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Politician Roberto Calderoli Compares His Black Female Colleague To An Orangutan

Senator Roberto Calderoli compares Italian Minister Cécile Kyenge to an Orangutan, an insult rooted in colonial ways of thinking


This week in Italian racism, senator and anti-immigration campaigner Roberto Calderoli has said that Italy's first black minister, Cécile Kyenge, resembles an orangutan. Speaking at a rally, Calderoli painted Ms. Kyenge's success as bad news for Italy, claiming her prominence will only encourage "illegal immigrants." Unfortunately he didn't stop there. According to the BBC he went on to say: "I love animals — bears and wolves, as everyone knows — but when I see the pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of, even if I'm not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan."

The upset does nothing for Italy's fast growing notoriety for virulent racism — remember this picture of Mario Balotelli, or the racist chants that prompted Kevin Prince Boateng's walkout? And it is only the latest in a string of attacks on Kyenge which were, much like this one, a toxic cocktail of racism and sexism. When Kyenge was appointed to head Italy's Integration Ministry in April 2013, Dolores Valandro a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, wrote that Kyenge should be raped, while another party member warned that Kyenge would impose "tribal traditions" on the nation.

It must be hard for haters to see such a shining example of exactly the kind of people they want to legislate against — non-white migrants. At 19 years-old Kyenge moved to Italy from DRC to study medicine: she paid her own way through medical school, worked at home as a caregiver, built a career as an ophthalmologist, established a family, and cemented a reputation in center-left politics as a tireless advocate for migrant rights that led to her inclusion in Italy's cabinet. Her success plus her position make it difficult to ignore the reality of multicultural Italy.

Before we lay this to rest with some sage words from Kyenge herself, it's worth exposing the colonial roots of the comparison that Calderoli reached for. The science that justified the maltreatment of Africans on which colonialism and the slave trade were established claimed that black Africans were just a step up from primates in the "Great Chain of Being." The various versions of this hierarchy, in which Caucasian Europeans are always right at the top, has left a long bibliography. In 1677 Dr. William Petty, one of the founders of the The Royal Society, claimed that Africans were the "missing link" between Caucasian men and other organisms — notably the ape. Like Petty, European scientists of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries conveniently decided that "savages" had been brought into the world to serve and follow the will of superior beings. When Calderoli works himself into a froth over Italy's first black minister, it's with the assumption that this particular "savage" has forgotten her place in the hierarchy. In Europe, racist thinking dies hard.

The best response to all this comes from Cécile Kyenge herself speaking on contemporary identity: "no one should be ashamed of who they are. I have never been ashamed of my economic situation or my position, my skin colour or my curly hair. I am Italian, and I am Congolese."

Postscript: Unlike a number of a news publications (BBC, Huffington Post, The Independent), we're leading with a picture of Roberto Calderoli because it's his racism and wrongdoing which is the topic of discussion here, not Ms. Cécile Kyenge's face.

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Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images

Wizkid, Tems, Black Coffee & More Nominated For 2022 Grammy Awards

See the full list of African artists honored during Tuesday's nomination ceremony.

Next year's Grammy nominations are in and Africa showed up and out!

The 64th annual Grammy music awards are on the horizon, and Tuesday's nomination ceremony covered a lot of ground within the music industry. Not surprisingly, Wizkid's Made In Lagos (Deluxe) received a nod for Best Global Music album, with the stellar and globally adorned track "Essence" featuring Nigeria's Tems being nominated for Best Global Music Performance. Nigerian favorites Femi and Made Kuti's joint project Legacy+ received a nomination under the Best Global Music Album category.

Other notable nods include; Beninese singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo's collaboration with Nigerian powerhouse Burna Boy, as well her performance with American cellist Yo-Yo Ma received under the Global Music Performance category. South Africa's Black Coffee's album Subconsciously made its mark within the Best Dance/Electronic Music Album category with his own nomination, and Ghanaian artist Rocky Dawuni under Best Global Music Album.

The music ceremony will be hosted in Los Angeles, US on January 31 2022 and we're excited to see who snags the highly coveted awards during next year's ceremony. In the meantime, let us know on Twitter who you're excited to see perform.

Keep scrolling to see the full list of African artists nominated for next year's Grammy award ceremony.

Check out the full list of nominees here.

Best Global Music Performance

"Mohabbat," Arooj Aftab

"Do Yourself," Angelique Kidjo and Burna Boy

"Pà Pá Pà," Femi Kuti

"Blewu," Yo-Yo Ma and Angelique Kidjo

"Essence," Wizkid featuring Tems

Best Global Music Album

"Voice Of Bunbon, Vol. 1," Rocky Dawuni

"East West Players Presents: Daniel Ho and Friends Live in Concert," Daniel Ho and Friends

"Mother Nature," Angelique Kidjo

"Legacy +," Femi Kuti and Made Kuti

"Made In Lagos: Deluxe Edition," Wizkid

Best Dance/Electronic Music Album

"Subconsciously," Black Coffee

"Fallen Embers," Illenium

"Music Is the Weapon (Reloaded)," Major Lazer

"Shockwave," Marshmello

"Free Love," Sylvan Esso

"Judgement," Ten City

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