Italian Court: Lawyer Is Black So Judge Asks Him If He Has A Degree.

Nya Crea

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The unfortunate episode happened a few days ago in the south of Italy. 34 years old, Hilarry Sedu, an Italian citizen with Nigerian origins was getting ready to defend his client at the juvenile court of Naples. Right before the case started, so even before he had said a word, the judge proceeded to question him about his professional license (a card that proves a lawyer’s legal right to execute the profession).

Once he proceeded to show how he effectively was an attorney at all effects, the judge, not happy, continued to ask questions about his degree, going as far as consulting with the court regarding the matter. All of this, without any apparent reason, but the colour of the lawyer's skin.

The unprofessional neo-judge referred to the lawyer in a very informal manner putting herself on a higher position, ignoring that not only she was referring to a very well-spoken and respectable lawyer but also a person that’s involved in politics as the role of Lawyer’s Counsellors of Naples.

The episode stirred anger and frustration among the population, in a country where, unfortunately, prejudice and racism is still alive.

I was quite surprised by the reaction of Sedu which despite all he had to endure, remained calm and cold as ice.

“I couldn’t react because what was more important to me, at that moment, was to carry on with the court case, so any alteration or either any bad mood could have compromised the developments of it. I had to prioritise the interest of my client and her child instead of my interest as a person that has been discriminated”

He probably felt like he wanted to insult her at that moment but reason, professionalism and coherency definitely prevailed on an episode that should never take place in a multicultural society and mostly in a place where professionalism must be the first rule.

“People like this shouldn’t be allowed to carry on their profession and to decide for the children’s faith”

he commented.

Today the news of the apology, issued from

the judge sparked all over the Italian online news-sites.

“We touched elbows because we couldn’t shake hands,”

said the attorney, sarcastically.

He proceeded to tell how he believed the account not to be racist or discriminatory but to have come from a place of ignorance and unbelief which caused the judge reaction when she saw that the lawyer was a person of colour.

Despite his diplomacy regarding what happened, he never condones the judge's naive behaviour which it still goes to show prejudice and a failing multicultural integration in our State.

Sedu’s arrived in Italy at just 6 months of age. His mother belongs to the first generation of immigrants which, anyway, doesn’t effectively make him an immigrant. He is an Italian citizen by fact identity and culture. He has attended Italian school and also played for the “Salernitana” football team for a while, became a lawyer and also married an Italian woman.

Since he was born in the country he didn’t need to be integrated as many other foreigners, he breathed the Italian culture and made the place his home, so it’s wrong to even talk about integration when referring to the young attorney.

I think it’s about time that Italy starts to recognise and treat people equally, regardless of their origins and colour of skin.

“I don’t feel from Naples I am from Naples”

comments the lawyer which, also, fluently speaks the dialect of the region.

Other than being a lawyer, Sedu is also involved in politics so, considering the minority of people of colour occupying these positions in Italy, I believe this to bring hope for a change in the future of the country, better equality among ethnicities and cultures.

As I mentioned in my previous article: “Is Italy racist?” I believe my home country to be a place where prejudice is instilled in the mind of people and integration and a multicultural system is not fully present.

While in other countries I lived in, like the USA, Dubai and the UK, where, don’t get me wrong, racism is still present, the Government, in my opinion, has found ways to educate the people about the matter, for example, we can find a census that takes into consideration different ethnicities, while I still fail to come across the same thing in Italy. “When you go to the doctors for example, and fill up the habitual census forms, they will ask you about your origins and ethnicity, I’ve never seen such thing in Italy”. My country is fundamentally not racist by definition, but we cannot ignore that still some forms of discrimination and prejudice happen, as they are happening all over the world. I believe that change needs to start from the roots which in my opinion it has to involve bureaucratic and internal changes first, it’s only this way that we can start to change the mind of people. The lack of knowledge and of an internal system supporting a multicultural nation explains, but doesn’t justify, why it was so odd for the judge to acknowledge that a person of colour was holding a job of such importance.

Regarding my personal experience, as a wife of a British-Caribbean man, I could not fail to notice the prejudice we often face in Italy. However, my opinion is in line with the one of Sedu. Most of the time we are not talking about instilled hate and racism but naiveness, curiosity and ignorance. I believe that there is a movement and a will for people to change things and that this is slowly happening. People are speaking up, they are fighting for equality, in a world where this should be obvious, but it’s not. In Italy, unfortunately, there is still a lot of ignorance surrounding the matter and a need to change the mentality of people. The internet has raised awareness and “internationalised” people. It’s easier to express our opinion and let our voice be heard in a world where the advent of social media has allowed every single one of us to express our frustration and educate people on the matter.

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