While newspaper reports around the world have called Paolo Berlusconi’s (Silvio Berlusconi’s brother) comments about soccer player, Mario Balotelli, “gross racial insensitivity,” why don’t we just say what it really is: racism.
Here is how things went down.
The crowd, gathered at an event held by Silvio Berlusconi, his brother, a real dolt if there ever was one, referred to the fact that AC Milan signed Balotelli, the “negretto.” Wow. That word literally means “little nigger” or “little negro”. It is better understood as as “little black boy.” Here is the comment he actually made, igniting laughter from the audience :
“And now, let’s go and watch the little black boy of the family, the hot head.”
What? Seriously? I waited for the outrage, the raw , hot anger. And I waited. I spoke to a friend in Sicily who said , “. . . no one has really reacted.”
News reports noted that the comment went largely “unnoticed” in Italy. Not until the video of the remark went viral, when the world was witness to the rhetoric of racism, NOT “insensitivity”, did people react.
This is not the first verbal assault lobbed at Balotelli, who was born to Ghanian parents but raised by an Italian couple, and , sadly, given the nearly imperceptible rate at which Italians seem capable of changing their attitudes toward the growing and changing demographic of their country, it won’t be the last. He has had bananas thrown at him as well as the verbal assault of racist chants. But this is not something that Balotelli should have to get used to. Call me crazy.
The immigrant as scapegoat, the immigrant as an easy target, the immigrant forever as “other.”
I would pity Berlusconi and his brother and others like them , for being so far gone , idiotic in a myriad of ways, but really, their actions and their remarks are like well-sharpened knives, filed to a point and aiming to hit their target.
When will things change? Piara Powar, the executive director of Footbal Against Racism in Europe (FARE)recognizes that Italian society is changing, but attitudes are not keeping pace. What an understatement. That he called the comment and “outrage” was a first step. But he seems to be in the minority. Maybe Italians, having lived so long with Berlusconi (while castigating Americans who would deign to elect Bush not once but twice) have a high tolerance for intolerance.
Paolo Berlusconi now says, in the face of a bit of a tarnished image , that he was being “affectionate” with Balotelli. But who would believe or trust a word he says?
I don’t. I really don’t.