tisdag 24 december 2013

Hate - Article in Sydsvenskan

On November 25th Sydsvenskan did a series of articles about hate in Sweden and i was among the interviewees. Among all the interviwees, they needed a person of African decent so I said I was glad to participate and share my experiences of racism growing up as an African in Sweden. Alot of things came up like the n-word, racist structures just everyday things that I, and many Africans jave experienced here in Sweden.
I've been thinking alot about identity and how many people of African decent view themselves. And many, as myself, would never introduce myself as a Swedish or a Swedish African even though you are born and raised here in this society. One might ask why. Well there are several reasons for that. First I have never been perceived as a Swede because of my skin. Africans among other minorities are a very visible group and do not fit in to the general view of what a Swede is perceived to be. Now, many organizations are working to change this picture but there is a long way to go before that view will be change. So I have always said that I am an African, Ghanaian or Ethiopian. I've never ever presented myself as a Swede. Except for when I've felt like doing some social experiments. Sometimes people will ask me: "So where are you from? And so i answer: "I'm Swedish I'm born here". The look on their faces are priceless. After 20 seconds of silence The reply: "But no, where are you REALLY from?". This just proves the general perception of what a Swede is. So having heard this kind of questions will not make you relate to "Swedishness". This is not really a problem for me as I am really proud of where I come from and despite the fact of being born here I don't feel Swedish. I can relate to Sweden but I just don't feel Swedish. And that's fine with me. But what about those who are born here and don't feel connected at all to their parents country or culture? That is more problematic. If you go to America in most cases that I've seen, it wouldn't matter where your parents come from, as long as you're born there, you're America. But i do understand the differences in culture which of course affects this issue. 
Anyway, here's Sydsvenskans article that I was in.


söndag 13 oktober 2013

Fairness of Fairtrade

The good deed of the day: Buy fairtrade products it ensures producers good working conditions!

According to Fairtrades website, the organization is a form of international trade which is based on a partnership between partner and consumer. The partnership offers producers better deals and improved terms and conditions of trade. According to Fairtrade it gives producers an opportunity improve their lives but also it’s a way to offer consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through every day shopping.  Fairtrade marked products means that the producing process and traders have met Fairtrade standards which are thought to balance the power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the injustices of conventional trade. This is according to Fairtrade International’s website.
There are a lot of things that are good with the Fairtrade thinking and vision. However I find it to be a bit problematic when you say that you represent something but only do it halfhearted. Here’s why.
 Fairtrade sounds good, of course it does. But at the same time it is a way for consumers, particularly us living in the Western world, to pat ourselves on our shoulders and have a coffee with a good conscious. According to Fairtrade producers are given to opportunity to improve their lives through the partnership. Now, Fairtrade pays salaries according to the minimum wage of every country. So if you are in Ghana working on a cocoa farm, then your salary will be 5.24 Ghana cedis a/day according to their minimum wage, which is too little in comparison to the labor.  In Europe, the worst minimum wage is in Eastern Europe which is about 10 Euros/day. This means that a Ghanaian farmer will in one month earn what an Eastern European earns in about two working days. One has to also take into consideration the working conditions. Working in the African scorching sun for 5 Ghana cedis/day, is that fair? It’s not fair since the policies and process of setting the policies for the minimum wage of for example Ghana might not even be a fair one. So how can Fairtrade go in accordance with that?
Also I think it’s ridiculous to say that it’s a way for consumers to reduce poverty through every day shopping. Now, we all know the debates that “we who live in the rich part of the world would change our way of living we would all live in a fair world”. That’s why I have a problem with the above statement from Fairtrade. It implies that, “hey my fellow Westerners, we can still shop without feeling guilty”. The statement does not help in changing any form of consumerism lifestyle that we have in this part of the world. Instead it says that there are other ways of going about it. Furthermore I think that it tells us that they can’t reduce poverty without the help of Fairtrade and Fairtrade’s consumers. This in turn brings more guilt and therefore more consumers, so instead of buying normal coffee you’ll buy the Fairtrade brand thinking that you did the good deed of the day. And of course as I said before there are good regulations that ensure producers certain rights.  However it is quite annoying that the salaries are according to the minimum wage in each country while Fairtrade product are really expensive comparing to other products of the same kind. There should be a prize for labor instead. I mean nobody in Sweden would accept 5 Ghana cedis for that type of labor so why is it acceptable in another country when negotiations of minimum wages are unfair in the first place?
To me this just sounds like another form of exploitation of other countries. Because the Fairtrade organization is not volunteer work, they get a salary as well. It’s just a more acceptable way of using the injustices in this world to make money.
The workers/producers get rights that they don’t get at other working places so this is fairly good. At least the working place is democratic and has to follow other principles that actually obligate the working place to include workers in certain issues. And better working conditions etc etc. Of course Fairtrade with all their conditions and regulations will look better than the other company who takes advantage of poor workers and treat them bad at the same time. Fairtrade will definitely look better. However, I don’t believe in Fairtrade. It is unfair and it’s just a way for consumers to pat their shoulders and feel good and wipe away the guilt!

torsdag 12 september 2013

First world issues? Do they exist?

In Sweden there's an expression "i-landsproblem". The expression or reference is often used when we  who live in the first world, the privileged  world talk about our petty problems or our petty complaints. For example it could be that you are irritated of the mail man that didn't deliver your beloved trousers that you ordered from H&M the other day and this has just ruined your whole week. That's an "i-landsproblem"! 
There are lots of examples of these types of problems that exists in most of our first world societies today. Compared to problems that exists in other parts of the world, that is just silly. I mean some people are just happy that they made it to see another day! However, there is a change in this trend that I can see..the "i-landsproblem" have become real problems, infact one can talk about warfare..
Of course I'm referring to the U.S. 
Read this article and you'll understand a portion of what I am trying to say. 
The problem is just growing. For example, the article states that rates of homicides that includes rape, robbery and burglairies, not to mention shootings killing people have increased by 10%.  It might not be a declared war between contry A and B, but there's a serious problem of gang related violence. The environment described as I said is not declared war between A and B but it's definitely a war environment. Children are growing up in war environments in the U.S. Does this mean that they will grow up to have similar psychological damages as people who have grown up in "real " war times? I think so. Maybe not exactly the same but it's possible that it woul be very similar. Imagine growing up in a place where killings, shootings and violence against people are normal and just an everyday thing. Would you be fully functioning without psychlogical damages? I know I wouldn't. So why isn't anything more concrete being done? I mean this is not a situation where one state needs to check if they have the right to intervene. There is no issue of sovereignty involved here. Or is this not important enough?
Recent articles show an escalation of the problem so why aren't humanitarian organizations engaged in these types of problems? Maybe because the U.S is a country capable of many things so of course this could be stopped and of course they should be able to handle this. They put in military forces when they felt like the Black Panthers where out of control. But maybe empowerment of Blacks is not very desireable. If we rise, we'll be resisted. If we destroy ourselves, we'll be encouraged. Is that the case? I want to think that times have changed and that it no longer is like that or similarly like that. But as I have said in recent posts, just because you change a law does not mean that mindsets do. Which in turn slows down any type of developmental or empowering process.
This picture says so much. I found it in an article about the Black Panthers on this website:

World First Aid Day!

Today is World First Aid day. Not many people now how to save lives through first aid (including me, I'm a bit rusty). Well it's very important to know how, if you're working within a humanitarian organization or anywhere. In fact, it's just good to know how and can be life changing. You never know when a situation will come up where this knowledge is needed. It could be anywhere. On the road for road safety, if you're out somewhere, volunteerig etc. Actually the Red Cross has a whole page dedicated to first aid today (I'll post the link  below).
I've taken it upon me to refresh my knowledge around first aid. Also I found the app First Aid by the American Red Cross. It's very easy to understand and has step by step instructions to follow. And there are different categories to choose from depending on what the emergency is. Download it to you smartphone and learn how to use first aid! It comes in Swedish as well. By having it on your phone you carry it with you easily.
Let's learn first aid today!

Red Cross website: http://ifrc.org/first-aid-day

onsdag 11 september 2013

Afrophobia in Sweden

The word afrophobia was very foreign to me a couple of years ago. Little did I know that I actually have been in very close contact with just that all my life having grown up in a little village/town in Sweden (with veeeeeeery few Blacks, in fact I was the ONLY one at my school until high-school in another city and that was not even that many).. This thing has been present in so many aspects in my life. Actually this thing has been so present that it has never given me a break or a vacation..
When I first heard the word afrophobia I was a bit confused about what it really meant. If you divide the word up it will be "afro" and "phobia". I knew phobia was fear of something and of course I knew what an afro was. Hmm.. fear of afro's? The hairstyle? No no, I had look this word that I heard in an expression. So I looked it up in a dictionary and here's what I found: Afrophobia - Fear, hate, or dislike of Black Africans and Black African descendant. Wow, fear of black people. People like me!
I also found the word "negrophobia" which has the same meaning as afrophobia. I prefer the latter expression. As I said before It came to my mind that this is the explanation for everything that I have gone through growing up! It must be the explanation at least to a 90 percent (of course there are people who are just all through mean)..
I'm born 1990 and my parents came to Sweden in the middle of the 80's.. The first time I got to experience my portion of afrophobia was when I was 2 years old. An older kid (abou 3-4 years old) called me a nigger! Woow this little kid had already heard it from somewhere. Of course he didn't come up with it by himself cause kids are innocent especially at that age. No no it must have been an older afrophobic person whom he heard it from. Then passing on the afrophobic behavior to his son who then applied it on me. Some people like myself don't even know that this word exists and that some people suffer from this sickness that it truly is. Or maybe it is a actually not a sickness.. let me rephrase that, it is a LEGACY that's what it is. It is a legace that people of today's world unconsciously or consciously carry on from their ancestors. I've seen afrophobia take on all sorts of forms. Racial slurs such as nigger, monkey, wide nose, big lip, swollen lip, wollen hair and there are special expressions for this in Swedish which I cannot really find an English translation for. For example the thing with our hair would often be described as steal wool (svinto) that you use to clean sauce pans. Or the color of the skin.. jokes such as: "have you showered today? you look a little dirty" or even saying obnoxious comments to me (light skinned) such as: "but you are not a real nigger". Ok, what is a 12 year old supposed to say as an answer to this stupid comment coming from an adult? You can't teach an old dog new tricks.. Difficult one. Countless comments have been thrown out there I mean it's so difficult for me to even understand the creativity behind this ignorance. And then the slurs would transform from psychological violence into physical violence....
Growing up I thought that this must just be these people from this small closed community. So as a grew up I got into contact with other Blacks who describe similar experiences. Talking to them was like telling my own story. Children beeing pushed on the streets as they called the racial slurs about their color, at school, at work,  in the grocery store, night clubs.. Everywhere was and is this afrophobia present. Several attepted murders and actual murders of Blacks occurred because of their skin. Vandalizing homes and a list of many many other things. All because of the legacy afrophobia.
Afrophobia to me is a legacy that people carry on from their ancestors. And with a portion of narrow mindedness, racism,acceptance of this behavior from society and the state, little knowledge, a little organisation it can turn out to a series of hate crime events with Black as targets.
Sweden is allegedly seen as a country that takes care of its people and a stable democracy and a just system. But when we don't accept and embrace the fact that afrophobia is present how are we going to protect the targeted people? or is this just to unimportant of an issue because Blacks are not that many here a in the UK? It must be accepted and thought in schools. Swedens slave history must be part of the curricular activity. This in order to create awareness about this issue. That is the first step. We should not be obliged to go to special seminars about this topic since it is ever so presents in every Black persons lives. This is connected to human rights, rights for every ethnic groups to enjoy the same rights as other groups..this treatment goes on all levels from informal to formal levels and at times, it is very difficult handle. Afrophobia is a problem that hinders Black from progressing in this society and we must always perform 1 million times better to get thing we really want compared to others.

I had a discussion with someone about something that we both actually have thought about since we grew up here. Sometimes we wonder what it is like to be on the privileged side.
- Not worrying about what people are going to say if I go out
- Not worrying about walking down a certain street
- How it feels to walk in a clothing store without feeling extra watched
- Not being asked by the sales lady to open your purse because it seems like something isn't right
- How it feels to be met with respect talking to authorities
- Not being treated as a thief at first
- Not having to worry if people at work are going to be ignorant today AGAIN
- Not worrying if people are going to be ignorant at school AGAIN
- Not having to defend everything about you, your country or people
- Not having to become enemies people at work or school because you stand up for yourself
- Not being called sensitive, exagerated, dramatic when you defend yourself

This list does not cover all thoughts but its part of the thoughts. All in all just thoughts on how life would just flow if we were the exact same persons with the same drive and personalities only on the other side of the road..
Afrophobia is STILL a problem and will continue to be if we just accept this. Recently a Black man in Malmö was severly assaulted and his son was beaten, not enough, they even tried to throw him off a bridge. I call that attempted murder or attempted lynching.. So it still occurs today in 2013. Afrophobia is a present sickness, legacy and issue today. It will continue to be a problem but it has got to stop enough is enough!

Racial Issues in America

Recently it was the 50th anniversairy for Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. The speech is truly moving and a sign that things were not okay in America. Equal rights were not for all. And so the oppressed and discriminated African Americans at that time marched for civil rights, freedom etc. One can obvious see that times have changed but I'm not so sure if the struggle is over YET... You know, you look at America today and might think "hmm it's allright" " it's not like before"..or hey! Their president is even African American, that's a huge change, isn't it? I mean a black person that is head of state, that is serious.. yet I'm still not very sure about the struggle being over.. Many things have changed but some parts are still a dream. I'm not going to go through the whole "I Have A Dream" speech even if I'd like to, however I'll just copy excerts from it.

"But 100 years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land."

Okay, call me cynical but I don't believe it is totally changed. Fine, segregation laws don't exist but people today are still living the aftermath of those laws and those living conditions. I recentöy saw a documentary "Crips and Bloods Made in America", which is a great and interesting documentary. Seeing this, it all becomes pretty clear how and why things are the way they are today. It is all an aftermath of the horrible inhumane treatment that African Americans endured during that time. People today are still isolated in their neighbourhoods, these are the places that their mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers were placed and so they are also there today. I don't think it is rational for people to say, "oh, but you can get out, those laws do not exist". Those types of statements are 
truly irritating and show a lack of intelligence. 

How are you supposed to get out and make it if you don't have an education, money or some kind of talent. I mean people think about it. And cutbacks are made in schools which means that the quaöity of education might differ depending on where in America you live. The NEA states that education issues must be aggressively addressed. They said that 72 % of Blacks aged 25 and older w registred to have a high-school diploma in the 2000 census compared to 85% of Whites. And 14% of Blacks with Bachelor's degrees compared to Whites 27%. One can discuss and wonder about these numbers. Why is it that one is lower while the other isn't. There are many answers to this but I believe that the social and economic factors play a role in this issue. It actually is highly depending on what circumstances each person has. Furthermore the NEA says, and I quote:

The performance of Blacks is systematically different from that of other racial and ethnic groups. Decreasing gaps in student achievement means that we must increase the learning gains of Blacks. This will require the creation of public policies and legislation that support public schools committed to identifying and setting high, worthwhile, and attainable goals for students and ensuring that teachers and students are supported in these efforts." 

What does this mean? Basically they are saying that the situation is not good. Circumstances for Blacks are still not okay. You see, "we must increase the learning gains of Blacks" meaning that the learning gains of Blacks aren't that favourable. And the citation also states that there is a need to create public policies and legislation that support public schools which are committed to identifying and setting high worthwhile and attainable goals. And also support for teachers and students. This must mean that students and teachers are not fully supported in their work. Now, the quality of education could be increased on all levels everywhere in America, but it is a serious issue when people are not provided with the same opportunities. Then it is not so surprising that there is a vast difference in percentages when it comes to the educational level. The people are not even provided with the same tools to educate and get educated!
I mean seriously people who say get up and do this please try to see the facts and circumstances before you utter something about other peoples situations. Ok, as I said before things are not EXACTLY like things were before. Signs (white's only) have been put down, interracial marriages are legal, schools are integrated, black president etc etc.. and the list is long.. I read a passage from Huey P. Newton's book "Revolutionary suicide". Call him a communist whatever you want but he is one of the smartest leaders to ever have lived. In a passage he described the living conditions when growing up. And something struck my mind. If this is how Blacks were living at that time what was the hope for the future? IF you take away a law it does not mean that there is REAL change. For example, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of people around him at that time, would grow up in these neighborhoods and areas. That means that the children of the future (people of my generation and my parents generation) would carry the legacy of all the injustices their parents and grandparents have suffered through growing up in still segregated areas. Meaning that it does not matter if you abolish a segregation law or allow you to sit at the same restaurant as someone else because even if the laws does not exist, the racist mindsets of people would live on for generations, hindering development of the community. Right? This is evident in the documentary "Made in America bloods and crips". I highly recommend this documentary as it brings up problems of the Black community and problems that arises when the mindsets of the society are not changed. When I talk about the society I'm referring to everything that it constitutes such as police forces, lawyers, judges, social services, employers, the sales lady in the store, the school system..citizens of society.. yes everything in society that is needed in order for it to function democratically. The documentary really explains why Black are being treated as they are and have been. And you get to the understanding that the historical legacy is a huge part of the explaining and a portion of psychology to understand why and how people act when they are forced to certain living standards. 
Dr. King's dream was that we would live in a color free world  but that is still not the case today. Afrophobia is still very present today. I mean look at what happened to Trayvon Martins (God bless his soul) and worse look at the verdict the murderer Zimmerman is free. 
This documentary goes all the way into the 90's! That's recent. So what I want to say is that people who are obliviously using stupid arguments to blame Black for their living conditions or lifestyle need to take a time trip back to really understand. If you ask me parts of the dream is still a dream. it's still a dream that is waiting to come true...