I would start to hint why I don’t like much to be defined as “Afro-Italian”. Afro ( which also alludes to a racial affiliation) means from Africa (a generic location), whereas Italian means from Italy (a specific nation). Yet, this labeling presents a net imbalance, favoring my European background, as Italy was worth to mention but Nigeria was not. What a big hypocrisy! But in the meanwhile, I would dare question: “What is Nigeria?!” I mean, Nigeria is less than 100 years old. It’s just a naming and a series of boundary lines determined by foreign settlers in times of colonization. Still, today being Nigerian is simply conventional, in reality, we recognize ourselves as members of specific tribes (Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, etc.) enclosed in this “nation”. It will probably make sense in 100 years or more when tribal affiliations will be weaker and the presence of an acknowledged common national “Nigerian” Creole language will be stronger (Pidgin is going to that direction). Having said that, maybe the correct label would be West Afro-Italic Igbo…(inconceivable), but let’s not rectify every single detail or we will just waste time.
Italy to a certain extent had an analogous birth. I mean, It’s more than 100 years old but less than 200. Prior to its birth, Italians were an agglomeration of Italic populations (populations living in the Italic peninsula) with different customs and dialects (but I would say languages), and all of a sudden, due to a plan sustained by a niche of powerful people and intellectuals, found themselves under the same national institutions (to explain it coarsely). If we stretch European history, we will find out that the concept of “Italian” is brand new and in my opinion also “restricting”, as to force the cultural amalgamation for a National identity, whereas each population had different genetic lineages, proud heritage, and social structures, but I’ll argue this better later on.
But actually, what is a Nation?!? There would be the need for another article to give a proper answer but let’s say that Nations are something recent, they came out after a long process of mutation of the stratified society and its structured power. Right before them, there were the Great Empires or States (sometimes not that “Great” lol) and you were part of them for birthright (unless you were a slave). In general, You were a part of them if you were willing to subject to the law and fight for the Emperor, to support traditions and attend the common celebration, and sometimes also to worship and serve the same deities (without necessarily sharing the same religious beliefs). The Empires could have been small, medium, but sometimes also extremely vast, encompassing more than one continent. If this was the case, we understand that racial hegemony was a foolish concept. In fact, in most cases, to the ancients racial differentiation was irrelevant (but not tribal differentiation). You were hated not for being black (I mean skin colour), white, yellow, or two-headed (nobody cared lol) but because you were a member of a particular tribe (and culture), an arch-enemy of the Empire (ex. Black is the colour but Igbo is the tribe. The Persians could have hated the Igbos but loved and intermingled with the Yorubas, which are in the same way blacks).
Let’s take into account another clear example: the Romans. For certain periods the Roman Empire was comprising 3 Continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa). Everybody was speaking Latin but as you can imagine, nobody shared the pure Latin genetic lineage, notwithstanding the fact that neither the Romans from Rome did (The original Romans were the outcome of the intermingling between Italic, Greek and Middle Eastern populations). Racial assertions were hazardous and being Black or Brown in a public office was regular. If we deepen into it, We will find out that many Emperors were born in Rome but had African or Middle-Eastern origins like Caracalla (half African). Many of them were not even born in Rome, but in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul, Turkey). Actually, I can mention one Emperor that was born in today’s Turkey but has never been to Rome his entire life once, Which is Julian (Flavio Claudio Giuliano). And if we want to delight fanatical racist Christian supporters, let’s not forget that almost the majority of the first Roman Church fathers and theologians were Africans (and Jesus looked more than likely a Taliban…So we can get them triggered!)
[ Although, even later in the Middle Ages you could have been identified with terms describing your physical features like “Moor” (from Moro which means dark), rightly just by a way of description, it wasn’t conceived as a derogatory term (as it was for Negro in our recent times).
But way before all that, you were labelled by the city or region of origin and not really by your somatic traits, it didn’t make any sense in a context where tribes were continuously mixing with each other, giving rise to new somatic constitutions.]
After the end of these Great Empires, the power structure dismantled and the former provinces started to detain independence, paving in their turn the creation of new smaller states (modern Nations), more homogeneous regarding the ethnicity (hybrids), customs and Romance languages (dialects). States began to be less inclusive and people began to suffer parochial disorders, considering their “distant cousins” as a rabble of a different nature.
At some point happened that the National Identity began to match more and more with “Racial” identity, and physical appearance started to determine social positions and rights. As time went on, this “race affiliation” ideology bullshit degenerated (since around 1700 AD), especially thanks to the intervention of a niche of North-European anthropologists like Blumenbach, who wanted to convince themselves and their own kind about the legitimacy of the German superior race (and further justify the horrors of slavery and colonialism) through the comparative study of human skulls that have proved to be devoid of any scientific accountability. In fact, from here on, they will commence all the extreme racist propaganda campaigns of modern times (Hitler or Leopold II, to cite the most outstanding exponents).
History always repeats itself and human character remains perseverant in its contempt for change. Power has always been our driving force (and maybe is our existential purpose) and personal ambitions or strategic opportunities made the Nations or tyrants wage wars, occupy territories, and oppress the most vulnerable. Provinces were incorporated in other Provinces, Regions passed from one ownership to another, and borders never ceased to change.
Now, after all, considering the furthest “blended” past and the questionable formation of modern Nations, I think that, to the greater extent, is completely unreasonable making racial assertions in a country like Italy, as somebody did in the past (il Duce), extolling the masses about their “pure” Italian race….What a big LOL!
Italy is the most ethnically heterogeneous country in Europe. It’s not a federal state but virtually it is. We literally speak different languages and have different genetic strains with consequent cultural heritage. For centuries we have been subjugated and occupied by foreign peoples. Let’s just take into account the Italian South that during the earliest Roman dawn was a Greek colony populated by Greeks and “native” populations. And if we proceed in history we will find out that for decades or even centuries an island like Sicily has been populated by the Moors, Arabs, Norsemen, Spaniards, etc. Definitely, the Sicilians wouldn’t appear to be the true “Italian genes” holders.
I know that there’s a predominant “Italian stereotype” abroad, mostly due to the 60s Southern Italian immigration in countries like UK, USA, Argentina, and Brazil. But that “Pasta, Pizza, Il Padrino” depiction is erroneous, it reflects just a small Italian reality, but definitely miss the target in the whole context. Northern Italians are completely different from Southern Italians, likewise, Central Italians are completely different from these last two. Culturally speaking, a Turinese (from Turin) is more akin to a Frenchmen, a South Tyrolean is more akin to a German and a Sicilian is more akin to an Arab. That’s why when I hear racist propaganda from the Italian far-right wings I laugh hard! “The true Italians”…massive LOL! And today, due to the historical constant mingling with Gallic populations, an ironic twist is that the majority of the Italian population shares more genes with the Germans rather than autochthonous Italics. In fact, for example, I found it surprising that almost nobody in Florence retains Etruscan genes, maybe there are some survivors left in the oldest villages (the most isolated), but still in a modest count.
Therefore, all of this resultant National Identity is bullshit! Modern Nations are just conventions, they are just boundary lines determined by somebody (as I mentioned before) because of war, appropriation, political arrangements or disputes, and personal ambition. If Napoleon (a Frenchman) hadn’t undertaken his Italian Kingdom project I would probably sing the French Anthem by now!
I conventionally define myself as an Italian, but I don’t feel Italian because I believe in those pre-determined lines, but I rather feel Italic, or better Mediterranean, because I’m so in love with my cultural heritage, the whole complex of populations and traditions! All this syncretism made our history great and definitely paved the way for the Western heyday. “Recently”, the Westerners have been great for everything they inherited from this syncretism. Knowledge and evolution are fortunes that are passed on from civilization to civilization unceasingly, there’s no genetic reason for that! Westerners inherited their history and progress from the Mediterranean Sea, which has always been a commercial melting pot of traditions and knowledge. Being Italic or Mediterranean doesn’t mean identifying in one “genetic/cultural” specific group, but instead, recognizing that we are the outcome of ages of wars, passions, trade routes, arts and beliefs within a wide connection of populations and empires: Greeks, Romans, Anatolians, Phoenicians, Canaanites, Persians, Italics, Egyptians, Lybians, Kushites, Ethiopians, Gauls, Celtics, Goths and so on and so forth…
I identify in every single one of them! And I won’t let anybody believe that my skin colour determines if I am less Italian or not, less Nigerian or not! Affiliation is not determined by a passport (or skin colour), is determined on how much love you got for the Culture and Land. Being black is not enough to claim to be “a real/proud African” and being white is not enough to claim to be “a real/proud Italic”. Loving your History is, loving your Culture is, and primarily, is feeling connected with your Land and having the desire to honour it (and I don’t mean the Nation, but literally I mean the ground stepped on by your feet).
When I was younger I have suffered a knotty identification complex. I’ve always been confused about who I was supposed to represent because my mum is black and my father is white. Since kindergarten, till elementary school, I always tried to stifle my “blackness” because almost everybody related to me as I was different, as I was a foreigner like I was less Italian than they were (except for some kids like Andrea, that has always been my brother since day one and never made me feel different. I got mad love for you!)
In my little brain, my African-self rejection appeared to be the easiest solution. Then, when I grew up I started to feel uncomfortable, I wasn’t feeling free to display my other side! And so, I educated myself and I flipped the picture turning to be a radical pro-black for many years. I never found the balance, I was rather favouring one heritage or the other. When I was with whites I was feeling different, but honestly, also when I was with blacks I wasn’t feeling so spot-on in their context (people in Nigeria were addressing me as a white kid), but honestly, never in a disparaging way as it happened many times in the “white” context.
Many times they were asking me: “Do you feel more Italian or more Nigerian?”
That question was making me feel like a glass half full of a substance and half full of another. Sometimes the ratio was ¾ and ¼ or even 4/4 of a single substance. But after a long time I understood that I’m not a glass half full of one thing and half full of another, I’m not less/a bit African or less/a bit Italic. I am 2 full glasses mixed in a big jug! I’m dual, 2 in 1, I represent both!
In terms of “Nationality”, I’m just Italian and Nigerian at the same time without necessarily giving consideration to my “racial” appearance. Italian is definitively a national recognition while “Afro” is cultural or either racial (even though, in reality, almost everybody relates only to the racial aspect)! It’s a mistaken correlation.
If you want to refer to me in accordance with fictitious boundaries, then the more appropriate term would be Italo-Nigerian. But because Nations, boundaries, and ethnic groups will always continue to change and mutate, I’d much rather be labelled with something that will never change: my culture, my essence.