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Why the memes published by minister Di Maio are so upsetting

Black face, especially in the form of humor or irony, remains offensive, especially by a Foreign Minister

Why the memes published by minister Di Maio are so upsetting Black face, especially in the form of humor or irony, remains offensive, especially by a Foreign Minister

Just a mere two months after what The New York Times described as the world’s largest movement in U.S history, where crowds from all over the world including Italy took to the streets to march for Black Lives, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio a few hours ago published a reel of memes via his official instagram account. This also comes only a week after instagram and facebook officially announced they would officially be blocking black face content as hate symbols.

The caption “guys.. I promise next summer I’ll put on sunscreen , and thank you for making this day lighter for me,”  the minister posted a series of four memes of himself photoshopped in historically black films or moments with his skin darkened to match the bodies that they’re on.  The original photoshopped images surfaced from Twitter where an ignorant group of users intended to joke about Di Maio’s dark tan, which he then came across and reposted. The first meme of the carousel is - not so ironically - the Micheal Jordan iconic Jump, and in the exact same moment when the Minister was publishing the meme, the NBA players were deciding to boycott the League in order to raise awareness about the BLM protests. 

One would hope to say that the Italian Minister posting racist content comes as a shocking surprise but unfortunately it does not. Italian politics has a rich and recent history of overt and covert racism: from Salvini’s statements to Berlusconi’s infamous joke about tan after visiting the White House during the Obama presidency, the Italian politicians still don’t know what is acceptable and unacceptable.
Di Maio is not Italy’s first public figure to be caught sporting blackface in the past five years, names like comedian Gabriele Pellegrin aka Dado, singer Roberta Bonnona  Politician Gianluca Buonanno, musicians Palla and Chiatta and even airline company Alitalia have been caught guilty of the act. 

14 hours and 3,000 comments later, he still seems completely unaware of what is going on, to the point where he has even made another post encouraging people to vote. The fact that the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs — the man whose jobs is to be a bridge between Italy and foreign countries and cultures — does not know or care about the origins of blackface and racial insensitivity in 2020,  simply means he is unqualified for his job, and if you think otherwise you are a huge part of the problem. 

Thankfully however, in his comment section, users have been letting him know about the gravity of his actions. Marcelo Burlon, for instance, said: “ YOU ARE A SHAME. YOUR IGNORANCE HAS NO LIMITS. YOU SHOULD REMOVE THESE PHOTOS AND APOLOGIZE. And the people who tell you "beautiful self-irony" are as ignorant as you are.” 

Even though a great number of these comments are condemning Di Maio for his actions, there are also a great deal of people who are defending him in the name of humour, which makes the incident even more frightening in regards to the level of racial ignorance which exists in the country, and knowing that it starts from the head and trickles all the way down.  If it’s one thing that it also highlights it’s the vast distance between the current outdated moral character of Di Maio and other politicians compared to what is the current contemporary reality, which thankfully will likely end up depriving them of the votes and support of the younger demographic.