Who admits himself that he’s a racist? No one I hang out with. Recently there has been a lot of talk about the neo-Nazi movement and Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden, but today I want to shed light on our everyday racism. It’s easy to bash the extremists but the prejudices amongst us common people can be worse: so hard to point out but still building hate among us.
In my teenage years I had a friend who was a good, white girl from an academic family, whom seemed to like me for reasons I couldn’t figure; me with my poor school attendance, my many boyfriends and heavy make-up. But I liked her too and we stayed friends up until our university years. What bothered me though, were her intolerant comments. “Slimy Turks” she would call all young immigrant guys she came across. My boyfriends if they were foreigners were all potential rapists, no matter if she had ever met them. “They do that in their countries,” she just said, not specifying what countries she meant. At the same time she was organizing demonstrations against racism, and at university enrolled in a project for immigrants and Swedes to meet where she was handed an “immigrant friend” (that’s a topic for another blog post) whom she went out for coffee with. In her middle class world, this combination was perfectly fine.
I didn’t have the knowledge on how to battle her comments in my teens but I used to ask her if the guys she had just called slimy Turks were from Turkey, each time she came up with the statement.
“I don’t know,” she’d always reply.
“So don’t call them Turks,” I said.
After a while she stopped using that label around me. But with other friends she continued her ways and they defended her when I brought up the subject of her intolerance.
“Immigrants are like that, Jenny!” a common friend once told me in an irritated tone. “Guys tries to touch you when you go clubbing, the girls are bitches.”
She knew this was a touchy subject as I myself had been spat in the face by an immigrant girl on the subway when in high school, for no reason at all but me being Swedish.
“But not all of them,” I said.
“No, but the absolute majority!”
This bothered me more and more the older we got and the comments didn’t decrease. Her surroundings didn’t become more mixed, it rather intensified the white middle class that she had been brought up with, but I hoped education would make her reconsider things. It didn’t and she just picked up more subjects to complain about, such as Arabs all marrying off their daughters in arranged marriages and immigrant women having no hobbies but childrearing and house chores.
I have my prejudices too, I admit it, but I try to work on them and she just stayed the same. Then one day I just lost patience. I stopped taking her calls and messages. I left her disappointed and wondering why I dropped our friendship after so many years without explanation. Today I wonder how I could be her friend for so long in first place. People with these views create hate, which leads to more hate, which leads to justified racism. How nice and sweet and active in anti-racism demonstrations they might be. Nothing good ever comes out of that hypocrisy at all.
Photo credit: medium.com