Sanremo: Lorena Cesarini hits out at racism in Italy

Cesarini calls out racists after discovering at 34 years of age that she is "not Italian like many others."

Italian actress Lorena Cesarini delivered a stirring monologue against racism from the stage of Italy's Sanremo Music Festival, which she co-hosted with TV presenter Amadeus on Wednesday night.

Born in Dakar to a Senegalese mother and an Italian father, Cesarini grew up in Rome and says she is "very proud" to be Italian.

However following news of her selection as one of the five Sanremo co-hosts she has been on the receiving end of racist insults and hatred on social media, a phenomenon she had never experienced until now.

"At 34 I discover that it is not true that I am an Italian girl like many others, I am black, until today nobody at school, at university, at work, on the tram ever felt the need to tell me" but now "evidently for some people skin colour is a problem, to the point that they wanted to let everyone know."

Some of the comments Cesarini read online included: "She doesn't deserve it, they only picked her because she is black" and "The extracomunitaria (non-EU citizen) has arrived" as well as "They must have called her to wash the stairs and water the flowers."

At the beginning she said she "felt bad, then I also got angry, before it passed", however she was left with one question: "Why? Why are there those who get mad at my presence on this stage, why are there people who have problems with the colour of my skin".

Telling the Sanremo audience that she is "not here to teach you a lesson, I wouldn't even be able to", an emotional Cesarini said: "The most important thing is to ask why", to get away from "clichés, preconceived judgments, insults, judgments on the tram." 

Cesarini concluded her monologue, in tears, reading a passage from Racism Explained to My Daughter by Tahar Ben Jelloun, who wrote that racism "has no scientific basis, because there is only one human race."

Reaction

Cesarini, who is known for her role as Isabel in the Rome crime series Suburra, drew applause from the Sanremo audience and praise from many commentators on social media.

However she also attracted an avalanche of criticism online, with comments ranging from "annoying" and "pathetic" to accusations of "propaganda" and "playing the victim."

One person, commenting under a post on an Italian news site, put it this way: "Just read a few of these comments and you realise that she is absolutely right. We still have a long way to go."

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