“We are all the same.” I don’t know how many times I will have heard it said or forcefully stated; I think that if I had been given a penny every time I heard it, I would be a millionaire by now… well not really a millionaire, but let’s just say I would probably have a few hundred more euros in my account; which wouldn’t be a bad thing… in these times… Even though objectively it’s not true. It’s just one of those phrases we use every day to make a point or to express a fairly important number. Kind of like the phrase: “we’re all the same,” which has always seemed to me to be one of those stock phrases we use to get out of particularly awkward situations or when we can’t come up with the right answer to a situation. In short, its use has always left me a little perplexed; not because I am particularly fussy, but simply because thinking about all the effort that nature makes or has always made to create, each time, an individual that is completely (perhaps saying “completely” is a bit of a stretch, I admit) different from the other or from the previous generation, it seems to me a bit reductionist or at least incomplete to pronounce such a statement.
Let’s say that to make it complete, I would rather add a small supplement, and the sentence would read, We are all the same and we are all different.” Yes, that sounds much better; at least as far as I am concerned. Also because I prefer to think that we are all different as individuals and we are all the same as HUMAN BEINGS.
Sometimes it can be difficult to remain objective when dealing with certain topics; especially when it comes to topics that affect us on a very personal level. On the other hand, remaining as objective as possible can allow us not only to have the right point of view but first and foremost to define methods and rules that will be useful not only for ourselves but also possibly for other people … and why not, for society in general.
In his book “Beyond Good and Evil,” Friedrich Nietzsche stated that: “He who fights against monsters must guard against becoming a monster himself.” Thus, pointing to the fact that sometimes in our willingness to fight against any injustice, there is a real risk of crossing over to the other side of the barricade and championing one ourselves, or also defining rules that are unfair to others. In this case, therefore, it becomes crucial to be able to make fair considerations and, above all, to find a method that can guide us step by step toward finding what can be a fair system for everyone-or at least for the elements we are considering.
Already having a certain natural predisposition for doubt, it was obvious that the method I would use would be the Cartesian one and that the last thing (and perhaps the most important thing) would be to choose which are the elements to be considered. In order to be able to do this in a spirit of “absolute” discernment, I would have to “go down into the field” in short engage in a kind of “school of life”(I deliberately say “school,” and not “university” of life simply because if a university allows us to choose what will be our professional path, a school is that part of our growth path that teaches us more or less how to live and adapt to society in general). After all, a few years ago I wrote a text entitled “The School of Life”; a text that only bore the name book but is indeed a “book” precisely though in substance it contained some very interesting elements that would accompany me during this path. I have to admit that some times, I focused more on the substance than on the form… although on the other hand, I can also say that I consider myself a fair estimator of beauty; not as an object to be desired or possessed, but rather as a concept to be studied, analyzed and perhaps even deepened.
“School of Life” then in the purpose of trying to understand a society that, perhaps, is still trying to figure out how to deal with the problem of integration… and that therefore, it was important to make some sort of diagnosis of the situation (I will try throughout this article to use as little other medical terms as possible… yes, you guessed it; this is a bit of a sore point… that said it may sound like an understatement which indeed it is).
In 2020, following the tragic death of George Floyd, in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States, thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against yet another case of police violence against a black person; among all those protesters, there was also the “Black Life Matter” movement; a movement that was born a few years earlier, in 2013 for the purpose of “opposing systemic racism against black people.” Later, those “Black Life Matter” “boiler plate” demonstrations spread nationwide, then to other countries around the world … including Italy.
Born initially as a demonstration in support of what was happening in the United States, Black Life Matter (Italy) then (somewhat) evolved, trying to become a movement for the defense of black rights in Italy as well… which did not turn out to be what one might call a “successful move”. Though perhaps in form it could also have been an opportunity to try to draw attention to the issues of racism and integration in Italy certainly in substance there were too many elements missing; but since, as said before, I have a certain preference for substance, let’s try to understand a bit about the issue of integration in Italy.
First of all, it has to be said that compared to other countries such as France, England or the United States, immigration (in general) in Italy is a fairly new phenomenon; just think that it was “only” in 1973 that Italy first had a positive migratory balance (more people immigrating than emigrating – which consisted substantially made of Italian emigrants returning to the country). It was only in 1986 that the first law on the regularization of immigrants was passed.
If we take for example the case of France, Aimé Césaire introduced in the third issue of the magazine “L’étudiant Noir” (The Black Student), the term “Négritude” (Negritude); a term with which for the first time to address the problem of integration in French society. Negritude was later adopted and developed by other Black and non-Black intellectuals; in essence, Negritude was a literary, cultural and political movement having as its purpose to recognize the set of cultural characteristics and values belonging to the “Black people.”
With that movement, the foundations were laid for what would become the model or way of dealing with the issue of integration in France. Of course, not all intellectuals agreed with Negritude (with the term not as a concept); Césaire himself gradually moved away from it and in fact in his text “Discourse on Colonialism” he says, “I hope I am not hurting anyone by confessing that I do not like, at least not always, the term ‘Negritude,’ even though it was I, with the complicity a few other people, who contributed mainly to its invention and launching.”
The United States, which has a very different history of immigration than France, has also had to struggle over the years to reach the social cultural level it has now; which, and it must be acknowledged, is not perfect, but very much needing improvement. In fact, Black Live Matter, in a sense, can be considered a form of continuation of the struggles for rights that have occurred throughout the country’s history. One only has to think of the ” Selma to Montgomery marches” which were three protest marches in 1965 that marked the history of the “African American rights movement” and led a few months later to the end of discrimination that prevented African Americans from registering to vote.
Mention could also be made of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech, delivered on August 28, 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington at the end of a civil rights demonstration known as the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”
With regard to Italy, we start from the principle that you cannot reduce a person to his or her phenotypic representation alone; whether it is an elderly person, a person with disabilities, skin color, or even gender identity; and as mentioned earlier, immigration is very young and perhaps the type of immigration that for the most part has always been work related [translator’s note: what is generally called economic migrants] has also played a role. Perhaps the factor of language has also been a big detrimental factor compared to countries like France or England where, which having a history of colonization, received immigrants who came already knowing the language and perhaps even the societal pattern. Just think about how young the phenomenon is if you consider that the first big social movement in Italy regarding the issue of integration was the “Network of Second Generations” born in the early 2010s.
Therefore, for this reason, I don’t think it is useful to try to recreate a kind of “Negritude” (we are no longer in the France of the 1930s) or to copy the struggles of the 1970s or 1980s in the United States or even certain struggles of today such as “Black Life Matter”; simply because it is not the same kind of society and we don’t have the same kind of social model. However, it would be useful to take example and draw lessons from what has worked, what has not worked (and why) and what does not continue to work in those other countries in order to be able, starting from those, to define fair and suitable strategies for our society. By doing so, we will (perhaps) be able to create a just and suitable society for all of us… this is simply because, beyond any form of philosophical consideration, truth is a path that needs a substance to exist, and that substance is us as Humans.
PS: I would like to end this article by making a few remarks about the expression ” of color”; but before I begin, let me dwell on two words that I have always found linguistically interesting: “connotation” and “denotation.”
Denotation can be defined as the stable and objective significant element of a lexical unit, independent of any subjective or affective element it may have in the context of a sentence; in practice, we can say that when we talk about the denotation of a word, we are talking about its “true,” “authentic” meaning. Connotation, on the other hand, as far as a word is concerned, is, for example, the incidental meaning, which consists of the nuances of a subjective order, namely allusive, evocative, affective that accompany the use of the word… if we now take the word “Black,” going to consider only the denotation, most of us will think only of the color black; but it is used in several expressions all with negative connotations and perhaps this is why “it was necessary” to find another expression to denote the skin color of Black people, namely ” of color,” which, if we only want to consider the denotation, has no meaning; because if we want to define it, its definition would probably begin with “expression used for….”
Doubts therefore arise, almost automatically, as to why it is better to use an expression without denotation to indicate something absolutely normal when, there is already a word with appropriate meaning (denotation and connotation included) to indicate it.
Gaius Tsaamo was born in 1986 in Douala, Cameroon. He arrived in Italy in 2008 to study medicine. He is passionate about literature and poetry; his first book was released in 2013 with the title: “L’école de la vie” by the publishing house (On demand) Lulu. He collaborated with “Multiversi” and participated in the creation of “Under the sky of Lampedusa 2- No man is an island”. His first novel in Italian “Maya, the world of spirits” was released in 2015 by qudulibri.
Cover artwork: Mauro Milani “Patrimonio permanente – Archeologie possibili”