by Igiaba Scego. Journalist and writer.
A boy, Seid Visin, takes his own life. He is about twenty years old. He has his whole future ahead of him. But his suffering is so great that the fatal decision to kill oneself arrives. We do not know whether it is the result of a deliberate or sudden choice. There are many stories like his. Boys and girls experience so much suffering every day for the most varied reasons. This suffering has, unfortunately, only increased in the pandemic.
The story of Seid Visin, a promising professional football player, is something that we can hardly explain in terms of the news. What he went through in his young life is something that only he knows and perhaps even something those who loved him will understand over time. A suicide or an attempted suicide is always inexplicable for those close to the person who decides to take this fatal step. In front of something so delicate perhaps we who know nothing about it should remain in silence. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Seid Visin. Before continuing, however, I apologize to Seid Visin’s parents, relatives, and friends because I am naming their loved one in yet another article that will appear in a magazine. But I don’t want to speculate about how your beloved Seid came to his decision.
I am writing this piece—one difficult to write or to speak to an Italian society—about Italian progressivism, which has literally—as the Italian-Ghanaian writer Djarah Kan said in L’Espresso—“cannibalized” Seid. In my life I have always found it easier to fight against explicit racism, against manifest discrimination, against those who shout “Italians first!”, “Go home!” and so on. It is something terrible, but easy to counter.
Instead, I have always found it more complicated to deal with those who accept you in words, tell you that they are on the side of a multi-ethnic society, but then treat you with paternalism. And infantilize you. Yours was a body to be used for one’s own purposes … purposes not always so innocent or clear in motive. And this is what happened to the progressive world as soon as it learned of Seid’s death. A boy, whose torments and events no one knew about, was splashed on the front page as a martyr to racism. And he has been used by associations, politicians, intellectuals to show their social network, without much effort, that they were on the right side, using some videos and a handful of tweets.
There was a years-old post that Seid had written against racism—which he was always the target of, as an Afro-descendant boy—and it was passed off as a farewell letter. His entire existence was transformed into a holy card for the radical chic masses. The attitude of progressivism in front of this story petrified me. A young life, that of Seid, was inserted into a preconceived and basically reassuring schema. For quite some time I have thought that Italian progressivism (understood as a political, social, intellectual, media corpus) in front of the transcultural bodies of the younger generations (native or migrant) is failing its mission. One reflex was to note with some dismay that the issue of citizenship, mistakenly called ius soli, was waved as an identity flag after Seid’s death to show “How cool we are! How advanced we are!” Well, doing so was a purely muscular act, which cost progressivism nothing to do. But it cost society.
The legislative horizons of the law are distant (but not impossible) in this legislature. But a progressivism in the meantime could open the doors of parties and newspapers, etc. to transcultural bodies, and promote real representation; not symbolic ones, but structural, within their political and / or media bodies. Politics, like the media, would find immediate benefit, because it takes plurality to understand the world. For me, that would be a real and true political act. Much truer than the honorary citizenships (we are fed up with honorary citizenships!) that someone proposed after Seid’s death in the stream of words on social media. But, in fact, his death is too real for a closed and self-referential progressivism. A progressivism that puts people in a schema because it doesn’t know what to do with their complexity. There is a long way to go in Italy to achieve progress worthy of the contemporary reality we experience. A long way.