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We Are All Romanians

We Are All Romanians

Ottorino Cappelli (November 4, 2007)
Gipsy Girl - by Amir Mukhtar (posted on

"We must prevent this terrible tiger, which is xenophobic rage, the racist beast, from getting out of control." (Giuliano Amato, Italy’s Interior Minister)


In the midst of the controversy over Italy’s supposed risk of xenophobia erupted, I tried a google search on italy+xenophobia. News that Italians may turn out to be prone to racist feelings is indeed making the headlines.

The Washington Post
(Italy rocked by racist claims after gypsy expulsions) quotes Giuliano Amato’s sentence about the “terrible tiger, the racist beast” used above, and adds the warning of the the Archbishop of Lecce, Cosmo Francesco Ruppi, against targeting foreigners and following the "dangerous path of racism".

The Gulf Times, from Quatar, throws the spotlight on the squalid conditions Romanians – Italy’s largest immigrant community and widely perceived as a menace to society - live in Rome’s shantytowns.

And London’s The Independent has an article by Simona Farcas, President of “Italy-Romania: A Future Together” in which she says “Italians don't like foreigners. They fear we're all thieves who take the jobs that are rightfully theirs. They do not accept us."

Thus italians are oblivious of their not-so-distant past when, to paraphrase a pivotal book by Gian Antonio Stella “we where the Romanians”?

Interestingly, yesterday I posted my i-italy's article on thi subject (Italy's on the Brink of Xenophobia?) on, the popular portal for "cooperative journalism". And I added this teaser: "Nobody should forget that Italian immigrants have been usually identified with the 'Mafia' and perceived as naturally prone to crime. To blame 'jobless immigrants' in today's Italy as gangsters is the same old nonsense".

Well, you know, the first comment I got came from a U.S. blogger called LoneRanger85, who replied bluntly: "Reality check. The Mafia IS Italian." Yea, I know. And pizza IS Italian too... As a matter of fact, as late as 1973 President Richard Nixon could claim that “you can’t find one [Italian] that’s honest”.

But netsurfing can be rewarding too. Searching YouTube, for example, one finds this scene from the Italian film “Pane e cioccolata” (1973), in which the great Nino Manfredi plays an Italian immigrant in Switzerland who is questioned by the police and confronts not only stereotypes and prejudices, but a clash between different cultures and habits.

It’s in Italian, with English subtitles.


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