FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Difficult Truths in Sweden

Dalarna, Sweden.

At the end of August, Swedish representatives were questioned by the ‘UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ as to what actions had been taken to diminish intolerance.  Prior to the UN committee meeting, Social Democrat Aleksander Gabelic (head of Sweden’s UN Association) was reported as charging that the last decade had seen little progress, a late-August report the UN Association was party to finding that Sweden’s “indigenous, ethnic and religious minorities continue to suffer discrimination in all areas of life.”  And on 23 September, this nation was rocked by a scandal whose nature brought comparisons to the Nazi era.

Police in Southern Sweden were found to have compiled and kept a registry of Roma, a registry even containing the names of over 1000 young children (as young as two), a registry which reportedly runs contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights (among other laws), and a registry for which Sweden’s Justice Minister has now apologized to the Roma community.  Meanwhile, The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, commented on his Facebook page: “With this file on Roma people, the Swedish State contributes to alienating from society both its Romani communities and other minority groups. The past has taught us that this is a very dangerous path which risks fuelling racist movements. The police should preserve a democratic State, not endanger it.”

Fear, attitudes, and actions

The Swedish ‘paper of record’, Dagens Nyheter (DN – The Day’s News), broke the story, and in a 28 September article addressing events, The Local’s (Sweden’s major English-language news site) first paragraph began with a translated DN quote: “Many are scared and worried. Many think of Hitler, which I have noted that a great deal of opinion-makers consider to be tasteless. But the Roma were a part of the Nazi genocide, just like the Jews, although this is less well-known”.

The major directory in question contains over 4000 names, broken down by relationships and family-trees, and includes over 1000 young children.  Questions of ‘ethnic-profiling’ and discrimination exploded with the ‘Roma Registry’s’ revelation, the registering of very young children sparking particular concern.

Sweden is a country which consistently scores well when its residents are surveyed as to their attitudes regarding pluralism and tolerance, yet, it has been argued that there exists a ‘disconnect’ between Swedish attitudes and actions.  The ‘Roma Registry Scandal’ might be seen as highlighting what this can mean, and an August article in The Local, “Structural racism ‘still a problem’ in Sweden”, provides further facts upon the reality those not of Sweden’s ‘majority community’ face.  Providing harsher comment, a 2011 CounterPunch article, ‘The Dark Side of Sweden’, observes of the Roma that earlier, in some areas of the country, “Roma were sterilized simply for being Roma”.

This journalist knows members of the Roma community here, but was unable to contact them since the scandal broke.  They have blond hair, blue eyes, and shared the fact of their Roma heritage only after quite some time.  My impression is that their heritage was something that they felt needed to be hidden from most, to my eyes highlighting the effects of discrimination.  Notably, earlier requests to discuss Roma issues had been politely rebuffed, my interpretation of this being that the subject was ‘too difficult’ for them to address.

Of course, not all Swedish Roma are blond and blue-eyed, and on 27 September a Stockholm Roma registry, a registry discontinued in 1996, surfaced.  The Local’s summary of the article they did, ‘Stockholm city kept Roma registry until 1996’, reads: ‘Stockholm city council had its own Roma registry as recently as 1996 which profiled people based on their intelligence and cleanliness, with records kept in a so-called “gypsy inventory” (zigenarinventeringen), the Dagens Nyheter newspaper revealed on Friday.’  The Local cited one of the ‘registry’ entries describing a woman, an entry which observed, “She’s as black as the night.”  The article also quotes Swedish Integration Ministrer Erik Ullenhag as noting he was ”ashamed” by the revelations.

Reality and Denial

On 13 September, two of the big national papers, Expressen and Aftonbladet, ran an op-ed article, ‘Sverige räcker till för oss alla’ (Sweden is enough for all of us).  It was an initiative against what was termed ‘a dangerous xenophobic wind blowing across Sweden’, a promise by a substantive number of ‘celebrity Swedes’ that they would speak out against xenophobia, that they would no longer remain silent.  The last time I checked, over eighteen thousand had pledged to support the initiative (there are about 9.6 million Swedes).  Not all the news from here is bad.  And, this journalist was both surprised and gratified when the Roma registry story actually broke – it was reported that police had initially denied the Registry’s existence.  But, perhaps the problem here isn’t based upon the kind of ‘denial’ that police reportedly initially exercised, but upon the kind that allows many to dismiss anything sufficiently unpleasant before them.

In 2012 a CounterPunch article, Living as a “Sub-Human” in Sweden’ , observed of some, that were pursuing arguably ‘inappropriate’ beliefs, that “the most disturbing aspect of these incidents — each occurring quite separately from the others — was the complete lack of malice among those embracing such absurdities.  These ‘otherwise good people’ completely failed to recognize the wholly inappropriate nature of what they were saying.”  In March of this year, in an interview with a senior Swedish civil servant who had run the Government’s 2005 inquiry into ‘structural discrimination’, Paul Lappalainen, it was emphasized to this journalist that the “problem here is the big disconnect between actions and attitudes”.  Elaborating further, Lappalainen explained that “denial, for me, is the key issue”, observing that too many Swedes ”haven’t really dealt with racism that’s part of their structure”.

Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist living in Sweden.

 

 

More articles by:

Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist living in Sweden.

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail