After the recent gruesome murder of a Nigerian national residing in Italy, it is understood that black Africans are now living in fear for their lives. The killing of the disabled Nigerian street vendor, Alika Ogorchukwu, in the European country has been widely touted as a "racist murder" in different social media platforms and journalistic circles.
The backlashes and racist narratives surrounding the unfortunate ordeal have remained on an upward trend despite the fact that local police have ruled out racism as a motive for the 39-year-old's killing in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche. Alika was reportedly selling handkerchiefs when he was chased and beaten to death. None of those who witnessed the broad daylight attack appeared to intervene neither was there any show of remorse from the onlookers.
The prime suspect - a white man named as Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo - has been ordered to remain in jail as the investigation surrounding the murder continues. A police investigator said Mr Ogorchukwu was attacked after the trader's "insistent" requests to the suspect and his partner for spare change.
Nevertheless, his horrific murder - caught on video - has firmly put the spotlight on racism in Italy. In 2016 another Nigerian man, Emmanuel Chidi Namdi, was killed after defending his wife from racist abuse in the town of Fermo in central Italy. Later on in 2018, a far-right extremist shot six African migrants in a drive-by attack in a town about twenty-five kilometers from where Mr Ogorchukwu was butchered. When the police arrested the criminal, he was wrapped in the Italian flag shouting "Viva l'Italia", telling police he wanted to "kill them all".
Unsurprisingly, this region of Le Marche has been governed since 2020 by the far-right party Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy). It is led by Giorgia Meloni, who could become Italy's first female prime minister if she wins a snap election to be held in September. The party, which is expected to emerge as the single largest, is part of a wider conservative bloc that includes the right-wing Lega (League), led by Matteo Salvini and the conservative Forza Italia (Forward Italy), led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
However, in a series of letters from African journalists held by BBC Africa, it is a common view that most Italians seem to rubbish the worrisome existence of racism in Milan. Most of them suggest that on a comparative scale, racism in Italy cannot stand that which reigns supreme in countries such as America and the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, Italian-Eritrean filmmaker and podcaster Ariam Tekle remains convinced that the country has for long been a turf for racial abuse of black Africans. Ms Tekle says black people in Italy regularly experience racist violence, police harassment and discrimination, and the rise of far-right anti-immigration parties has "normalised" racism.
Ms Tekle was born and raised in a working-class neighbourhood in the city of Milan. Her family has been in Italy for five-decades, yet she feels marginal in a society that, she says, refuses to see her as one of them. "I speak with a Milanese accent but they ask me all the time where I am from ", queries the prominent film-maker.
Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, an award-winning Italian-Somali novelist, concurs with Ms Tekle’s views citing that the country is not yet prepared to tackle the social nemesis head-on. Ms Ali Farah's family has been in Italy for more than half a century, but she says: "If they don't recognise those of us with colonial ties to Italy as being Italian, how will they ever recognise those people who arrived on boats to Italy or their children as Italian?"
In recent years Italy, a country long known for its history of mass emigration, has become one of Europe's migrant hotspots. The migrants are from the country’s former African colonies such as Eritrea, Somalia and Libya, most of which are well conversant with the local language yet continue to be discriminated against.