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'You're quite pretty... for a black girl'

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Two women, unrelated to the story, in a café. File photo: Shutterstock
12:01 CEST+02:00
"Do you want an orange negro?" Comments such as this litter Fanna Ndow Norrby's life. Her Instagram @svartkvinna handle has attracted 17,000 followers, all keen to hear our Swede of the Week's stories of sexist racism.

She was anonymous at first, as she racked up followers on Instagram, but this week Norrby outed herself online on the op-ed pages of Sveriges Television (SVT). Why? Because of the problems of "talking colour".

Her text argues that people with power have always denied the perceptions of people without power.

"Denial does not have to be based in ill will," Norrby writes. "Liberals and people who don't want to talk about structres are usually neither evil, racist, nor unintelligent. But they do have the privilege of not having to experience these problems."

Norrby once witnessed a café client in their sixties point at an orange-flavoured chocolate sweet, which used to be known colloquially as negerboll (negro ball), and say to her granddaughter. "Darling, what do you want? A cinnamon bun and an orange negro?"

Or what about:

"You're hair is like steel wool? You could snip a bit and clean your oven."

Or a woman wanting to "help" at upscale Stockholm bar Berns:
"Where's your pimp?"
"Excuse me?"
"I can help you. You don't have to sell yourself any more. I've helped tonnes of women like you. Don't be scared."

Or, from an older man on the tube:
"Go home to Africa, you black women only take up space in Sweden with your fat asses."

Back to the deniers.

"They walk around in a bubble of individualism and can therefore discard other people's realities, and think it's problematic to talk colour", Norrby wrote in her op-ed that touched on slavery and apartheid, and the belittling structures that upheld both.

"The dominant groups deny the oppressed groups' reality," she summarized.

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What's the logical conclusion of denying other's experiences, she queries, coming to the conclusion that it amounts to calling others liars and fantasists.

"We have to admit that people are treated differently because of their identities."  

Editor's Note: The Local's Swede of the Week is someone in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

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