• Sweden edition
Making fun of slavery belittles black people

Making fun of slavery belittles black people

Published: 01 Nov 2011 14:36 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Nov 2011 14:36 GMT+01:00

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.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

16:24 November 1, 2011 by bourgeoisieboheme
Bad humor yes, hate speech no.

Kids do dumb things and chalk this up to one.
16:28 November 1, 2011 by RobinHood
Poor Kitimbwa,, Maria, Thabo and Barakat have become confused between what is a hate crime, and what is bad taste. Fortunately, the prosecutor knew that to prove a hate crime, it was necessary for him to prove hate. The infamous Lund students' party scored 10 out of 10 on the bad taste scale, but 0 out of 10 for hate. That was the prosecutor's point when he referred to a fancy dress part; that's what the idiot students of Lund thought they were having. It was certainly not the KKK rally that exists only in the fevered imaginations of the authors.

Fortunately for us all, in Sweden, and everywhere else in the civilised world, the law clearly differentiates between what the authors believe to be hate and what is bad taste. Tonight I will enjoy watching Springtime For Hitler from Mel Brooks very funny film The Producers, sing along to Eddie Meduza's Heil Hitler, and finish with Monty Python's The Life of Brian. All in glorious, outrageous, bad taste, but (at least in the civilised world), none of them hateful, and none of them illegal. Who, apart from Messrs Kitimbwa,, Maria, Thabo, Barakat and their narrow minded ilk would want them to be illegal?

Incredibly, the authors confidently state that the single significant event in history of slavery occurred to 30 million Africans over a period of 300 years. Slavery existed long before the first Africans were transported by Europeans to the Americas, and exists to this day. Their focus on a singe group of African victims demeans and disrespects those enslaved by the Greeks, the Romans, the Aztecs,the Russians, the Thais, the Burmese, the Chinese, the Persians, the Byzantines, the Egyptians, the Ottomans, the Arabs, the Moors, and the Vikings. And, perhaps more relevantly, the millions currently enslaved in the Sudan, Mauritania, Niger and Ivory Coast. Perhaps the authors would explain to us why they have chosen to focus on long dead victims of slavery, rather than living victims enslaved on their own continent right now?

One wonders why four supposedly well-educated people would airbrush hundreds of millions of victims of slavery out of their picture. Surely it could not be because they consider these victims to be less important or less relevant than victims who happen to be black people. That would be in extreme bad taste, and in their opinion, bad taste should be a crime. Someone call the prosecutor, I've got four new cases for him to examine.
17:26 November 1, 2011 by jvtx3232
It sounds like a college prank that was tasteless and immature, but you can't make it a crime.

When I think of some of the things the guys I went to college with said and did, there were some real doozies. All kinds of "testing of the boundaries" of social mores and so forth.
21:26 November 1, 2011 by Frobobbles
Slavery is not something that started, existed for 300 years and is now over. The authors got it all completely wrong. Slavery has existed for thousands of years, and still exist.
07:33 November 2, 2011 by space2
I think Momodou is racist... or at least discriminating: Not only black man were slaves. The Roman empire made slaves from every nation. Spartacus was a slave, and he was a white man (he was Thrachian, i.e. from Balkan). It's the same mistake as saying thay only Jews were killed in holocaust (there were also Gipsies, Hungarians and even Germans, who were not considered "poor", because for example they had mental illness).

Btw, Napoleon killed a lot of man as well, so nobody can dress as Napoleon in a costume party?!
08:18 November 2, 2011 by rise
Well put RobinHood. For example the Vikings were calling slaves "trälar" (singular: träl) and that's hundreds of years before the African ones.

But that is all in the history book now. More importantly today is the problems we're having with human trafficking and sex slaves in Sweden and other countries. What do the Afro racists have to say about that? :P
10:02 November 2, 2011 by Kevin Harris
Slavery in its traditional form exists only in Africa these days. How ironic that Africans, and people of African descent, never miss an opportunity to rant about a student party in Sweden, and yet remain silent while hundreds of thousands of people are currently held in slavery in Africa. The rest of the world eradicated slavery two hundred years ago. We might listen more carefully to Jesse Jackson, Mr Momodou, Mr Sabuni, Ms Osman Sharify and Mr Muso if they persecuted the modern slavemasters of Africa with an enthusiasm equal to that which they persecute a bunch of students from Sweden. Unfortunately, they do not, and the last outpost of this disgusting industry remains in Africa because they do not. They obviously have more important things to do than eradicate slavery. Shame on them!

No more from this bunch thank you The Local.
12:18 November 2, 2011 by GeoC
"Slavery in its traditional form exists only in Africa these days."

There is no traditional form and it exists more so in almost every 3rd world country. The sex slave trade is huge in asia and eastern europe for instance.
13:09 November 2, 2011 by Dupree
The connection between the picture featuring Mr Momodou heading this article and the decision not to press charges on the students is missleading.

While it's true that the clumsy and naive students holding the distasteful party were not charged, the 'artist' who created the overtly racist poster has in fact been charged with both hate speech and defamation.

I feel the use of this image, in conjunction with the bi-line that nothing has been done about it, gives a false impression of the events.
13:14 November 2, 2011 by Roy E
Is there any other group of people so heavily invested and committed to playing the role of perpetual self-pitying victim? The Palestinians might come close, but apart from that this one group stands quite apart from others in the world.

It's difficult to respect people that have so little self-respect themselves.
13:20 November 2, 2011 by Kevin Harris

The definition of "traditional" slavery is far wider than the sex industry. "Traditional" slaves have rowed galleys the length of the Mediterranean, mined gold and silver, tended farms and houses, and toiled in industry. As you mention slavery also includes providing sexual services, and that must never be demeaned, but to limit the definition to only that is ridiculous and narrow minded.

In Africa today, you will find hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of slaves performing all of the above tasks, except for rowing galleys.

You will of course find slavery, or the equivalent of slavery within the sex industries of every country in the world; it is perhaps the last and toughest nut to crack. But (most importantly) very little of the other "traditional" forms remain outside Africa. Most of the world has moved on from most forms of "traditional" slavery. In Africa however, some countries have not even started on even these softest nuts. The most disgraceful forms of "traditional" slavery continue blatantly in Africa, with people (even children) bought and sold to toil in mines, factories and farms even as we debate.

While the above African authors and hypocrites rage and rant about a ridiculous students in Sweden pretending to be slaves, real live African men women and children live, work and die in "traditional" slavery.

Please do not reply with a list of non-African countries that persist in some forms of "traditional" slavery; there are still a few. But their citizens did not to choose to lecture the citizens of Sweden (a country that exterminated all forms of slavery a couple of hundred years ago). That disgraceful hypocrisy was reserved exclusively by the above authors.
16:30 November 2, 2011 by Online Personality
Robinhood and his merry men make good points...
17:38 November 2, 2011 by andreasbe
Just some general observations, Fact and Questions:

#1: Q: Does anyone here besides me live in Africa?

#2: F: Traditional Slavery does not exist any more, IE: No Colonialists exist any more hence no Shipping on boats to the Americas for Labour)

#3: O: It seems that Hate Speach is used out of context.

#4: F: Opression in Africa is currently by natives on natives.

#5: F: Human Trafficing and Child Labour and Forced(Jailed and Abducted) is the only Current form of Slavery in the world, and it is not unique to Central and West africa.

#6: Q are any of the above mentiond "African" authors from South africa or Zimbabwe? as this sound too close for comfort (Names, Paraphrasing etc.)

#7: F: Hatespeach would include the following: Theats of Violence, Xenophobic Terms, Targeted ethnic Terms in the before mentioned categories.

I just think that people(Yes People) must take life with a pinch of salt and apply humor in their lives. We choose who we are, act and react.

If you want to stop opression the dont subscribe to it.

If you want to proove a point out of contect then well that is what happened here.

21:48 November 2, 2011 by GeoC
@andreasbe you made the point exactly.
11:40 November 3, 2011 by BBKING
Why is this paper so obssessed with racism? Every time I look at the site there is some mention of racism issues. Is it really out of concern or does the editors like to grab attention?

The Lund situation is just a trivial matter. Better focus on institutionalized racism that is targeted towards foreigners in this country.

Investigate why it takes such a long time as 5 months to get extension visas to students instead of collecting party garbage.

13:02 November 3, 2011 by Biko
"Slavery was"?

That should be "slavery is" in places like Mauritania but no-one talks about that any more.

Apparently youtube links cannot be pasted here so search yourselves for "mauritania slavery"
22:00 November 3, 2011 by Kahmoudi
@RoyE. You're the kind of person that perpetuates the need for people to claim racism. As for the Palestinians, I'd be pissed too if my land was forcibly annexed and given away to some other group to assuage the US and Europe's guilt for allowing 6 million Jews to be murdered in the concentration camps. The entire Jewish homeland claim doesn't work for me until the Native Americans and descendants of the African diaspora have their homelands restored as well. Unlike the Jews, those claims are proven facts that were documented during the last several hundred years they occurred, not a thousand plus years ago based on lore and supposition.

Regarding the ruling, it was correct. Those racists students acted abominably and I hope that people know who they are. I hope that someday when a prospective employer Googles them their names will come up in connection with this incident. The world is a much smaller place than it used to be.
11:47 November 4, 2011 by salalah
The guy in the picture needs a bigger collar.. we must report his owner!!!!
18:03 November 4, 2011 by Lotus2035
Not all slaves were black. Here's one example of forgotten slavery:

20:22 November 4, 2011 by james_g
Someone ought to reply to @andreasbe, though I'm not at all sure which direction he/she is coming from...

#1: What's that got to do with anything?

#2: Possibly what andreasbe means is "Traditional Transatlantic Slave Trading does not exist any more". That's not the same as Traditional Slavery, whatever that might be. Also - 'No Colonialists exist any more' - oh yes they do; the difference is that they tend to go about their BUSINESS (and I use that word advisedly!) in a different way.

#3: ?

#4: Natives of where on natives of where? Africa's a CONTINENT! Full of different ethnic (and religious!) groupings...

#5: Rubbish!

#6: I don't understand...

#7: Again it's not entirely clear to me what andreasbe is trying to say here; however, I would certainly include incitement to violence as well as threats of violence in Hate speech; xenophobic terms (what exactly is one of them?) - I dunno; targeted ethnic terms? - you mean like Taffy, Paddy, Bohunk, Frog, Chink (what do others call we English btw? - there must be something insulting!) - c'mon, get real!

andreasbe's last three points I think I do understand and I'll go along with them all the way, no problem!

as for Kahmoudi #17 - do stop being spiteful and get a life! Try targeting real racists, not some rather juvenile students who will, in all likelihood, grow up one day.
20:34 November 4, 2011 by Vermaldeehide
The math seems a little off in this paragraph that follows (a loss of 2/3 of the victims) seems high - it was actually a business not a holocaust. 2 completely different things.

~quoted from above - "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."
23:01 November 4, 2011 by wxman
Over the course of history, all peoples on the planet have been slaves at one time or another. Blacks don't have a copywrite on being enslaved. The very name "slave" is a derivative of the Eastern European "Slav". This ethnic group was enslaved by both the Romans and Mongols, probably over a longer time that African blacks.
12:29 November 7, 2011 by Morenikeji
@RobinHood, Since you sound a little more intelligent than most of your followers on this thread, I should like just to ask you how you answer the probability of another "bad taste" sketch of a group of Jews being led to the gas chamber by the Nazis which the authors alluded to? And what is your opinion about the Nazis Salutation that is a crime in Sweden? Talking about civilized world, what do you think about the fact that it is a crime to say that Holocaust never happened (holocaust denial) in Austria? You talked about slavery being a part of human history, well how come a white man was not made the slave in the so-called sketch? It is a pity that people like you never understand a crime until it reaches you. To paraphrase another person like you "First they humiliated the Africans, I did protest since I am not an African; then they humiliated the muslims and I did not protest since I am not a muslim; they humiliated the Jews I did not protest since I am not a Jew etc. by the time they started to humiliate me and my children there was no one protest" I hope you don't have to write that in future.
16:31 November 7, 2011 by Kibitz
I am saddened by the lack of basic human decency and compassion displayed on this thread. The lack of moral responsibilty we have for our fellow man, whether they shall be white, black, yellow or green . The lack of empathy,lack of compassion for anyone other than them selves is nothing short of the qualities of sociopathic personality. Society, parents, and schools have a responibility to teach the principles of right from wrong, , .. this school, ,. and community failed. In most societies around the world, these students would have been reprimanded and chastised. Whether or not slavery existed a thousand years ago or not is irrelevant when applyig a gage of simple common human decent behavioral traits that should be expected. Last, the only reason this threads reads with such little regard for the topic of slavery is that most comments are from caucasians. Blacks and people of color exist in Sweden, however are greatly under represented in the mainstream. Racism comes in many forms, and it speaks volumes on this thread. Yes , I am an American and Black.
17:56 November 7, 2011 by bells on the knight
poor monkeys in slavery

on u tube .... /watch?v=GhxqIITtTtU
14:20 November 8, 2011 by tadchem
Slavery is a crime, but this was not slavery. It was bad taste, which is NOT a crime.

'Racism' depends on how one defines 'race'. It can mean a group as broad as a species or as narrow as a family.
16:06 November 8, 2011 by Kibitz
Well, tadchem, you are clearly misinformed and wrong. What these students did does constitute as a crime. In fact to be perfectly clear Brussels has chimmed in on this situation and has defined this as a " Hate Crime" . In fact here are the comments from Brussels.

" European Network Against Racism (ENAR) condemns without reservation such actions and stresses that such behaviour is totally unacceptable in a country of long Human Rights tradition such as Sweden," said ENAR Chairperson Inari Chibo Onyeji and its director Michael Privot in the letter to the Swedish minister.

The organisation requested that the Swedish government take action to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.

"As these crimes are motivated by racial hatred the Swedish government is obliged to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of members of minority communities," the letter added.

Racism is also individuals that continue to go out of there way to redefine and skirt the real meaning and truth of such a hateful act.
19:30 November 8, 2011 by RobinHood

You dimwit. The European Network Against Racism is a tinpot NGO that has based itself in Brussels to give itself more credibility. It is not part of the EU, though it tries hard to make people think it is.

"Misinformed" and "wrong" indeed.
06:05 January 9, 2012 by dunce
Many of the commenters noted the long history of slavery going back to Rome and before that in Greece, but who do you think built the pyramids? This was not a hate crime, some just found it politically offensive. Give it a rest.
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