Neither Black Nor White

This is my first post this year. I have been book keeping for the last few days and feel the need to do the same with myself. In 2012 a number of debates and discussion with regard to colour, racism, ethnocentrism have made headlines in Sweden. The Tintingate saga, the gingerbread costume ban, and the revised traditional Disney Christmas edition to mention a few.

I am neither black nor white. I am neither African or European. I consider myself  BOTH Swedish and Zambian. I was born and raised in Zambia on a farm outside of Kabwe in the 70s. My father is from Kalix in Sweden and my mother from Mwembeshi in Zambia.

At the age of 12 I went to boarding school in Zimbabwe, then five years into its independence. In an effort to promote integration the government had stipulated quotas to ensure that private schools had balanced numbers of ethnic groups represented. Racial segregation had legally been abolished but racial tension still existed. At the age of 12 I wrote a letter to the headmaster disturbed over the fact that blacks and whites did not share the same showers. As a teenager I experienced that mixed relationships were uncommon.  Racism in Zimbabwe was deep rooted, fixed and had developed from years of supression, loss of loved ones and traditional values passed down.

At the age of 12 I understood that I was neither black nor white.  I am ” a coloured” , a “half-caste”,  ” a goffle”… I laugh. I have not used those words in years. Today I acknowledge this as my strength. My roots firmly set in Zambian soil, holding on to a large family and social network with ubuntu principles where  “I am what I am because of who we all are, ” but also nurtured by a Swedish environment to explore, discover, critically analyse and grow individually. I moved to Sweden for tertiary education when I was 19.

I do not feel threatened or offended if asked where I really come from. I dont speak Swedish like a Swede and I don’t master my tribal language, Bemba.  There is most often no racistic motive in often odd or awkward questions or comments. A deeper and more worrying concern is a growing nationalistic movement and increased intollerans to a multicultural Sweden. Kurdo Baksi in Debatt shows that 72 percent of all hate crimes have racist motives. Simply put, one can say that more than 10 people are affected daily by this form of hatred.

Our opinions and points of reference are formed by past experiences. Nigerian author Chimamandi Adichie describes how prejudices and  preconceived ideas are shaped by the stories we are exposed to, and she emphasises the dangers of a single story.

We owe it to ourselves and our children to broaden the picture in persue of the dream…

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  — Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream” speech: August 28, 1963

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