“Imbarazzismi"

Kossi-Komla-Ebri

IMBARAZZISMI

 

Prima edizione
"Imbarazzismi quotidani imbarazzi in bianco e nero" - Edizioni dell'Arco-Marna 2002

Prima edizione
Imbarazzismi quotidani imbarazzi in bianco e nero...e a colori" - Edizioni dell'Arco-Marna 2002

Seconda edizione
"Imbarazzismi" - Edizioni S.U.I. 2013

Terza edizione
Maggio 2018
"Imbarazzismi" - Edizioni TOUBA CULTURALE ITALY srl
via Cesare Battisti 1b 20854 Vedano al Lambro (MB)
toubaculturaleitaly@libero.it
+39 3804788847


Progetto grafico e impaginazione:
Alessandra Carcano
Stampato in Italia 2018
proprietà letteraria riservata
© Touba Culturale Italy srl

www.toubaculturaleitaly.wordpress.com

È vietata la riproduzione, anche parziale, con qualsiasi mezzo effettuata, compresa la fotocopia, anche ad uso interno o didattico, non autorizzata.


PREFACE

Every person of color living in Italy has his or her own rich repetoire of “embar-race-ments.” This astute neologism coined by Kossi Komla-Ebri serves to describe situations that don’t enter into the category of violent, cruel, or even intentional discrimination, but are more those episodes of small-caliber racism, episodes that occur without the perpetrator even realizing it.

     An “embar-race-ment,” like an offensive faux pas, creates uneasiness. Like a Freudian slip, it reveals repressed judgements and prejudices. And while each of these episodes might not be considered serious, “emba-race-ments” wound their victims, because they occur daily and because they illustrate a common mentality that is packed with stereotypes.

     How can this mentality be overcome? The first step in defeating prejudice is to know how to recognize it. We must admit that each one of us has our own prejudices, and we must therefore learn to identify them and be willing to re-evaluate them, widening our understanding and measuring our prejudices against factual reality.

     This collection of comical, acrid, and razor-sharp anectdotes helps us to unmask our ethnocentrism and stereotypes with irony, that gentle but effective weapon against latent racism.

     This volume by the Italian-Togolese writer and practicing physician Kossi Komla-Ebri reminds us that there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to construct a society and a citizenry that is truly inclusive of minorities and individuals of different origins, but we must also acknowledge that the current mentality is shifting and to a degree, has already shifted.

     Italian society is undergoing a rapid transformation: the protagonists of these short stories collected by Kossi Komla-Ebri stand in contrast to those individuals who are still disoriented by a multicultural Italy. At the same time, there are also many interracial marriages, adoptive families,

and groups of friends consisting of individuals from many different nationalities. This is a Nation. Thus, in the bonds of friendship as well as in the interactions in civil society, skin color, just like hair color, must be regarded merely as a question of melanin. A Nation where the differences of every fellow citizen can potentially become a treasure.

The Honorable Cécile Kyenge

Italian Minister of Integration

“HEY, BEL NEGRO, DO YOU WANT TO MAKE A FEW CENTS?”

One day I was coming out of the supermarket with my wife, a native Italian. We had bought enough groceries to fill two carts. After loading everything into the trunk, my wife pushed the carts over to me to take back inside.

     I was walking back with both carts when I heard from behind me a “Hey! Hey!” and fingers snapping. I turned and saw a middle-aged man motioning me over with his finger and gesturing that he wanted to push his cart over to me. I looked at him with an expression that my wife describes as “thunder and lightning.”

     The look must have spoken eloquently because I saw him take his own cart and return it himself.

     Obviously, seeing the color of my skin, and seeing how a woman had given the carts to me, the gentleman had made the calculation: “Negro + carts = impoverished illegal alien eking out a living.”

     When I got back to my car, I saw my better half (who knows how touchy I am) in contortions of laughter. I had to laugh, too.

     Now every time we go shopping, my wife pushes the cart over to me with a wink and says, “Hey, bel negro, do you want to make a few cents?”

GEOGRAPHY LESSON

One winter day when I was in medical school, I was riding on a Northern Line commuter train in one of those horrible over-heated cars where the only relief from the temperature is to discretely shift weight from one buttock to the other.

     As usual, the passengers took all available places farthest from me.

Only when there was no other choice left, out of desperation, someone would come and sit beside me.

     An elderly gentleman sat down in the seat opposite. I could see that he wanted to button-hole me, so I took refuge in my book to avoid the ususual police-style interrogation (always using the too familiar “tu” form): “Where’re you from?” “What are you doing in Italy?” “What’s your religion?”

     The man across from me was clearly a veteran button-holer.

     He started off with, “Hallo! America?”

     I responded with dignified silence.

     “You talk my language?”

     I nodded “yes,” silently but that didn’t seem to discourage him.

     "You Africa?”

     Patiently, I nodded another “yes,” and taking my resigned silence as a form of tacit consent, he forged forward with his interrogation:

     “Where Africa?”

     I heard my own voice responding, “Togo.”

     Usually at this point most people say, “Togo? Where’s that?” or in an effort to hide their ignorance of African geography, they’ll give me a vague, “Ah!” of recognition, though we both know they’re probably thinking of the Togo brand cookies.

     And they’re right. How’s anyone supposed to keep track of an entire conquistator-ed continent with countries that change names overnight with every overthrown government?

     After furrowing his brow in intense silent reflection, the face of my perspicacious tormentor lit up with a smile of compassion as he attempted to explain to me patiently,

     “Ah, your dialect maybe say ‘Togo,’ but Italian say ‘Congo.’ You understand? You from Congo!!”

     Yes, I understood more than you know, and by the way, thank you for the geography lesson!

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