Culture, “race” and perceptions of skin colour in Sweden today

Not long ago, the Saturday March 23d, I was invited to a multicultural conference by my friend Gustavo Nazar and my former mentor pupil Anita Karroum. It was arranged by Hela Malmö/The Entire Malmoe and Välkommen!/Welcome! You find information on The conference held at Mäster Johansgatan 6 here in Malmoe was made in co-operation with Spiritus Mundi/Dunia Al-Muhabba/Spirit of the World, Café Pan-Afrika, Afrosvenskarna/The Afro-Swedes, RGRA, Give the racism red card, Hassela, ABF, Malbas, Youngsters against anti-semitism and xenophobia and Rättighetskultur/Right Culture. The conference was called “Who is welcome?”.

When I came there we first mingled a bit. Most of the participants were fairly young, between 18 and 30 years old, but also more mature people had come to listen and take part in the discussions. Some of those who arranged the conference started with qouting a short poem by Angelica Tibblin Chen from the organization Mellanförskapet/The In-Betweenship: “Never fine enough, never suburb enough. Never Swedish enough, never Chinese enough, Never hetero enough, never homo enough; Always in-between, always half-something, bi-this and bi-that, a little bit of everything, mixed”. These are important words that need to be considered. After this a lecture by the two scientists Tobias Hübinette and René Léon Rosales who have studied the situation in Sweden in comparison with some other countries was held. It dealt with the attitudes to “non-whites”, immigrants, adopted, people born here, but with one or both parents from another country. Rosales and Hübinette also had written a book about it called “About race and whiteness in current Sweden”/Om ras och vithet i det samtida Sverige. The result from their research was scary but important. As a white man I and many others have to consider the structures in society and how questions about skin-colour, patronizing comments, racist expressions, pictures and attitudes in society reflect the major group’s ideas and power to patronize, describe, reject and exclude. We must however also remember that this happens in all cultures in their native country and has done so for several thousands of years all over the globe. Still it is of the essence to learn from it to make our societies better independent of where on earth we live. Anyone who feel rejected, bullied, excluded or treated badly sooner or later rebel. This too is a global phenomenon. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative to work with preventive work, making including changes in the structures and our own behaviour to make our world at least a little better. It was interesting listening to the two scientists, talking with them and learning about their own experiences and findings. We in the audience also asked them questions and after the lecture we were divided into nine groups where we discussed the topic of racism, whiteness contra other skin-colours and how the attitudes might improve. Those who arranged the conference afterwards gathered our notes and thoughts to later present as a charter working according to. On you also find information about a presentation called “Varning för ras”/”Warning for race” arranged by Mångkulturellt Centrum in Botkyrka, Fittja in Stockholm. It’s held between November 1st 2012 and January 26th 2014. If you can go there – do it.

Later in the evening I went to see a theatre play at the Mazzetti House, a play called “Livet i två bitar”/”Life in two pieces”, (, It’s a play I warmly recommend and want as many as possible to see, because of it’s thought-provocative and important message about life, migration and relationships. The two actors Suzanna and Zeljko Santrac who are married to each other performed a piece that contains parts of their own lives from their childhood and adoloscence in former Yugoslavia and their migration to Sweden. It was a good play performed with both seriousness and humour, and a chance to discuss it afterwards. I met Zeljko when he was new in Sweden in 1995 and 1996. We both performed in the same stage-play back then and he had his first role as professional actor here. I have over the years seen him on TV in different films, mainly as either gangster or police officer. That too is very typical for the stereotypes in how we see people with another background and keep those stereotypes alive. Zeljko and Suzanna fled the Balkans because of the ethnic tensions and wars between Serbs, Croats and Bosnians. People there lived side by side at first, but leaders all over the world too often use the method to rule and divide to create wars, abuse the power, earn “easy money” by instigating and provoking fear and hate between groups and enjoy ordinary people’s agony in a psychopathic way. This happened also in former Yugoslavia. Here in Sweden Zeljko and Suzanna sought refuge to get a peaceful and better life, but the prejudiced notions must be solved here in Sweden too. In all other countries as well. We need that in order to work together and find a better humanity.

Anders Moberg, April 5th 2013

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