Not long ago I was sitting on a train from Stockholm to Malmoe. Infront of me were two young ladies with their roots in Eritrea. They had just been stopped in the Stockholm tube by police officers who wanted to check their “Swedishness”, and if they were refugees without papers. The two women were very upset by it, and could prove that their Swedish was very good and well articulated, and after hearing them I can surely vouch for that. The police in Stockholm and Malmoe were following orders concerning a project called REVA. I will return to that in a moment. These women were nice talking to and one of them suddenly got a phone call from an ex boyfriend or something who turned nasty. The woman handled the conflict in a very mature and good way, but explained on the phone that she didn’t tolerate demeaning expressions about people of African origin. A long while after the call a white Swedish woman in her late 50’s infront of the first two started staring at them and said that she didn’t stand their voices. It got tense and after some minutes the white woman rose and left the apartment. I’m white and male and have never been stopped. I can never say that I understand how it is because I’ve never been there, even if I have experienced prejudiced notions.
Yesterday, March the 21st, was the United Nation’s international day against racism. Here in Malmoe it was noticed with several lectures and performances in different parts of town. I went to something that should have been a panel debate between Café Pan Africa and the Malmoe Police concerning their way to deal with hate crimes and attitudes. Jallow Momodou from the Afro-Swedes National Association and Café Pan Africa invited the police already in January and they accepted. The Malmoe Police also chose the date, March 21st. Posters were made, a room was booked for the event, but three days ago Jallow Momodou got an e-mail that said that the police withdrew their participation. They didn’t want any questions about REVA and also didn’t like the idea of several people listening. So what is REVA? It means Rättssäkert och Effektivt VerkställighetsArbete, Law-ruling and Efficient Execution Work, and is a form of so called “inner foreigner controlls”. REVA is a project that started in 2009 in a co-operation between the border police, the Swedish Migration Board and the Correctional Treatment Board. Malmoe was chosen as first place in Sweden to test this, without first telling the local politicians and officials. They have been stopping people in the streets, on bus stops, bicycles, train stations, watched children psychiatric clinics and schools, flats and weddings if someone “looks” foreign, and might be an immigrant without papers. According to Jallow Momodou this method is so called “racial profiling” which is forbidden. The REVA project has continued since 2009. On the Police home page we can read concerning REVA that Swedish police in 2013 got a regulation letter from the Ministry of Justice that gave the police the task to improve the efficiency with carrying out and execute decided deportation errands. The Swedish police also tells us that they follow the laws that have been passed by the Swedish Parliament/Riksdagen, decrees from the ruling government and regulations from the Ministry of Justice. A few days ago our present Minister of Migration, Tobias Billström, Conservative, said in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, The Daily News that: “Sometimes we have the picture that the person which is hidden lives with a nice, blond woman in her 50’s or 60’s who wants to help. But it’s not like that. Most refugees live with their countrymen who are neither blond nor have blue eyes”. Yesterday Tobias Billström was questioned in Parliament about this statement and answered: “To express myself the way I did earlier this week was wrong – and it leads in the wrong direction”. On the other hand he recently also said that human rights weren’t absolute rights for refugees and that he didn’t accept the “shadow world” of illegal refugees, shady businesses etc. The question is what is leading to what? How do we see humanity?
On the seminar yesterday evening pupils and a teacher from Pauli Upper Secondary School had come. They thought it would be interesting listening to a debate between Café Pan Africa and the Malmoe Police. Of course there was a disappointment, but discussions were held. The journalist Peter Herkel, assistant news editor at the free gazette City came and also interviewed some of the kids with immigrant background to see if they had interesting experiences concerning REVA e.g. He made his interviews in the corridor outside.
Café Pan Africa started as a project in Stockholm and Malmoe a year ago and is led by the Afro-Swedes’ National Association. Jollow Momodou said that they also want to start groups in Gothenburg and Uppsala as well. They want to pinpoint the situation for Afro-Swedes, the racism, the possibilities, the self-esteem. They also are involved in the European Coalition of Cities against Racism. Momodou showed a short commercial film on the subject. Malmoe is of course one of those cities. There have been an International Week Against Racism in Germany and Le Semaine d’Actions Contre le Racisme in Canada, which shows that this is a global phenomenon. So why was March 21st chosen?
On March 21st 1960 when Fredrik Verwoerd was Prime Minister in South Africa a large group of natives refused to carry their passports and also started a general strike. The government answered by declaring a state emergency that lasted for 156 days. The demonstrators gathered outside the police station in Sharpeville. There were thousands. The police opened fire, people started to run and as they fled they were gunned down. 69 people died and 187 were wounded. This became known as the Sharpeville Massacre. This awoke feelings of resentment towards South Africa internationally and they were excluded from the British Commonwealth. What were the protests about?
South Africa has been inhabited for thousands of years by the Khoisan tribes in the West and Bantu tribes like Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi and Ndbele in the East. White people started to arrive mainly in the 1600’s. In 1652 the Dutch merchant Jan van Riebek founded Kaapstad. The Dutch immigrants from the Netherlands were the dominant whites, made their own language called Afrikaans and started treating the native Africans like dirt and slaves. The Dutch people called themselves farmers, Boers. But also British people came and used their imperial colonization superiority attitude. Gold and diamonds were found during the 1800’s. Brits and Boers started fighting the Zulus and other natives in South Africa. Then the Boers and Brits fought each other in the two Boer Wars between 1899 and 1902. About that time the Afrikaan-speaking population started introducing several racist laws, to protect the European dominance of the country. In 1948 the Boer Nationalist Party won the elections and introduced a system called Apartheid, Separateness. Government was only allowed for whites. Schools, good jobs, education, busses, health care, restaurants, banks, post offices and civil rights were only for white people. Everything was based on laws of racism. In 1950 the Population Regulation Act demanded that all South Africans should be classified in three groups: white, mixed colour and black. A black person had to carry a passport to show who he was in his own country. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s the protest movement the African National Congress the ANC with Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela gained strength. Mandela and Tambo opened up a small law firm in Johannesburg protecting human rights for native “black” people. There were 3 million white people ruling 25 million “blacks”. The government chased Mandela and the others and Mandela disguised himself. After the Sharpeville Massacre on March 21st 1960 it didn’t take long before Mandela was caught and put in prison on Robben Island between 1962 and 1990, for 27 years. In 1966 the United Nation’s General Assembly proclaimed in resolution 2142, XXI, March 21st as the international day against racism to commemorate the victims at Sharpeville and the foul phenomenon of racism. Apartheid ended in South Africa in 1993 and they had their first free election on April 27th 1994. Nelson Mandela was elected as President. He was born on July 18th 1918 and still lives. Bless him. Let’s continue working for a better world.
Anders Moberg, March 22d 2013
Thank you for writing about this. You are always welcome back to Café Pan-Africa Malmö.