Meet Cécile Kyenge: Italy’s First Black Government Minister
How much do I love the fact that Italy’s first-ever minister of colour is a woman?
Cécile Kyenge was born in Kambove, Congo and was elected Italy’s Minister of Integration on April 28, 2013 as part of Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s new government. Kyenge is an ophthalmologist and married mother of two who lives in Castelfranco Emilia, near Modena.
Interestingly, she doesn’t like being called a “woman of colour”:
I don’t think it’s the right expression. Either you say what colour my skin is or, better, you say my country of origin, or at least that I am of “foreign origin.” In my case you should say Italo-Congolese, just like you say Italo-American or Anglo-French…It better describes the person you’re talking about and, most importantly, implies the belonging to two places, the double identity.
In fact, to combat racism, she believes it’s important to focus on language:
Kyenge says that the words that bother her most are “negro,” which today is “a pejorative, derogatory term. Originally it meant something quite different, but now it’s disturbing.” Equally unacceptable is “vu’ cumprà” [an imitation of how African street-sellers pronounce “vuoi comprare” or “do you want to buy”], as is “ ‘extracomunitario’ [meaning non-EU immigrant, but generally only used to refer to Africans], now invariably used as synonymous with ‘foreigner.’ We can fight discrimination by using the right words.”
Change: it is happening!