By Edinah Masanga
The amount of hate and vitriol which has been cast towards Swedish midfielder Jimmy Durmaz is not hard to imagine or to understand for a person like me. Even for Jimmy himself. He said in an interview he ‘doesn’t care’ anymore because this has happened to him ‘all his life.’
While the hate, death threats and racism thrown at Jimmy are not new, thankfully his stature has poked the thin veil of denial that is used to shield racism from the spotlight by simply implying that it does not exist as a national problem.
I have had to beg people to understand me that I am not paranoid when I say I have experienced racism and that I am certain it wasn’t just ‘stupidity’ it was actually pure racism.
Unfortunately, people like myself and many others suffer in silence because there is a shortage of voices willing to speak out on behalf of us or with us. Furthermore, we don’t have the power of celebrity to make our stories matter and so today while we stand with Jimmy, we also thank him for being unintentionally our hero.
Jimmy, you have lifted us all, our experiences, our pain and our struggles that we experience simply because our first cries or our parents’ were not on Swedish soil.
I will always write about racism
A few weeks ago I shared my experience on the train in which a fellow traveller informed me I was sitting in her seat in a manner which was exceedingly rude and demeaning.
Mostly I have been getting support which I am grateful for. But I have also been getting responses which can best be summarised like ‘she could just have been rude’ and not racist. Of course, no one can dispute that that is a possibility. However, I made a deduction based on the event and am convinced that there was racial prejudice there.
I am disappointed to note that people who experience racism in particular are not given the benefit of the doubt that they are capable of making a reasonable judgement on whether their race had been a factor in any given experience. That view alone is intellectually bankrupt.
It could also be gaslighting. Many people who have experienced racism tell that a lot of times they have been gaslighted and started to doubt whether they had been correct in seeing the racism.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.-Wikipedia.
This is how racism thrives. Or any other form of social oppression. The act of explaining it away. Try to stand in my shoes just don’t take them away from me.
I am well aware that sometimes people can just be rude. That is life even where I come from we have rude people. But when people become exceedingly rude where rudeness is not called for, I start to question whether I am suffering hostility induced by how I look. It is a plausible assumption from where I am sitting.
We were having a discussion with a close friend over wine the other day, she is black like me, and she said ‘you know what Edinah I locked my phone in the car while in a different city than we live in and I tried to get someone to help just to call my husband but almost no one would even talk to me.’
In the end, she only got help from a person who had a foreign background. I smiled and asked why do you think that is? I wanted her to tell me her thoughts, I did not want to even share my own experiences because I wanted to hear her unbiased response.
The only explanation that makes sense why no one wanted to help me with a phone is because I look different, she said. I find that easy to believe.
People take it to mean that you hate Sweden or native Swedes if you say I have experienced racism. Please, only the opposite. I have friends who love me and support me. I am confident they will stand with me through anything.
However the existence of good people and people who do good things is not an automatic antidote to bad things. Or to people who do bad things.
I live in the greater society where the people who do not know me personally will treat me according to their own worldviews. It just happens that sometimes that world view sees people from other races as less human.
For the other black people who sent comments to the social media of DailySweden who have never experienced and enjoy unfettered happiness in Sweden and beyond, good for you.
Just so I mention this in advance, I will always write about racism in Sweden.