This last Thursday night on November 28th at 6 p.m. I was visiting Café Pan Africa. They met to discuss hate crimes and two scientists from Malmoe University who study the subject also were present: Hate crimes are usually divided into Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Anti-Ziganism, Anti-Christian Crimes, Homophobia/Anti-Lesbian, and in this case specifically Afrophobic hate. The Afrophobian hate crimes have increased greatly the last two years, even though the phenomenon is far frow new. After the presentation made by the two scientists Eva and Anders Wigerfeldt, Jallow Momodou above presented some of his own experiences of Afrophobia in Sweden and abroad, and also a few of the other people present told us something about their life stories on that subject. All people in the room had been through or had close friends and relatives who had been in situations where they were degraded, persecuted, mocked, beaten or interrogated simply because of their skin colour.
The two scientists Anders and Eva Wigerfeldt had brought some scientific papers they had written for IMER, International Migration and Ethnic Relations at the University. They had been working with this subject “Hate crimes in Scania” for some years and interviewed people who have been victims of hate crimes of one sort or another, added with results from earlier studies and measures, such as those started by Professor Eva Tiby at Stockholm University since the beginning of this millennium. Now Eva and Anders Wigerfeldt were both here to tell us about their results so far and maybe make some more interviews.The scientists said that they have noticed a reluctance within the judicial system, especially within the police, to deal with Afrophobia, and also that in quite a few of the Afrophobic crimes the police is the culprit. Not always though, and the culprit might be anyone: a neighbour, an ex lover, a former husband or boyfriend/girlfriend. It might be an employer, a teacher, colleague, a stranger…Anyone. One of the men present called Ibrahim said that something happens almost every day. Being of African descent often leads to being subject of suspicion, prejudice, spite, mockery and hate. I heard new stories there again about people who had been out driving their car and being stopped, questioned and searched for nothing, not only during the Reva project, but years before that too. Cases of unprovoked beatings, and nick-names in Police education material, such as Neger Niggersson from 2009, and other things. Alfa Kanté from Senegal who was beaten up by police unprovoked in May, had his hand broken etc also appeared to listen this Thursday night together with his girlfriend. I have written more about his case in one of my texts from late May. Another case occured in the beginning of September, a man who was almost killed infront of his three year old son when a gang threw him over a bridge. He had cars running below him a few meters under that bridge and if he had fallen he would have been dead most likely. I mention that case in my text “Stop Afrophobia”. The crime was in the police record referred to as “assault”, which is a minor offence. Jallow said that if a white Swedish person had been the victim of the same treatment it would have been called “attempted murder”, because that is what it was. As Afro-European/Afro-Swede you might be as law-abiding as the next guy and still be treated like dirt.
When Jallow came to Sweden and Arlanda for the first time as a very young man he was stopped by the border police simply because of his skin colour, stripped on his clothes totally naked, asked strange questions and verbally abused. He had then asked why they treated him like this, and only got laughter back. He was that time young and naïve, and when he some years later after a business trip was victimized again on his way between Copenhagen and Malmoe he was better prepared. Jallow now had a much wider network of organizations and had then asked the officers to call one of their higher officers whom Jallow knew about and also ENRA. In 2011 when Jallow had protested against a mockery slave auction at a student party at Lund University the artist Dan Park had put up posters in Lund and Malmoe with a picture of Jallow in chains and the text “Our N-slave has run away”. Dan Park was caught red-handed and sentenced in court for “sedition against group of people”. However when Dan Park appeared in court he was wearing a t-shirt with yet another abusive text in the same style, and when Jallow protested the court did – nothing.
Last Wednesday Jallow was discussing with the Minister of Integration, Erik Ullenhag, since the Government now will introduce an investigation about Afrophobian hate crimes. Jallow Momodou also had asked Ullenhag to make October 9th (the formal day for abolishment of slavery in Sweden from 1847) into a formal day in the calendar and also make Afro-Swedes into another protected people according to Swedish law. We now have five: the aborignal Sámit, the Finns and Torne Valley Finns, and then Romanies since 1512 and the Jews from the 18th century. When Ullenhag explained that Momodou had asked: “And how long has there been people of African descent here?” – Since the 1700’s.
Charlene Rosander in the photo above with her roots in Ghana, despite her light skin colour, Jallow Momodou and some others from the Afro-Swede’s National Association was a couple of weeks ago in the USA. They had been there as part of ENAR, European Network Against Racism. The goal was to reach empowerment, advance and inclusion of Black Europeans. In Washington D.C. the people from ENAR joined representatives from all in all 11 countries: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom. The journey had been sponsored by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIIR) with support of the US Helsinki Commission and the US Department of State.
ENAR emphasized the urgent need for an EU framework to improve the social inclusion of people of African descent and Black Europeans and to recognise Afrophobia as a specific form of racism. The idea is now to reinforce the current EU equality and anti-discrimination legislation and policies, but also to develop partnership for sustainable sponsorships. Jallow was given five minutes to present the problems and the Swedish situation at a Congressial hearing in the US Senate and had prepared a five minute speech which also was sent to the delegate from the Swedish Embassy in Washington. D.C. Jallow said e.g.: “Millons of people of African descent still face severe injustice and discrimination in Europe as well as the United States. To eliminate discrimination against Blacks once and for all, greater cooperation and solidarity will be necessary, including transatlantic alliances through which best practices and solutions can be discussed and shared. The United States possesses both experience and expertice that Europe can benefit from”. Afterwards Momodou and the others from ENAR had discussions with representatives from the Swedish Embassy who said that they would take this seriously. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was of course involved. Charlene Rosander and Jallow Momodou also met an adviser to Barack Obama at the National Security Councel, but also US civil rights organisations and leaders such as Reverend Jesse Jackson.
When they talked at a Congressional briefing on Europeans of African descent in the US Senate they discussed with US Representative Alcee L. Hastings from Florida who also took the subject of Afrophobia in Sweden and the rest of Europe very seriously. He at once submitted a resolution recognising people of African descent and Black Europeans. The resolution e.g. calls for the adoption of a joint US-European Union Action Plan to develop transatlantic solutions to combat social discrimination and promote racial equality in Europe. Charlene and Jallow also met students and staff at Howard University during the week in the USA and also were promised financial support from W.K. Kellog Foundation, The German Marshal Fund of the U.S, Open Society Foundation and Women Ambassador’s Foundation.
The most important thing is to get a better society climate within and between various groups in our societies. We only have one humanity and one world to take care of. Why not try and do the best of that according to what might be possible?
Anders Moberg, December 3d 2013