A brief story of racism from someone who experienced being on both sides.
When I think about discrimination, I can’t help but think about my personal story. I was born in a small, desolate, and unknown town in the north of Albania. At the age of five I moved to Italy with my family due to the Albanian Civil War in 1997 and the internal unrest that followed.
When my family and I immigrated to Italy in 1999, there was a common feeling that Albanians were invading the country and causing a lot of trouble. People were scared and the media was helping to perpetuate this climate of terror. Albanians were painted as thieves, drug dealers and killers. I particularly remember my years in primary school. Many of my classmates saw me as different. Even if they were «just children», racism and prejudice was affecting them as well.
The first act of racism I experienced was when one of my classmates suddenly screamed «you’re a shitty Albanian» at me. I was confused and didn’t know what to think, but I felt hurt. In those three years of school I had learned how to speak, write and read Italian. I was a child like every one of them. I could play like them, and I did my homework like they did. I neither felt like an Albanian, nor a shit: I was a child and that was all.
Even though things got better over time, when I grew up I started being the one who was discriminating. I used bad words to describe people different from me without any reason. I remember constantly fighting with one of my Moroccan classmates because of our different origins, mistreating each other as the others had done with us, using labels as «nigger», «idiot Moroccan», and «dirty Albanian».
Fortunately, growing up, I realized how easy it is to go from being a victim to becoming a perpetrator, from the discriminated to the one who discriminates, and I changed my ways. We should try to understand each other and to fight the mental conditioning that leads us to build walls of prejudice and fear.
Events like ISFiT can help people, especially the new generations, in encountering each other and in dismantling biases and dichotomies.
«It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes strength to be gentle and kind» – The Smiths.