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Saturday, April 13, 2024

‘Everyday racism’ common in Norway

A new survey indicates that more than half of all Norwegians think “everyday racism,” characterized by derogatory ethnic-related remarks, is widespread in Norway. That shows how racism remains a problem, but also that more Norwegians are aware of it.

Racism was among the serious public issues taken up during last year’s May Day parade in Oslo. These demonstrators marched with a sign reading “No racists on our streets.” PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

The survey was conducted nationwide by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). It found that fully 47 percent of those questioned think everyday racism is “quite widespread” while 6 percent think it’s “very widespread. Only 2 percent think it’s not widespread, and that’s positive, according to the curator of the Holocaust Center in Oslo, researcher Mona Abdel Fadil: “It shows that more people accept that it’s a problem.”

Frode Følstad, whose Norwegian parents adopted him from Sri Lanka four decades ago, is among those who became an unwelcome target of racism while at a shopping center with his children in the northern city of Tromsø. An older white Norwegian man suggested that perhaps taxpayers had paid for a snack Følstad and his children were enjoying, and went on to tell him that he should return to the land he came from.

“When I asked him where that was, he said Africa,” Følstad told NRK. He added that he’s experienced rude remarks in the past, “but this was something different. I realized at once that this man thought I had the wrong skin color, and that I therefore didn’t have anything to do here.”

He’s far from alone. Norway has become a much more culturally diverse country in recent decades, and that’s widely viewed as positive, but ugly examples of racism, discrimination and exploitation of minorities persist. The good news is that the public is more conscious of it, instead of being in denial or not realizing that it’s hurtful and runs counter to demands for integration and fluency in the Norwegian language.

Long-time residents who speak Norwegian with an accent are also often questioned where they come from, deflating their own efforts to fit in. The Norwegians’ “collective we,” which politicians often stress as being one of Norway’s greatest strengths, doesn’t always include everyone.

Researcher Abdel-Fadil believes social debate over racism and discrimination in Norway has often been characterized by denial that it exists in Norway. The older generation in Norway has perhaps had the hardest time accepting “new Norwegians” with a different skin color, but now their response in the survey indicates they think it’s in fact quite widespread. Norway’s indigenous Sami people have also long been a target of racism, everyday and otherwise.

Ketil Lenert Hansen, a professor at the university in Tromsø (Norway’s Arctic University), noted that those who never experience racism themselves can think that it thus doesn’t exist. “Everyday racism is often subtle,” he told NRk.

Asked what the difference is between racism and everyday racism, Hansen said the latter involves “small things that happen everyday. It can be a comment, a stare, someone who says something rude to you in passing.” It can be part of the social structure, the researchers note, and reflect attitudes that are part of a pattern.

Women are far more aware of it than men, according to the survey. It showed that 55 percent of those responding said everyday racism was “quite widespread,” while only 39 percent of men said the same. Fully 49 percent of those believe it’s not widespread were men, compared to just 30 percent of the women.

Følstad, meanwhile, was so taken aback by the racist comment directed at him and in front of his children that he reported the offender to police, who was found guilty of discrimination or hateful expression and fined NOK 12,000 (USD 1,200). Følstad has also felt compelled to warn his children that they should be prepared for racist comments themselves.

“It shouldn’t be necessary,” Følstad said, “but it’s naive to think that it doesn’t happen in Norway in 2024.”

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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