SHARE
COPY LINK
LUND SLAVE AUCTION FALLOUT

RACISM

Making fun of slavery belittles black people

The dropping of a hate speech case against students who staged a "slave auction" at Lund University clears the way for racists and contravenes Swedish human rights commitments, representatives from anti-racism groups argue.

Making fun of slavery belittles black people

Slavery was one of the largest and most horrible crimes ever committed against humanity.

In the course of 300 years, 30 million slaves were forcibly moved from Africa under terrible suffering, hunger and torture. Men, women and children were killed during the shipments. It is estimated that 20 million people died as a result of slavery.

Despite these facts, a group of students, at Hallands Nation, an association for students at Lund University, in 2011, organised a violation of a people based on them being black, their African origin and their historic link to slavery.

At a party planned by Hallands Nation, a number of students made themselves up to look like “negroes”, complete with wigs with afro hair.

Those pretending to be Africans were led in bound at the neck with a rope. They were led by another student posing as a slave trader. He held a simulated auction with the “African slaves” in front of a hundred or so people who placed bids for “the slaves”. One spectator asked the actors what it is they do. The answer was “I am a nigger”.

For almost thirty years the statute book’s definition of hate speech has been regulated by government proposition 1986/87:151.

The key issue in deciding responsibility for hate speech is how to prevent an ethnic group being treated and regarded as of less value in relation to other groups without curtailing the broad scope which is required for an open debate.

It is also a question of retaining freedom of speech at the same time as protection against hate speech is maintained. It also states that the only views that should be criminalized are those which aim to belittle an ethnic group’s identity or to undermine equality based on race, colour or ethnic origin.

The proposition in question also removed the requirement that hate speech has to occur in a public place. It also mentions specifically that “the spread of racist and similar statements within an association” should also be subject to penalty.

Despite this, the district prosecutor Mattias Larsson in Malmö has decided to drop the case of hate speech against the students who dressed up as “negro slaves” and “slave traders”.

The prosecutor has described this incident as “a costume party” and thus did not deem the actions to be criminal.

A similarly enjoyable costume party could run like this: Let a number of students dress up as Jews who enter a gas chamber to be executed. In what way does the crime against humanity that is slavery differ from the crime of the Holocaust? Is one more fun than the other in the eyes of the prosecutor?

Or why not stage how people were killed by the atom bombs which fell on Japan? That is surely at least as fun as how millions of Africans died during slavery?

The issue is of course whether we should, silently and passively, accept and belittle the genocide and enslavement of tens of millions of black people in Africa? What type of people would this thus make us?

In international law, expressed by the European Convention on Fundamental Human Rights and interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights in cases such as Jersild v. Denmark (1994), Gündüz v. Turkey (2003), Erbakan v. Turkey (2006), shows that it is “of essential importance to combat racial discrimination in all its forms and expressions”.

The court also establishes that “on principle it can be justified for some democratic states to punish and even prevent all forms of expression which spread, call, advocate or justify hatred based on intolerance.”

This is also covered in the Council of Europe handbook covering so-called “hate-speech”, which details the relation to freedom of expression and present a compilation of relevant judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.

The prosecutor Mattias Larsson should know that his legal interpretation is contrary to a reasoning put forward by our legislators in the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag.

Through his behavior, Mattias Larsson, has now paved the way for people in Sweden to systematically violate international law without reaction from the judiciary.

Prosecutor Mattias Larsson paves the way for people dressed up as SS guards to stage the gassing of Jews, just for fun.

If we, each and every one of us, are not protected by the judiciary, when tragedies in our individual or shared histories are used to humiliate us, then none of us are going to be protected from ridicule, contempt and finally hatred.

We have thus a horrible development in front of us. The decision by the prosecutor in Malmö allows for racists to neglect their responsibilities.

Jallow Momodou, Kitimbwa Sabuni (Afro-Swedish Association), Mariam Osman Sharify (Centre against racism), Thabo Muso, Barakat Ghebrhawariat.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

RACISM

Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, survey finds

In the Afrocensus, a first-of-its-kind survey charting the lived experiences of black people in Germany, the vast majority revealed they experienced 'extensive' discrimination in almost all aspects of public life.

Dr Karamba Diaby
Dr Karamba Diaby, an SPD politician and anti-racism advocate, carries out voluntary work in his constituency of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“The results of the Afrocensus indicate that anti-Black racism is widespread in Germany and anchored in institutions,” the authors of the new report said in a press release on Tuesday. “There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems.”

Though the overwhelming majority of respondents said they had experienced discrimination at least ‘sometimes’ in almost all areas of life, housing was the area where they said they were discriminated against most often.

Just two percent of respondents to the Afrocensus said they had ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ experienced racism in the housing market, compared to more than 90 percent who said they had experienced it ‘often’ or ‘very often’.

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

Experiences with police and security personnel also counted among areas of life where racism was particularly prevalent: 88 percent of respondents had experienced discrimination from security staff ‘often’ or ‘very often’, while around 85 percent had had the same experience with police.

More than 85 percent had also experienced racism in their education or in the workplace ‘often’ or ‘very often’ in Germany. One in seven had lost their job during the Covid crisis. 

According to the report, 90 percent of respondents had also experienced having their hair grabbed, while more than half (56 percent) had been stopped by the police or asked for drugs by strangers.

Meanwhile, 80 percent said people had made comments about the colour of their skin or sexualised comments about their race on dating apps. A vast majority – 90 percent – also revealed they hadn’t been believed when they’d spoken out about racism in the past, or that people had said they were “too sensitive”. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: My experiences of everyday racism in Germany

In spite of widespread discrimination, almost half (47 percent) of the respondents were engaged and active in their community – mostly carrying out some form of social or voluntary work.

First of its kind

Based on wide-ranging data, the findings paint a vivid and concerning picture of what life is like for the one million or so black people living in Germany today.

To produce the report, researchers from Berlin-based Black community group Each One Teach One and Citizens for Europe conducted an extended survey of 6,000 black people from the Africans and Afrodiasporic community to try and discover more about on the everyday lives and experiences of this group. The survey was carried out between July and September 2020. 

It represents one of the first attempts to gather a wealth of quantitative data on this subject, and as such offers some of the first truly scientific insights into anti-Black racism in modern Germany.

“With the Afrocensus, we have succeeded in doing exactly what has long been demanded within the black community for a long time: making the realities of our lives visible within the framework of qualitative, but above all quantitative research,” Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana und Dr. Karamba Diaby wrote in a foreword to the report. 

Diaby, a high-profile politician within the centre-left SPD party, was one of only two Afro-German politicians in parliament when he first took his seat in 2013. He has since become known for promoting political engagement and empowerment within the migrant and black community. 

In January 2020, an unknown gunman fired shots through the window of his constituency office in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, in a suspected racially motivated attack. 

READ ALSO: How people with migrant backgrounds remain underrepresented in German politics

Since the Second World War, Germany has avoided gathering data that allows people to be traced by ethnicity as a means of protecting persecuted groups.

However, critics say this approach only works to make the issues faced by these groups invisible. 

Writing on Twitter, Daniel Gyamerah, Division Lead at Citizens For Europe, called for an “action plan for tackling anti-Black racism and for empowering black, African and Afrodiasporic people” and the establishment of advice centres for people facing racism and discrimination.

More research into the intersectional experience of black people in Germany is needed, he added. 

SHOW COMMENTS