"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." This quote is attributed to Mark Twain, and while this great American author usually quips spot-on maxims, like this one, I’m not so sure if I agree with him. Traveling ought to defuse Racial Prejudice and bigotry, and widen our perspective, but it really depends on where you’re going and who you’re asking.

Racism cuts through Italy, too

While living in Italy, I’ve heard many otherwise, decent Italians say some blatant racial remarks. In the United States, the racial divide is largely one between “whites” and “blacks”, although minorities also fall victim to white supremacy, too.

Here in Italy, on the other hand, it seems that no one escapes the cold shoulder.

Moroccans, Africans – or as they’re more bluntly referred to as, the “blacks”, along with the Chinese and Eastern Europeans, are generally seen as intruders. But in some harsh cases, they’re thrown in with terrorists, and most of the time, everyone is stripped of their dignity. It’s heartbreaking to observe because I am also a straniera (foreigner) and these comments seem to hit me, too. And in a remark, that was meant to be reassuring, I was quietly told that I had it easy in Italy, because “at least you’re not Romanian.”

Superior mindsets blind people to the good in others

One could clearly argue that anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiments are normal from an Italian’s standpoint. After all, these newcomers are a threat to the economy, the job market and the longstanding cultural traditions.

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But it seems that Italians can’t make room for other cultures – even those that have no intention of crossing the border of the Big Boot.

Italians who leave their home country to work or study abroad – whether in the United States or throughout Europe – always return, only to complain about what they’ve seen in their travels. If it’s not the arrogance of the British, it’s the overt-friendliness of the Americans.

Italians have even said straight to my face that, in their opinion, Americans are just stupid. This was later confirmed when a successful businessman said that Italian students are the brightest in the world. While I’m not clear on the data, that seemed a bit far-fetched to me. And while very few would argue that Italian cuisine isn’t delicious, it’s all but lost its appeal to me because they are anti-everything else and say as much, too.

Now, in all fairness, some of these statements were made by people who never left Italy. But the vast majority of ignorance and arrogance have come from Italians who’ve returned to Italy after traveling away from it.

Traveling can actually lead to racial prejudice

Traveling will only be fatal to racism if you don’t believe your race, ethnicity or culture is superior and better than all the others. But if this is your belief, you can travel the globe and disdain everyone you see because you will never be able to observe the good qualities surrounding you.

No one can argue that Italians don’t have a beautiful country and culture, because they do. But so do countless other peoples throughout the world. And while it’s important to have be proud and preserve what is yours, it’s also necessary to respect what isn’t.

I’d like to believe that traveling from the United States to Italy has made me less narrow-minded. However, in observing these consistent characteristics in Italian culture, I’m constantly reminding myself that prejudice is prejudice. It doesn’t do me any good to try and keep an open mind where the Italians fall short, if it means developing a racial prejudice against Italians.