I am sorry that you were insulted once again at work today. I am sorry that you were called a prostitute by a deputy mayor of this country, and that a local wine producer made insulting comments I'd rather not repeat.
I'm sorry that bananas were thrown at you while you were speaking at an assembly - I'm glad you told them it was a pity to be wasting good food. And I'm still unable to believe that the Northern League politician who also said unrepeatable things about you - slimy Roberto Calderoli - is still in office.
In Italy it's hard to be taken seriously as a female. And you are a black woman. The first black politician in this country. Okay, the USA has Obama, but there is no comparison there. Cécile Kyenge in Rome is almost like putting a black lady politician in Ku Klux Klan territory way down south. No KKK here, but take a look at the awfulness of the comments directed at Kyenge, and I promise you will feel queasy.
So Cécile, like me you have been hanging around Italy for over twenty years. I've just read that you're a doctor, trained in Italy, founder of an intercultural association, so that makes you much more of a useful citizen than this lowly writer. Somehow, I imagine you must be a pretty normal lady, raising mixed-race children, getting things done, seeing to everybody else. A strong, dedicated woman. Work, school homework and meetings, sports in the afternoon, exams passed and failed, bills.
From the outside it seems that you are weathering this storm well. Your comments are minimal, and measured, and you have a lot of support. In this way what you are doing is breathtaking - not only are these oafs being shown up for what they really have inside, but their opponents, the people with good hearts, the people who made a human chain along the Sicilian beaches where so many immigrants have paid hard-earned cash to traffickers and died - the existence of these people is now thrown into relief.
Before you, Cécile, we didn't know there were so many of them. We didn't know that it was possible to throw off hatred, to make these people recant and feel shame, (as a couple of them have done so despicably, citing stress or taxes for their horrible comments). Possibly this shame is superficial - as I find it hard to believe that beliefs change - but what is becoming clear is that the new, mixed generation that will comprise the Italy of decades to come, will hear different voices, will hopefully choose what is good and just.
I wonder, did you realise these horrible words would come? Did you think it would be this bad?
Do you sit at the kitchen table at night, thinking back over the hating faces, the nauseous insults, and wonder whether - looking at your kids' faces or the hands of the clock - it is worth it?
Madame Cécile, Italy needs you. My children need your strength and your representation. Migrants do, open-minded people do, African factory workers do, sex workers (who goes to them, huh?).
Believe me Cécile, we are with you, and it is worth it.
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'Pelt and Other Stories' is out!