Star Athlete Is Injured in Egg Attack, and Italy Debates ‘a Racism Emergency’
Daisy Osakue grabbed her pink sneakers from the terrace and packed them in a suitcase embossed with the Italian flag. All around her family’s apartment, newspaper articles, old photos and posters hailed her success in track and field. Dozens of medals hung from pictures of her family celebrating in traditional Nigerian dress.
“Just need to get my medicine,” she said on Thursday morning, her left eye tearing and bloodshot, as she grabbed prescription drugs and eye patches. They sat on a coffee table next to white flowers a neighbor had dropped off in solidarity.
Before this week, Ms. Osakue, 22, had a modicum of renown for throwing the discus farther than any other Italian woman ever in her age group.
But since Sunday, when young men outside her apartment complex threw an egg that cut her cornea, she has become the bandaged face of Italy’s explosive debate over whether the country is becoming more racist under its new populist, anti-immigrant government or whether politically motivated liberals and a sensationalist media are unfairly sounding the alarm. What is clear is that Italy is on edge.
The country’s head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, who clashed with the populist government over his reservations about its formation, is giving speeches warning that migrants risk entrapment in a “modern slavery” and is urging Italians not to “look away.” Catholic newspapers are sounding the alarm over the country’s xenophobic climate. The left is issuing ominous warnings.
There’s a lot of violence to point to. This summer, a Calabrian shot and killed a migrant who took sheets of metal from an abandoned warehouse, and Italians in the cities of Caserta, Naples, Forlì and Latina have shot migrants with air guns.
In Rome, a 13-month-old Roma girl was hit by a bullet on her terrace, and a man in Vicenza shot a migrant, claiming he was trying to kill a pigeon. This week, men in Aprilia killed a Moroccan they had suspected of trying to steal a car. On Thursday night, two men on a motor scooter in Naples shot a Senegalese vendor in the leg.
“All the other attacks were like a moment of anger, maybe mine as well,” said Ms. Osakue, an ebullient, photogenic and gregarious polyglot with dreams of winning an Olympic medal for Italy, the only country she has ever known.
Newspaper articles, old photos and posters hailing Ms. Osakue’s success in track and field on the walls of her family’s apartment in Turin.CreditJason Horowitz/The New York Times
A student of criminal justice at Angelo State University in Texas, where she also trains (a “Go Rams” sticker is stuck on her parents’ radiator), Ms. Osakue, who is black, wondered if Italy was descending into a state governed by a fear of immigrants.