As we know, the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by the police in Minneapolis in 2020 highlighted the still existence of racism in America and worldwide.
After the case, the Human Rights Council held an urgent debate in June 2020 on «current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests» and the Council adopted resolution 43/1, requesting the High Commissioner to present a comprehensive report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies.
When I came to Norway, a friend congratulated me and told me that you are going to the cradle of democracy. Kristiansand, where I currently study and live, is truly democratic for me. It is possible to see people from different countries, religions, and cultures in this city.
An international cultural event was held among the students when I came to Norway in January 2023. Everyone presented their own culture and food, and everyone got to know each other. I met 29-year-old Cristina (name changed at her request) from one of the African countries at the event. She came to study in Kristiansand, and she shared the challenges she experienced due to her skin color. She experienced this in the first days of her arrival in Norway. After that, I wondered if there really is racism in Kristiansand.
Cristina 29 from Ghana, is a student in Kristiansand. She had experienced racism at one of the banks, but she asked me not to disclose the bank’s name. She says before going to the bank to open the account “I have to do some procedures like logging in and filling all the information about myself. But I had challenges with the procedure.”
Cristina and her colleague who isn’t from Africa went to a bank in Kristiansand. “We waited our turn in the bank. When it came my turn the woman who worked at the bank said, ‘you have to make an appointment’. But I said ‘you did it for my colleague without making an appointment. If it is possible can you do that for me, please, without an appointment?’ The woman said, ‘no I can’t do it’. I said, ‘why because I am black?’ She answered ‘yes, it is what it is’.”
“Everyone heard it in the room. I cried all day. Can you imagine? I felt so bad and like I didn’t belong in Kristiansand” she says. “You had to see my face. I felt underestimated because of what the woman said.” Cristina says that she was traumatized after the case.
“I heard about racism and people share their stories of being insulted and abused because of their color. But when it happened to me I couldn’t believe that. That is why I couldn’t share it for a long time.” says Cristina, having a confidence problem now.
Racism happens everywhere and includes negative traits toward people based on their perceived belonging to cultural, biological, religious, or national origin. The victims of racism suffer from multiple forms of discrimination.
Cane 28 came from the war conflict zone, Syria. She says “One day we applied for a job in a store for a friend who wears a hijab. She is Muslim. They called us for an interview, and we went. A man came. While interviewing, he told my friend that you are covered, so we can’t hire you. I got angry and said, ‘how do women with head coverings work in the branches of stores?’ We told the man we would report him to the police. But the representative said, ‘that it is up to you. We cannot hire you’.”
Cane noticed that people are nice here and respect each other. But sometimes it is, unfortunately, possible to see unfair behavior because of color or having hijab which is very sad.”
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) 2021 report on Norway says positive steps have been taken in the country on racism but says: «Many incidents of hate speech are not reported to the police or other authorities…»
Laura Führer, who is a sociologist, has written a doctoral thesis on race, skin color, and everyday racism in Norway. According to her interview with the University of Oslo (www.sv.uio.no), the topic is a taboo topic to talk about. She emphasizes in her interview that “the public authorities need to find a way to recognize that people experience their everyday lives differently while agreeing that there is no real difference between people.”