June 29, 2020


Images of George Floyd being executed by a white American police officer has ignited an outrage across the world. Racism exists in all societies, including the Norwegian. This has to stop!

Illustrasjon: Fredrik Edén

At present, I am asking myself how a sixty-three-year-old who has received the winning ticket in life may contribute constructively to one of the most important topics in our society? I am holding no malicious attitudes, but as a sixty-three-year-old, I see that I possess old references. I need to update them and come à jour. Today, younger individuals possess other references compared to mine when they discuss diversity and integration of minorities. Nevertheless, I have given some thoughts regarding how we may have more fruitful discussions on these topics. 

We see that the dialogue between ethnic groups in Norway is gradually becoming worse. 238 cases are analyzed in a report presented by the Norwegian Police concerning hate crime complaints from 2018. This total represents a 66% increase compared to 2015. A total of 77% of these complaints were related to ethnicity or religion.

In 2019, FAFO published research illuminating attitudes in Norway toward groups such as Muslims. Among other things, they find that one out of three respondents experience fear if they pass a group of Muslim men. Moreover, it is presented that 16% could not imagine having a Muslim neighbor. Adding to this, one out of five respondents answer that it would not be acceptable if an individual with a different ethnic background than Norwegian become prime minister. 10% respond that it would not be acceptable if a close family member married an individual with a different ethnicity than «Norwegian». This displays a fragment of the situation, and we know that this does not represent the whole picture when it comes to attitudes towards racism in Norway.

The discrimination is institutional and structural. The Institute for Social Research did a study on ethnic minorities’ access to the Norwegian work sector. The research showed that job applicants with foreign names had a 25% lower probability of being offered a job interview. The situation is not better when it comes to the housing market. Statistics Norway documents that just over 20% of non-western immigrants experience that they are prohibited from buying or renting a residence due to their ethnicity. The groups experiencing the highest degree of discrimination are immigrants from Somalia, Iraq and Iran with 42%, 38% and 34% respectively.

This is not how we want things to be in Norway.

Dialogue, attitudes and structural racism are all intertangled. So where should we start? The events witnessed over the last couple of weeks tell me that we need to start with dialogue. After thorough conversations with individuals working against racism, I have concluded with four pieces of advice which may improve the dialogue.

  1. Abstain from considering people as groups. Group perspectives open for coarse characteristics. Look at people as individuals. This opens hearts.
  2. We need to use the right R-word. Most often, the right R-word to use is racism and not racist. Racism exists, rases do not.
  3. Diversity is profitable. Diversity is the fundament for better creativity. Hail it!
  4. «Freedom of speech shall be», as it says in §100 of the Norwegian Constitution.

Diversity is more than ethnicity. It encompasses diversity of opinion, different sexual orientations, cultural background, age, gender and religion. This summer, I will discuss these challenges with everyone I meet. From now on, it cannot be «we» and «them». It must be us.

Hold on tight and hold out!

Hans Geelmuyden