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The Journal Gazette

  • Italian Integration Minister Cécile Kashetu Kyenge speaks at a press conference in Rome, Friday, May 3, 2013. The appointment of Italy's first black cabinet minister was initially hailed as a giant step forward for a country that has long been ill at ease with its increasing immigrant classes. Cecile Kyenge’s new job has instead exposed Italy’s ugly race problem, an issue that flares regularly on the football pitch with racist taunts and in the rhetoric of xenophobic political parties but has come to the fore anew as a shaky coalition government tries to bring Italy out of its economic doldrums. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

Friday, May 03, 2013 10:05 am

Italy's 1st black minister seeks cultural change

The Associated Press

Italy's first black cabinet minister, who has been the target of racist slurs following her appointment last week, says Italians aren't racist but that some are merely ignorant of other cultures.

Congolese-born Cecile Kyenge held a press conference Friday to introduce herself to Italians so they could get to know her, saying: "I am black. This is important to say. I emphasize it proudly."

Kyenge's appointment as integration minister had been hailed as a big step for Italy, which has only recently had to cope with waves of immigration. But the move prompted racist taunts from xenophobic politicians and members of neo-fascist Internet groups.

Kyenge thanked her defenders. She also stressed that Italy has a long tradition of welcoming foreigners and that that tradition must be upheld.