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Italian state broadcaster RAI won't ban blackface, but apologizes for past use on its shows

Italian state broadcaster RAI won't ban blackface, but apologizes for past use on its shows

5/7/2021 3:46:00 AM

Italian state broadcaster RAI won't ban blackface, but apologizes for past use on its shows

'We said we were sorry, and we made a formal commitment to inform all of our editors to ask that they don't use blackface anymore,' Giovanni Parapini, RAI's director for social causes, told the AP.

Italian state television broadcaster RAI will not ban blackface on its shows, but apologized for its use of the offensive theatrical makeup in the past, the Associated Press reported.Instead, RAI is simply advising against the use of blackface. It responded to multiple requests last week to stop broadcasting shows in which actors put on blackface to do impressions of singer Beyonce and the Tunisian Italian rapper Ghali in skits.

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"We said we were sorry, and we made a formal commitment to inform all of our editors to ask that they don't use blackface anymore," Giovanni Parapini, RAI's director for social causes, told the AP.Parapini said that their request to editors to stop using blackface was the extent of actions they could take to address the issue because of editorial freedom.

Protests ignited last month under a movement named CambieRAI to speak out against RAI's use of blackface and racist language, urging them to stop."Cambie" is an Italian command meaning"you will change," according to the AP.The CambieRAI movement wants the state broadcaster to establish a diversity and inclusion advisory council.

Parapini refuted the CambieRAI movement's criticisms and said"because that would mean that RAI in all these years did nothing for integration."For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.The Italian radio and television public service, RAI's tower is pictured in Eastern Milano on February 3, 2020. RAI will not ban the use of blackface in its shows but has apologized for its past use, the Associated Press reported.

Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty ImagesTheNetflixseries"Zero," which premiered globally last month, is the first Italian TV production to feature a predominantly Black cast, a bright spot in an otherwise bleak Italian television landscape where the persistent use of racist language and imagery is sparking new protests.

With cultural tensions heightened, the protagonists of"Zero" hope the series — which focuses on second-generation Black Italians and is based on a novel by the son of Angolan immigrants — will help accelerate public acceptance that Italy has become a multicultural nation.

"I always say that Italy is a country tied to traditions, more than racist," said Antonio Dikele Distefano, who co-wrote the series and whose six novels, including the one on which"Zero" was based, focus on the lives of the children of immigrants to Italy.

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"I am convinced that through these things — writing novels, the possibility of making a series — things can change," he said."Zero" is a radical departure because it provides role models for young Black Italians who have not seen themselves reflected in the culture, and because it creates a window to changes in Italian society that swaths of the majority population have not acknowledged.

Activists fighting racism in Italian television underline the fact that it was developed by Netflix, based in the United States and with a commitment to spend $100 million to improve diversity, and not by Italian public or private television."As a Black Italian, I never saw myself represented in Italian television. Or rather, I saw examples of how Black women were hyper-sexualized,″ said Sara Lemlem, an activist and journalist who is part of a group of second-generation Italians protesting racist tropes on Italian TV."There was never a Black woman in a role of an everyday woman: a Black student, a Black nurse, a Black teacher. I never saw myself represented in the country in which I was born and raised."

"Zero," which premiered on April 21, landed immediately among the top 10 shows streaming on Netflix in Italy.Perhaps even more telling of its impact: The lead actor, Giuseppe Dave Seke, was mobbed not even a week later by Italian schoolchildren clamoring for autographs as he gave an interview in the Milan neighborhood where the series is set. Seke, a 25-year-old who grew up in Padova to parents from Congo, is not a household name in Italy."Zero" was his first foray into acting.

"If you ask these children who is in front of them, they will never tell you: the first Black Italian actor. They will tell you, 'a superhero,' or they will tell you, 'Dave'," Dikele Distefano said, watching the scene in awe.

In the series, Zero is the nickname of a Black Italian pizza bike delivery man who discovers he has a superpower that allows him to become invisible. He uses it to help his friends in a mixed-race Milan neighborhood. Read more: Newsweek »

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