DEBATE: Sweden’s claims of colour blindness perpetuate racism, delegitimize victims’ experiences

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By: Dennis Munetsi

It’s high time we talk to each other. Often times I hear people in Sweden talking about how anti-racist and pro-equality our society is but the question is, are we?

I hear a lot about how Sweden is color-blind and as far as I am concerned, as a victim of racism, I do not appreciate that ideology at all nor do I subscribe to it. I do not subscribe to that ideology because it delegitimizes and undercuts my experiences and at the same time providing no instruments to combat the social discrimination I face.

Colorblindness is the neutral but harmful and most dangerous approach towards addressing racism and discrimination. It chooses to whitewash racism with fancy terminologies which have no meaning at all.

Color-blindness suggests that there is a neutral ground in race relations discourse. But the truth of the matter is that neutral ground is a myth. The one who chooses the neutral path chooses the side of the racist because their silence undercuts the legal and political foundations of integration and affirmative action. It fails to acknowledge power structures and power relations in society.

Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge that we are different one way or the other and the minority deserves protection. It is a path imposed upon the minorities by the majority and further perpetuates inequality.

Instead of calling it racism against black people and Africans, we choose terms like Afrophobia and Islamophobia. Its racism, stupid. Call a spade a spade, it’s not a big garden-spoon.

Desmond Tutu once said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality”. Neutrality here does not eliminate the possibility of the existence of racism, it just implies that you don’t care.

The problem with neutrality and color-blindness is that racism becomes our problem, the black, African, Muslim, Asian etc. It is our problem that we see racism and discrimination because the system does not recognize it. Even in cases where racism is blatant, we blame the victim for being overly sensitive and overreacting. Yes, I overreact and become emotional because unlike physical violence, racism hurts our inner-person and as emotional beings, our bodies react to that.

Unlike physical abuse you cannot see my bleeding, my bruises and swelling because it is my heart that is bleeding, it is my inner-being that is hurt and bruised. Yes, I am overreacting because of anger, I am angry because my oppressor is the adjudicator in my case. I am angry because the system that is supposed to protect me is telling me to tone down. How can I explain to you my anger, frustration and emotions if you do not know how it feels to be different and discriminated? I am racially abused on the one hand and on the other, I am being judged for reacting emotionally. My case is thrown out on the basis of my reactions with no interest in knowing what transpired.

It is not enough to post hashtags on social media and show moral and metaphysical guilt. Hashtag #Durmaz did not help to address the racism that he faced because we systematically refuse to recognize that we are racists or rather we have racists among us or wait a minute! we are actually allowing the propagation of racism by denying the victims safe spaces to vent their grief.

We ought to talk to each other about this before it is too late. I am not asking you to just listen and believe what I am saying, but can we at least talk about it? Shall we openly without prejudice, have an open discourse and critically look into this matter? Can we at least debate it? Agree and disagree on the matter–at least in the end we will come out better and a different people. Because, if we continue preaching the colorblindness gospel yet the reality on the ground is showing otherwise, we have chosen the side of the oppressor. If we choose to silence the voices of the victims, we are ourselves are the worst oppressors and history will judge us.

Dennis Munetsi is a student in International Migration and Ethnic Relations at Malmö university

 

1 COMMENT

  1. There isn’t any other way to put it, it’s just #RACISM. The way it’s being handled doesn’t only harm but kills the victims. It’s high time those making the laws create some victim friendly laws that will help address and at the same time extremely punish the perpetrators. This issue of judging the victims by the physical response has to STOP.

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