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Expert: 'Apartheid bus' no reflection of Sweden

Published: 26 Mar 2013 10:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 26 Mar 2013 10:35 GMT+01:00

As the "apartheid bus" scandal makes headlines around the world, a multiculturalism expert claims that despite the "tragic incident", xenophobia in Sweden is actually on the decline.

Bus passengers in Stockholm reported that a driver separated "Swedish" and "non-Swedish" passengers during a trip in late December.

The driver denies he deliberately divided passengers according to their appearance or ethnicity, but has since been suspended as the bus company investigates the incident.

Mikael Hjerm, a sociology professor at Umeå University and an expert on multiculturalism, reacted strongly to the incident, but does not believe it serves as an accurate reflection of Sweden or Swedes' attitudes toward race and ethnicity.

"It's terrible, really terrible - I'm shocked. But discrimination is nothing new, it's everywhere," he told The Local.

He theorized that one of the main reasons the story made headlines from London to New York is that it goes against Sweden's usually solid reputation when it comes to fairness and equality.

"Sweden is always right up the top when it comes to rankings of the least prejudiced countries. These kinds of issues are so sensitive. The vast majority of people don't accept prejudice and agree that it's a problem. The world has come to expect a very high standard from Sweden," Hjerm explained.

"Of course, I'm not saying the situation in Sweden can't get worse, but this kind of tragic incident is just one shocking and rather surprising example."

Hjerm added that discrimination can often result from unconscious actions, but that what made the "apartheid bus" unusual was how very conscious it appears to have been, according to initial media reports.

"I only know what I've read in the papers, but this case is so blatant. And it's symbolic. Straight away you get images from apartheid in South Africa or Rosa Parks in the US," he said, referencing the woman who became an icon for the US civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger.

The Swedish bus driver, should he be found to have acted deliberately, may just be one rotten apple, according to Hjerm, and should not be considered a reflection of the typical Swede.

"Prejudice or xenophobia, as of right now, is not actually getting any worse in Sweden, there is no evidence to suggest this. If anything, measurements show that the trend is improving," he said.

"The most prejudiced group is the elderly, who grew up in a different time. To put it very bluntly, when they die things get better."

Besides the difficulty elderly have in abandoning long-held views, Hjerm pointed to politicians' poor articulation of the issue as another cause for xenophobia in Swedish society.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:34 March 26, 2013 by polartwist
"when they die things get better."

What kind of assertion is it?? Shameful!
11:39 March 26, 2013 by johan rebel
Who says there actually was an "apartheid bus" incident in the first place? As far as I can tell, this has yet to be conclusively proven, yet the so-called experts have already suffered several bouts of verbal diarrhoea over the matter.

"I know only what I've read in the papers". Well, we all know how reliable the media are, especially in Sweden, and especially when it comes to their pet issues such as "racism". If Hjerm really only knows what the media allege, then it would behoove him to shut up until he has the facts. Even then it would be better if he kept his sociological mumbo jumbo to himself.
12:11 March 26, 2013 by tilda8686sv
Wow, this Hjerm guy is more hateful and baised than the bus driver even if the original story were true. To lump an entire group together based on age and then throw bombs at them?!
12:43 March 26, 2013 by Logic_and_Reason
Can anyone show me one instance where this made a headline in a major city outside of Scandinavia? I have not seen it mentioned on a single online news source, even as a side column story.
12:46 March 26, 2013 by recklessrashid
To quote a racist like this!! Many great civil rights people came from the generations he thinks should die for progress.

The Local is disgraceful and digging a very deep whole as it tries to justify a story that have no basis. You are not helping immigrant people when you polarize people from each other.
12:49 March 26, 2013 by TG22
@The Local: Which "apartheid bus"? That one that is looking more and more unlike that even happened?
13:43 March 26, 2013 by Jes
"Sweden is always right up the top when it comes to rankings of the least prejudiced countries.The vast majority of people don't accept prejudice and agree that it's a problem. The world has come to expect a very high standard from Sweden," Hjerm explained

But the World also knows that SD , a party that is conceptually and basicaly rasist is now the 4th largest party in Sweden at 9 +%. Any serious professor of multicalturalism should base his reasoning on numbers instead of patronizing sentiments .Isn`t it convievable that somebody who votes for a rasist party will be the same person who would think people of colour should never sit on the same bus with whites ?
16:49 March 26, 2013 by caradoc
So an 'expert' says that prejudice is not getting any worse in Sweden.

Well, i am sorry to disagre with an *expert* but that is not how i see or hear it.

I have lived in London and Amsterdam , both cities with a high imigrant population and until recently i have always tried to be on the side of immigrants and refugees. When you see and read reports of the poverty and danger surrounding some of these people when they seek a better life one can't help feeling sympathy and hope for their future.

But, 4 years after moving to sweden , and 2 years living in Malmö my opinion is changing rapidly.I have worked for over a year in Rosengård and i have seen the total disregard that a sizable minority of immigrants have for swedish and european values.

They think that they are owed so much by the society that has taken them in that they treat it and everyone in it like dirt.

Some of the immigrant youth are nothing but obnoxious oaffs who attack innocent people going about their daily lives almost with impunity. There is nothing wrong with questioning and challenging authority but the way that they treat the police and any person who is not going to give them more of whay they want or think that they deserve is almost savage.

i am sorry for the immigrants who do manage to intergrate well in society and abide by the rules and norms without being too subservient. I think their future in this country will be blighted by the idiots and savages who treat this country like a rubbish tip and heap scorn on those who try to get on in society.
18:07 March 26, 2013 by Frobobbles
A professor that is an expert on issues of prejudice hopes that all the elderly dies.
20:03 March 26, 2013 by Kronaboy
I disagree; I believe that discrimination in Sweden is so routine that racist pigs such as this individual feel they can behave with complete impunity. Personally I blame the demographics of the Migration population who are generally first generation immigration newbies who have just fallen off the back of an Albanian truck, as such they are little more than uncle toms grovelling for acceptance and permit racist pigs (such as the ones on this site)to get away with such behaviour. I know this much if he had tried such a thing where I come from there would have been no need for disciplinary action, the passengers would have burnt the bus to the ground with the co*k sucker in it.
22:28 March 26, 2013 by RobinHood
Don't worry readers. Everything will be much better when your parents and grandparents are dead.

Where does The Local find these wierdos?
12:13 March 27, 2013 by Jes
@caradoc , I detect a lot of dishonesty in your comment . You could also be lying about your stay in London . Anyone who lives or has lived in London knows that youths there behave the same way as the ones in Malmö or worse . One week-end vist in north London or South West London will be enough to find out that youths tend to have little respect to authority . Ít can be discussed why that is so. You should remember that those passengers that were separated from "Swedes" had not done anything that indicates that they don`t have your "Swedish or europeans values" . Values only come in colour to a racist . If you are going to judge all immigrants as "poor people who are looking for better life " better take a look in the mirror : you are looking at a RACIST !
10:28 March 29, 2013 by thomas59
It was one luniac in Norway killing children because they were members of the wrong political party.

And now we have this one wishing for the death of older people with the wrong ideas.

But why this antirasist has choosen to buy his house in a area with only white people ?
15:47 March 29, 2013 by Nick N
@Kronaboy: In case you missed, immigrants already *DID* set fire to a bus about a week ago. As for grovelling, they did nothing of the sort. They didn't even need any provocation. They just set the bus on fire.

In Denmark, they send guys like this home, but that wouldn't be possible in politically correct Sweden. As much as I hate the Sweden Democrats, I'm considering voting for them, as a way to send the other parties a message.
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