If an international search for the face of diplomacy is ever conducted, the search could end with ophthalmologist and Italian Cabinet Minister Cecile Kyenge.
This year alone, Mrs. Kyenge has been unbelievably graceful with her responses in the wake of evil intent that has been heaved her way.
Here a re a few of the incidents:
— Italy’s first black cabinet minister is facing Internet death threats before a visit to a region known for its anti-immigrant political base.
Min. Kyenge said she was not afraid and challenged Italians to respond to such intimidation themselves to prove that Italy isn’t racist.
— A local politician from the xenophobic Northern League party was expelled from the party after she suggested on Facebook: “Why doesn’t someone rape her (Mrs. Kyenge), so she can understand what victims of atrocious crimes feel?”
Min. Kyenge’s response: “These actions are directed against all of us, not just me,” Ms. Kyenge told reporters. “Surely it hasn’t left me indifferent. But I think the response that the country gives is important.”
— Far-right groups are planning a protest. Isabella Zuliani, vice mayor of the town hosting the event, told newspaper Il Gazzettino that police have already been informed about a new round of Internet death threats directed at Mrs. Kyenge, including one that exhorted simply: “Kill her.”
Min. Kyenge’s response: “Racist episodes exist, but you can’t say that a country is racist because there are certain episodes in the territory.”
— Last Friday in Cervia where Minister Kyenge was speaking to supporters, a man popped up out of the crowd and launched two bananas toward the podium. The bananas fell short of the stage, landing between the first and second row of spectators.
Min. Kyenge’s response: “Min. Kyenge shrugged off the episode — as she has with the other incidents. In a Twitter post, she called it a sad waste of food when so many people are dying of hunger.”
— Two weeks ago, Italian Sen. Roberto Calderoli likened Mrs. Kyenge to an orangutan…at a political rally…when he said, “I love animals — bears and wolves, as everyone knows — but when I see the pictures of Kyenge, I cannot but think of, even if I’m not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan.”
Kyenge’s response: “Calderoli does not need to ask forgiveness to me, but he should rather reflect on the political and institutional role that he carries. It is on this that he needs to make a profound reflection also to then apologize…Also, he must go beyond putting everything on a personal level. I think the time has come for us to study the problem of communication.”
Although, Cecile Kyenge is thousands of miles away, her story is relevant here. Through death threats, hurled bananas, mockeries, etc., each instance of Cecile Kyenge’s responses of diplomacy indicates that when someone disgustedly and vehemently disagrees with your stance, your vision, and/or your will to assist and support, diplomacy is still fashionable.
It may be tough to tread on the turbulent waters of the unknown as I’m sure it is for Mrs. Kyenge, Italy’s Minister of Integration, who hails from the Congo and has been transplanted to a land with which the red carpet has not been rolled out to her.
Cecile Kyenge, with her passion to push forward in spite of what is pitted against her, may not know what lies ahead. However, her response may be a lesson of perseverance and motivation for that recent graduate, young teacher, eager intern, or other ambitious individual with a yearning desire to leap from that proverbial box in position for that which lies in wait.
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