‘We can talk about multiculturalism without devolving into hatred’

'We can talk about multiculturalism without devolving into hatred'
'Sweden is home for me and it is where my heart is.' Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
OPINION: I don't want my love for Sweden, and feeling of being loved, to get stolen by far-right politics.

Earlier this month, I wrote an article which came across as very angry. It was angry and yes, I am angry at racism, but my anger is not a reflection of how I feel towards Sweden. It is rather a reflection of how I feel about a mentality held by a certain clique of people; one which dehumanizes other people based on their appearance or their origin. However, we cannot ignore the fact that there is now a heightened sense of race because of far-right politics.

Sweden, as part of Europe, today, is grappling with the rise of extreme right-wing politics thriving on feigning hate because of the refugee crisis.

Finding a balance between being an open society and embracing immigrants and their diverse cultures can be challenging. But it can be done without sowing hate.

The problem with the race conversation is that it has been hijacked for political gain. Far-right politics is gaining ground by incensing genuine concerns that citizens may have regarding refugees and turning them into negative energy which then spirals into hate in no time. Therefore, people have to take a position on race rather than get an understanding on the complexities that come with increased inward immigration.

But as history shows, if we listen to, and take political rhetoric literally, things do not always end well because politicians use extreme positions to tap into our emotions in order to coerce our votes. Politicians cannot just be taken at their word because, more often than not, they charm or lie their way into office. That is just the nature of political campaigning. And that is why exclusionary rhetoric has become an appealing narrative and distorted the conversation on immigration, and its implications on racism in Sweden in particular and Europe in general. Far-right politicians are exploiting people's vulnerabilities and turning them into anger and hate. They are offering immigrants as sacrificial lambs in order to gain popularity.

So if the rate of employment goes down because the population has increased why talk economics when you can talk race and say it's the immigrants stealing your jobs. But my wish is, as a people, we have to interrogate the politics that we are offered before we get cheated out of our humanity for political gain.

Political polarization on immigration has paved the way for political grandstanding and now makes it difficult for politicians on the left to talk objectively about the challenges which arise when there is a surge in immigration because that can be seen as aligning with the far-right. Simultaneously, far right-wingers will feign hate and convince their supporters that immigration-related challenges cannot be addressed any other way but by hating refugees or foreigners.

But the truth is we can talk about – and address objectively – the challenges that arise as a result of multiculturalism and diverse ethnicity without devolving into hatred. The European society, with its rich history of fighting for open societies and democracy, is being driven towards the destruction of the values that it stands for by the greed of far-right politics.

Having said that, it's not enough to talk about how people hate and not talk about how they also love. The sporadic racially hateful incidences that I encounter get drowned in the sea of love that I also swim in every day. So for me to just write vociferously about the bad and not scream loudly the good that I experience is to blindly contribute to negativity and can be used as a dishonest representation of the values that Sweden stands for. The values which I enjoy unreservedly. The values which make my life so much better, differently good, enjoyable and worth living. I am grateful for that and I cherish it every day with all my heart.

The first question I normally get when I meet new people is “where do you come from?” To which I always reply “Söderhamn”, even though I am aware they will be asking about my homeland (the last word should really read country of origin but writing it as homeland is a beloved contagion effect of the Swedish language on my English).

I say I am from Söderhamn because home isn't where I was born. Home – to me – is the place where I am free to go at the end of a long day. Home is where I am allowed to criticize, contribute, thrive and enjoy unlimited freedom of expression. Home is where I write an article to critique and contribute to a much-needed discourse on race and still be able to go about my life without fearing the police will come and snatch me in the thick of the night.

In Söderhamn, I have seen the ugly side of racism but I have also largely felt the overwhelming power of love. I have known what it means to be home and felt the joy that comes with it. So for that, Sweden is home for me and it is where my heart is. This feeling of love, and being loved, must not be allowed to be stolen by far-right politics.

Edinah Masanga is a Zimbabwean journalist living in Sweden. Follow her on Twitter or read her blog here.