The second panel discussion of the Swedish Human rights Film festival started with a simple but needed statement:
“Racial discrimination did not start in modern times.”
Aysha Jones, Founder of Black Lives Matter Sweden, started by reminding us that racial discriminatio exists since hundreds and hundreds of years now. Yet, and our panelists all agreed on that point, Sweden, among other countries, still has a lot to do to address the issue.
Acknowledging racial discrimination : The first step towards its elimination
States have to start by recognizing it, acknowledging the very existence of racial discrimination in Sweden and everywhere else. Irene Molina, Pr. In Human Geography on a sabbatical leave in the United States confirmed it :
“Before looking at the Unites States’ history, we should look at our history here in Sweden […] We have to start from that.”
To acknowledge an issue does not only mean to conduct research, but also to use it, to implement it. As Aysha said it : “to take action upon it”. Only then this important work will allow future generations to be more aware and proactive in counteracting the issue.
It is indeed also crucial to teach kids, to educate them about racial discrimination issues. Today “[i]f you want to learn about the real history, you have to learn it by yourself, you have to find the tools and methods to teach yourself. I don’t think that should be”. Aysha rightly highlighted it, and we agree.
There is one thing we should admit to address efficiently the various manifestations of racial discrimination :
“It is due to their skin tone that people have been enslaved, [it is] due to their skin color that they are still enslaved. They are suffering on the streets due to their skin color. We have to speak about color because that is from where everything comes.”
We should not be afraid to say it and once it is said, we should not be afraid to face it, whether it is at school, at work, or in housing policies.
But first, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms behind racial discrimination and how they generate racism. Irene stressed it :“we do have research” “but we don’t know” about these mechanisms at the source of the problem.
So, what can we, individuals, do?
Irene offered us part of an answer :
We can try and “generate a consciousness about racial discrimination as a systemic problem to understand how racism is generated so that we can start a real work to counteract it.”
Above all, we should unite, “organize very broadly and inclusively.” Even if “we [in the US] haven’t really move forward as words are trying to give the impression of”, we should remain optimistic. Indeed, “hope is the last thing we have to loose”.
“We need to hold nations and people accountable for their actions. That is the only way we can move forward.”
For Aysha, lies in African countries, as well as some countries in Asia. We have to look at the African continent. The Africans will, she hopes “see themselves differently, value themselves, their land, their history and narrative, that is where change is going to come from”.
Our moderator and Director of the Institute Morten Kjaerum said it very well, racial discrimination issues today can be addressed through multiple means all working together. Acknowledgment, accountability as well as mobilization are all part of the elimination of racial discrimination process. We must keep talking about it.
Thank you to the panelists, Aysha Jones & Irene Molina for this conversation. To Morten Kjaerum for moderating the panel discussion. Finally, many thanks to all of you who participated to the event. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.