war correspondent, which sold half a million copies in a matter of hours last week. The author, Oriana Fallaci, says she is simply giving voice to a growing sentiment here. Over the past 15 years, Italy has seen a massive influx of immigrants from the developing world and commentators say this society, almost 100 percent white half a century ago, is struggling to adapt to rapid change. Mr. Colombani's letter and Mr. Fallaci's book have thrown a harsh light on the state of ethnic relations here. While other parts of Europe have seen a rise in tension between races, Italy, with its close proximity to North Africa, is a prime gateway for the wave of immigrants entering the Continent. Now a fresh debate over the place of these newcomers is igniting in a country that has long been more accustomed to emigrating than hosting foreigners."