The Shadow of Racism Over Our Cities

Andrea Camilleri speaks of Fascism as a virus that changes over time, one that has never been wiped out and returns more insidiously each time, doing its evil work as it has always done. And at the same time, racism – an essential part of Fascism – continues to spread and infect not only minds but also institutions.

Today, too many of our governments hide behind the mask of the “power received from the people” in order to attack their own citizens, oppressing the weakest and wiping out rights conquered with so much difficulty in the past. One example among many is that of an American president who is recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, removing them from Syrian rule. There are many others who are abusing their power like him, with a bully’s arrogance, while those who are meant to oppose this seem to have lost their voice.

The numbers don’t lie, unlike politicians.

On 22 March, Sylla Nouma, a Senegalese man, was burned to death in the latest fire at San Ferdinando. He was killed by migration policies and work policies that allow for the widespread exploitation of migrants, people who are increasingly invisible.

On 23 March, a rubber boat disappeared with 41 people on board after leaving Sabrata, Libya. Almost as if is disappeared into thin air. The rescue ships of the NGOs are all blocked, or rather have been blocked precisely in order to avoid there being any witnesses to the massacres needed for gain votes and prop up governments founded on fear and hatred. No one know anything about these 41 people. In all likelihood they have been swallowed up by the sea and won’t even make up part of the fake and manipulated statistics of politics.

On 24 March, eleven people left Tunisia but did not manage to arrive in Sicily. The small vessel probably sank, and only the body of one woman washed up on the Tunisian coastline. The body of a young woman who left in order to defeat the cancer she had been battling for so long. But we, in our fortress, didn’t let these people in, because they didn’t have enough money to have a red carpet rolled out in front of them. Neither will these eleven people make it into the famous statistics.

Death and oppression, injustice and violence: this is what European government has decided upon. Two days’ ago, the spokesperson for the UNHCR clearly stated that the Libya is not a port of safety, that the Mediterranean Sea has never been so dangerous, and that our government lies about the figures.

Green Light For Racists

As our friend Kamal tells us, daily life for blacks has changed because, with the unleashing of anger against migrants, racism has taken a qualitative leap. “People often give me bad looks – in the street, the bar, the public offices. We’re supposed to be the cause of everything bad that happens, and I prefer going to places where people know me, so that I don’t have all those hateful stares gazing down on me.” Today it’s even more difficult to rent a room, or even to have a response from offices like the police station, the unemployment office or the registry unless you’re white, or accompanied by a white. There have been recurrent episodes even in a city like Palermo, but “if ministers talk badly about us every day, the racists see it as a green light, no one hold back any more.”

A., a street vendor with a permit to stay and a license for his business, tells us that people insult him and every day young men steal his wares or spit on them. He considers himself lucky that he hasn’t been physically attacked. The same tone s used by ‘S’., who says they don’t go to the police about the attackers because they have no faith in the institutions that are the main cause of the current climate. “Because they want it like this, we have to be the sacrificial victims.”

M., a street vendor from Bangladesh, told us that he tried to go to the police, given that in order to defend his stock he once had an arm broken – but the officer he went to refused to take down his statement, telling him: “You weren’t meant to be in that place, in fact we should be giving you a fine. Instead you come here and try to report an Italian? If you don’t like it here, go back to your own country.” Violence and daily abuse of power in our cities, acts committed by men in uniform like the local patrols, men and women who are becoming uniformed nightmares for people who simply want to earn a living to feed their families.

“Black shit” is by now a compliment, Kamal concludes, and to keep your documents in your pockets, you have to stay silent and take it. “Do the right thing guys and don’t complain too much, remember that you’re unwelcome guests”. Phrases that echo in the ears of so many people, victims to this hatred.

Forgive Us, Ons

The deaths at sea, just like those in our cities and the countryside, are not only physical but embody the violence, racism and Fascism of these dark times.

We are ashamed at the hypocrisy of this politics, of the lies and the creation of a system that didn’t work before and now has simply become more complicated, to the extent that we fear our cities will not stand the cray of the social conflict that is being triggered.

Ons, a victim of this system, wasn’t able to fight her tumour. We buried her at sea, drowning her hope and that of her mother. Along with her, Fatima, Hamdi, Mohamed, Akrerm, Dali, Oussema and Dris also lie at the bottom of the sea, a sea that has now turned into a cemetery.

We will continue to try and focus attention on these massaces, without ever giving in to hatred, trying to tell the truth without changing the numbers. Numbers do not interest us, because human life is precious, even just one life.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia


Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation by Richard Braude