If you are not Italian in Italy…
…you are a foreigner.
As an American or more specifically, as a New Yorker, I am accustomed to living with people from all over the world and consider myself fortunate for having had so many influences to enrich my life. We are all foreigners at some point in our lives. One must simply travel outside one’s nation in order to be one.
Up until a few decades ago, Italians were the new immigrants in countries around the world. Now, they find themselves on the other end of the line. Although over *70 million Italians live outside of Italy, with 90% living in South America alone, amnesia seems to have set in among many of the *60 million still living on the peninsula.
Today, it is common to hear complaints about foreigners in Italy. Ironically, they are the same complaints Italians faced when they arrived on distant shores. Not all Italians are complaining, but those that do seem to be the loudest.
Too many Italians have forgotten that once upon a time, they were the poor who arrived on the coasts of a foreign land in need of a job. They were the ones making their children beg on the streets, sleeping in shacks with sixteen people in one room. Every immigrant group has been through these difficult times at some point in history. We should learn from our past so we can prepare a better future.
Too many people complain of foreigners bringing negative influences. They have forgotten the negative influences the Mafia bosses brought with them and seem to only remember the positive ones, such as the delicious Neapolitan pizza, frothy cups of cappuccino and Andrea Boccelli. These same complaints are heard in every country with a large influx of immigrants. This is not anything new. It will take time for Italy to adapt, but in 2010, it needs to take less time than it used to. There are also many Italians who feel the same way and are doing all they can for a multi-cultural Italy.
There are many Italians who have not forgotten their past and who welcome diversity with open arms. In fact, the message in the graffiti above can be found in many cities throughout Italy. It literally begs, “Immigrants, please don’t leave us alone with the Italians!” It is difficult to say how many are for immigration and how many are against it, as it also depends on how immigration is perceived.
Who are the foreigners?
When Italians think of foreigners, many tend to imagine the Filipino domestic help, the Senegalese men who sell fake Gucci-Fendi-Prada bags on the sidewalks or the South Asian men who pump gas after-hours for spare change. The Italian media continuously promotes an exaggerated fear towards the foreigner. Shots of Sicilian women crying in fear that their babies will be abducted by immigrants are shown to the country on prime-time TV, but it is an unfounded fear. Crimes committed by Eastern-Europeans are hammered into the Italian subconscious while crimes committed by Italians are barely ever broadcast.
Amount of immigrants in Italy per country of origin:
Immigrants make up about 7 % of Italy’s population, estimating around 4 – 5 million, which is far less than the 70 million Italian immigrants living around the world.
- Romania: 625,000 / *40,000 Italians in Romania
- Germany: *500,000 / *611,000 Italians in Germany
- Albania: 402,000
- Morocco: 366,000
- USA: **168,000 / *17.8 million Italians in the USA
- China: 157,000
- Ukraine: 133,000
- France: 130,000 / *5 million Italians in France
- Philipines: 103,000
- Tunisia: 94,000
- Poland: 90,000
- Macedonia: 78,000
- Egypt: 77,000
- India: 77,000
- Ecuador: 73,000 / *15,000 Italians in Ecuador
- Peru: 71,000 / *500,000 Italians in Peru
- Moldova: 70,000
- Serbia: 69,000
- Brazil: 67,000 / *25 million Italians in Brazil
- Senegal: 63,000
- Sri Lanka: 61,000
- Bulgaria: 54,000
- Bosnia: 40,000
- Russia: 39,000
- United Kingdom: 19,000 / *133,500 Italians in the UK
*Italians in other countries not listed above:
- Argentina: 20 million Italians
- Canada: 1.5 million Italians
- Uruguay: 1 million Italians
- Australia: 850,000 Italians
- Chile 800,000 Italians
* Wikipedia ** Bureau of Consular Affairs 1999. Not including U.S. government employees (military and non-military).
Expats and immigrants: All non-Italians are in the same boat but accommodations vary.
On the other hand, expats from 1st world countries are seen in an entirely different light and treated differently, but the laws do not reflect this. When laws against foreigners are put in place, they affect all foreigners in Italy. Those Italians who are against immigrants may even be partial to expats. However, the laws are the same for all. All non-Italians in Italy are literally in the same boat, regardless of whether you are from the Ukraine, the USA or Uruguay.
Fortunately, there are Italians who are well aware of the full extent of foreign influence in Italy. Many Italians realize that foreigners in Italy include a wide array of professionals. For the most part, foreigners do the jobs that Italians cannot do or will no longer do. Many Italians want to put an end to immigration. Let us give them a taste of their wish. On March 1st, Italy will face their world without foreigners and the entire population will finally understand:
- English teachers: Most of the native English speakers who teach English in Italy are not Italian. On March 1st, take the day off.
- Tour Guides: Most tour guides are Italian, but most who speak foreign languages well, are not. On March 1st, go enjoy the sites on your own.
- Tourists: Visitors are responsable for an enormous chunk of Italy’s revenue. Tourists spend their money at restaurants, hotels, stores and services. On Saturday, February 27th and Sunday, February 28th, prepare so you can save as much money as possible on March 1st. Prove your power by skipping a day of spending.
- Foreign businesses: It is impossible to know how many businesses are owned by non-Italians. Close your store, restaurant, office or other business on March 1st to show your strength.
- Embassies: No one expects embassies to close down for the day, but efforts can be made to make a difference. Business transactions and purchases can be coordinated, when possible, to be made on another date. If you work at an embassy, pack your lunch if you cannot skip work.
- Performers: Italy boasts many musicians, singers, dancers and artists in general. However, there are many who are non-Italian. Striking on March 1st will allow them to hear the missing notes.
- Business Training Professionals: New technology comes from many sources and spreading the knowledge sometimes comes from abroad. Delaying the knowledge for one day will make a difference.
- Foreign Cuisine Restaurants: Italians love Italian cuisine. Those who enjoy foreign cuisine certainly will be upset to find their favorite sushi place closed on March 1st. Doing so will strengthen the effect of the strike.
- Professors: Most professors in Italy are Italian, but for the few who are not, join the strike and let your students miss you for once.
- Care-givers: Italian families may not be able to handle a day without the person who takes care of their elderly family members. If you cannot strike, make sure your employer knows how important you are. Tell them how difficult your choice not to strike really is.
- Domestic Service: Italian families may easily handle 24 hour’s worth of accumulated dust, but once the dishes pile up and the shirts are not ironed, you will be missed.
- Security: I would be curious to see what happens when someone’s large security guard misses work. Let us witness the effect.
- 1st or 2nd generation: Although you were born and raised in Italy, many of your countrymen ignore this fact. Legally, you are not guaranteed citizenship even after you are 18 years old. There are many Italians who have descended from Chinese, African or South American immigrants who may have managed to gain citizenship, but continue to be treated like clandestini or extra-communitari. Please join us on March 1st and wake them up.
- Soccer players: Where would Italy’s soccer teams be without their Brazilian, African and other immigrant players? I hope to find out on March 1st.
- Models: Milano is one of the fashion capitals of the world. What will it do without its tall leggy foreign models? Perhaps someone will take a photo of it.
- Fashion industry workers: What will the industry do when everyone from the foreign designers to the foreign seamstresses cease for 24 hours? It is time to show them the naked truth.
On March 1st, immigrants, expats, foreigners, tourists and Italians who supports this cause, will unite and cease all work and spending for 24 hours. Many Italians throughout Italy have shown their support of a multicultural Italy, especially as the topic has heated up in recent months.
The above photograph states: “Crisis, mafia and corruption…and immigration is the only crime?”. “Your Christ is Jewish, your car is Japanese, your pizza is Italian, your democracy is Greek, your coffee is Brazilian, your vacation is Turkish, your numbers are Arabic, your alphabet is Latin, but your neighbor is a foreigner?” The photograph below states, “There is only one identity, common humanity.”
Whether you are from England, Bangladesh, Australia, the Philipines, the USA, Peru, France, Sri Lanka, China or anywhere other than Italy. Regardless of whether you teach English, do translations, clean houses, do business, pump gas, pose for pictures, run an embassy, perform, shop, conduct a radio show, make or spend money in any way…