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Racism, especially toward Asians, is a huge problem in Norway», according to Jimin Nam
 
 

As an Asian international student from South Korea living on the west side of Oslo for 1.5 year, I faced many horrible things in the streets that white students would not have: people giggling at my face from a distance, white kids stopping me and asking «can you speak English?» with laughter, white people telling me to leave the country since I don’t speak Norwegian, white teenagers throwing little rocks at me, a white man grabbing my arm in the street while I was walking because he found me «cute», white people imitating Korean words spoken by me and my Korean friends, white men randomly shouting «ching-chang-cong» – a racial slur to demean Asians – at me in the street for taking pictures of the flowers.

Similar stories continue among other Asian women: A Korean female friend of mine received unwelcoming, obsessively persistent and rude gazes wherever she was holding hands with her white Norwegian boyfriend in Oslo. A white old man once made her uncomfortable by staring at her from head to toe in a bookstore; she glanced at him, a polite way telling to stop, but his gaze did not stop. Another Korean female friend of mine was asked «from where were you sold?» at the metro by an old white man. Even at school, some drunk white male students at the square of UiO campus approached me throwing random racial slurs like «nihao» during the party season – would they have approached me with such mocking attitude if I were white?

No. I was just a funny-looking, easy target for them to play with.

Another Korean female friend of mine was asked «from where were you sold?» at the metro by an old white man.

Why can’t this problem be stopped? «Not all people here are racist» is not a valid argument – it is no different from the #notallmen rhetoric against feminists’ attempt to recognize sexual violence issues as public, not as private issues. Racism, especially toward Asians, is a huge problem in Norway, even in the so-called multicultural city, Oslo.

Considering Norwegian culture where people’s spatial privacy is strictly valued, it is hard to believe that these explicit street harassments, including rude stares, are irrelevant to my ethnicity. I easily became an exception of this culture and lost the basic right to be respected while walking down the street peacefully because of how I look. Such dehumanizing street harassments make a person think that she is nothing but her ethnicity and skin color. It makes her extremely conscious of how she looks in the street, changing her from a subject who sees the world to a mere object to be seen.

She learns that the way how her face looks is something to be giggled, laughed, grabbed, yelled, mocked and gazed at, and causing racial slurs. My safe space was reduced every time I encountered street harassments, being only left with my room where racial harassments did not happen: no more photo-taking in the street although I found a beautiful flower, and no more walking to Joker Nordberg to receive parcels from my parents in South Korea.

In every attempt of sharing these outraging experiences, I had to shrink after intuitively feeling the atmosphere of Norway where criticism to the society is not welcomed. I had to challenge Norwegians’ strong belief that Norway is a racism-and-sexism-free utopia. People were also genuinely afraid of engaging in any form of discussion, although racism is clearly a right or wrong issue. The voice of support and empathy barely existed amid Norwegian cultural tendency to block out criticism toward Norway and to remain in denial. I scratched all my feeble courage to speak up, but I barely heard back the voice of empathy or mutual anger. It was truly a lonely time.

One of my second-generation Asian immigrant friends in Norway yelled «that is so racist!» after listening to my experiences with redden face but also had a hard time believing it like other white people. However, she later remembered hearing racial slurs such as «ching-chang-chong» during her high school years in Oslo by schoolmates. My naïve shoutout from not fully reading the social code of Norway to remain silent woke up a lot of disturbing memories of my Norwegian-Asian friends.

South Korean exchange students at UiO also complained to me that they had to hear «nihao» or «ching-chang-chong» when they were just walking the streets. Although I have not met one at campus, they also problematized some yellow-fever white males at campus who were obsessed with getting Asian girlfriends, deliberately approaching only Asian women. Many Norwegian men that I met through dating apps were also yellow-fever, who occasionally viewed me not as a person, Nam JiMin, but as this «Asian chick» that they have dreamed of from watching animations. It is truly a social problem that certain ethnicity can become a sexual fetish. It simplifies a person to an «Asian» while you want to be recognized as someone with multi-dimensional personality, in other words, simply a human being.

The problem is bigger than you think. People do not pay enough attention to what is happening to non-white residents, especially Asians. Norway is one of the progressive countries regarding labor rights, mother rights, and work-family balance policy, but racism and the dominant whiteness are huge issues that are not tackled properly. Every country is racist, and Norway is no exception; however, Norwegians stubbornly stay in denial and I find that denial toxic. A society filled with better respect and equality will start from everyone being responsible to admit and acknowledge that the society has a problem. I wanted to desperately tell you that Norway has a huge racism problem, especially toward Asians because it is not a few extraordinarily rude people’s problems. Examples and testimonies of racism in Norway overflow.

I want to argue that Asians deserve rights to walk down the street safely without getting mocked of how our faces look like, to be recognized as same human beings – not «Asians», and that these racist harassments must be stopped. I am asking for something rightful, thus this request should be and must be non-controversial.

Please keep an eye on what is happening in the street and at campus. Please tell people to stop if you observe racial misconduct. And show an active voice of empathy and anger to people around you, who courageously decided to open up of what kind of racist and disrespectful things that they have gone through.


06.10.2020 Okunma Sayısı: 942



Yazdır

 
 Øzgur Levent
 Racism can mean a few things. It could mean soscial darwinism, where people's worth is judged by what ethnical group they belong to. Like if blond and blue eyed caucasians are seen as more valuable than other people. I think it is safe to say that almost noone in Norway are racists by this definition. There are on the other hand some Norwegians who want the border to be closed because they fear immigration for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this is seen by some as being "racist". You are bound to run into a few people who would rather not have forigners come to Norway for any reason besides tourism. Norwegians (and particularly people from Bergen) are pretty candid about these things, and don't have too many filters. I get the impression that in many other countries (hi, Sweden) it is virtually illegal to talk about these things. Not so in Bergen. Then racism can mean something a little bit more abstract and insidious. For some reason a guy named Abdullah simply can't get an interview, but once he changes his name to "Truls", lo and behold he gets a job. Most employers will insist that they never make decisions based on race, but statistically they do. This kind of silent racism is quite prominent in Norway. Will you be bullied on the street? No, certainly not. Will you hear people complain openly about foreigners taking their jobs and abusing the welfare system? Yes, you will. Will you be treated differently by the authorities? Technically no, but statistically maybe.
 


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