According to a new survey by Italian polling firm SWG, ten percent of people questioned thought racist acts were “always justified”, and a further 45 percent said racist acts could be acceptable, depending on the situation.
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The remaining 45 percent of respondents said racist acts of any kind were always completely unacceptable.
This is the first time in ten years that the annual Italian survey has found the majority of those asked didn't condemn racism as completely unacceptable.
The poll's findings come shortly after Italian footballer Mario Balotelli was was targeted by racist chanting during a match in Verona, and 89-year-old Italian senator and Auschwitz survivor Liliana Segre was put under police protection after receiving death threats.
Footballer Mario Balotelli received racist abuse during a Seria A match earlier this month. Photo: AFP
Enzo Risso, scientific director at SWG, told Euronews that the poll result showed people in Italy were becoming “more accepting” of racist acts.
“In recent years, peoples' ability to distinguish the boundary of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable has weakened," he said, adding that social media has helped blur the lines.
“With the internet, we've started to get used to thinking that we can say anything,” he said.
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“It is as if people are becoming accustomed to the tendency to use extreme language and language that is not acceptable in civil society," he said. “Clearly there is now a minority who feel more justified in expressing these thoughts."
He pointed out that the “set of contributing factors” included the “resurgence” of nationalist rhetoric.
“”Italians first, Germans first, Spanish first, French first...” is gaining strength across the continent. This should make us stop and think,” he said.
In Italy, the UN last year accused politicians of fostering a “climate of hatred”, saying anti-migration reforms made under the previous League-Five Star government risked an escalation of hate speech and attacks against migrants and minorities in Italy
Researchers told The Local last year that high-profile Italian politicians were making comments and creating policies which made those with racist views feel "legitimised".
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Students protesting against the far right in Rome in May 2019 hold up a sign reading "The culture is always anti-fascist". Photo: AFP