A New Beginning
January 20, 2013
By Charlene Rosander
As we were all busy with listening to Christmas carols, baking, shopping and waiting with anticipation for the up-coming holiday there was an apprehension luring around the corner. I could see facebook comments where people were writing that now it’s gone too far. Without any deeper reflection I realised what they thought had gone too far; antiracism. As if the struggle for equality is mischievous for disturbing the perfectly existing power structures for some. As if it is ok to fight against racism as long as it does not mean any changes in traditions inevitably presuming that racism must exist somewhere but not in our traditions. As if antiracism is good in small amounts meaning it is not meant to function until racism is history.
By now you might be wondering how antiracism was exposed to make people feel that it had gone too far. Every year during Christmas Eve the Swedish Television shows an hour of Christmas Greetings from Disney which has been a tradition since 1960. This has become strongly associated with Christmas in the sense that it gathers families to spend quality time together in front of the TV and get into the Christmas spirit. Every year it is more or less the same show. From time to time there have been slight modifications which usually have surpassed the Swedish audience. However, for Christmas 2012 two racist stereotypes and one stereotype for blonde women were abolished. One of these stereotypes was a black doll which was drawn as a pickaninny.
More specifically, this modification meant deleting a couple of seconds of the cartoons which made many people furious. In debates on the Internet and TV there were people going that far stating that their Christmas was ruined due to this modification. Those less radical said that they were worried about what would be taken away from them next. This comment made me lose most of my energy because it made me realise how perpetual the ignorance towards racism is in Sweden. If you would ask people in Sweden if they are antiracists they would most presumably say yes. If you would ask people what they do to prevent racism they would most presumably be left puzzled and confused. This is because many people in Sweden do not see the linkage between these two questions. Being an antiracist means that you are aware that racism is existent and you are doing your best to oppose it. In this issue there was little awareness as many people debating did not know what a pickaninny is and they were not willing to change a tiny bit of their tradition to head towards equality.
What really surprised me with this debate was that people argued that Disney’s decision to remove these stereotypes has ended up in Swedish people not being allowed to be Swedish, that some of their tradition has been taken away from them and they really want to hold on to this so that they can feel Swedish. This surprised me because what I see as Swedish is the strife for equality, gender as well as human. I thought that this strife must be more important to the Swedish people than holding on to racist traditions. It is time for us all to realize that we do not reach a better society by doing noting and never questioning ourselves. We need to be aware of which society we live in and which position we obtain. Simultaneously we need to hold on to the strife to equality, despite if we are over- or underprivileged. My experience tells me that as long as people question things and do not just cling to the main opinion we can reach a society where pickaninnies solely are a part of history lessons and seen as something we need to be ashamed of. Let us make 2013 the year when we make sure we have facts about a topic before entering a debate and when we are humble to the thoughts and opinions provided by those affected.
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