In Norway, Racism Is Losing. Here’s Why
In the U.S. we often get bad news about racism and anti-immigrant feeling in the Scandinavian countries. While in Norway recently, I visited the Anti-Racism Center in Oslo to get a fuller picture.
I had interviewed the Center’s Deputy Director Mari Linløkken while researching my book Viking Economics. We were glad to see each other again. Linløkken has been in the struggle full time since the 1970s, so she invited into the discussion two new staff members so I could get a broader perspective. Both are younger immigrants of color who have experienced personally the racism that shows its face in Norway.
Their jobs bring them in close contact with immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe and commission research on Norway’s ongoing integration. For people of color, they’ve found positive trends in job advancement, entry into universities, and acceptance in Norwegian institutions, even in leadership positions. The big picture, they agreed, is that there is increasing opportunity for immigrants of color to pursue their dreams and make a contribution to one of the countries with the world’s highest achievement of equality and individual freedom. A majority of Norwegians continue to want this. Together we reviewed recent events: a march by Nazis in Kristiansand, more Facebook attacks on people who stand up against racism, an intensifying and sometimes ugly debate in the mass media. Then they went on to describe the other side of the story: Norway as a whole is making steady progress in integrating immigrants and people of color.
The forces trying to prevent this have been losing.
Drama versus reality on the ground
At first it seems a paradox that expressions of racism can intensify even while substantial progress is being made. On reflection, I realized why: Those on the losing side will fight harder exactly because they see they are losing.
New hijab discrimination case hits Norway
A 21-year-old woman was offered a job as a nursing assistant in the Ullern district of Oslo, but only if she would work without her hijab.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, applied for the in-home care position in January, but the person who would receive her help did not want an assistant who wore a hijab.
Oslo Municipality agreed to honour the person’s wishes and a municipal employee sent the 21-year-old woman a text message offering her the job on the condition that she would remove her headscarf, NRK reported.
Although the incident occurred in January, the woman only shared her story with the broadcaster this week and provided a screenshot of the conversation.
“Hi, I have spoken with [name redacted] and he said that if you are comfortable with working without the hijab then you can have the job with him. Is that something that could be relevant for you?” a municipal employee wrote.
“I must unfortunately decline. It’s [the hijab, ed.] is a big part of my and I can not give it up,” the 21-year-old woman wrote back.