Nationality Versus Humanity

By Sarah Johansson

When I was in grade 8, living in Sweden, I joined a programme called ‘Then and Now’. It was a government-funded initiative that chose 30 students from across the country from different grades, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of achievement academically. Based in a tiny town of 95% ‘Swedes’ with many privileges, the program attempted to create an understanding of diversity, a sense of unity, and  an explanation of why these are needed for a great society.

During the  one year period of the program, we were tasked with small, written assignments where we were asked questions such as “What makes you a Swede?”

As the only (yes, only 1 out of 30!) person of a background that was not 100% ethnically Swedish, this particular question became my passion project. I did research, discussed, and wrote for hours until I had formulated a text that relayed my opinion on what constituted  a “Swede”. Since then, I haven’t given the issue much thought.

In the light of American elections and Trump dominating all media outlets, I don’t expect you have heard, news of Sweden’s next elections in 2018, where our Swedish Democrats are gaining votes. To give you some perspective, this party advocates similar policies to Trump. They do so by discussing the issue of refugees and inflow of immigrants – telling us what they will do to stop the tidal wave of lives flowing in, so that we can continue to cherish our sacred Swedish traditions of drinking a lot, dancing around a pole dressed in flowers, and devaluing individuals who strive for goals like providing for their families (for example). This may sound pretty strange for someone who isn’t familiar with Scandinavian culture, and don’t get me wrong, there are many brilliant parts to the system (such as our free health-care, education, and low rates of incarceration). But intertwined with these, are aspects of Swedish society that don’t work. Particularly faulty are the aspects that this neo-Nazi party is striving for, gaining votes through a strategy known as scapegoating. Feeling threatened with economic recessions and total social chaos as a result of immigration, the Swedish Democrats are creating a national fear of anything outside of the very, very small Swedish comfort zone.

My eyes have been opened to the uncertain, chaotic situation that is already arising from their dangerous preachings. Through conversations with friends and family, I have heard about first-hand experiences with these openly racist groups. Further, through cleverly constructed but unsupported claims on social media by neo-Nazi supporters such as old classmates and distant relatives, voices of hatred and panic are ringing along the streets of our society.

A slap in the face was, however, offered as I was chatting with my older brother, who still lives in Sweden. He looked very tired from what seemed to be eye-bags dressing his face. Upon asking what he’d been up to, if he hadn’t been sleeping, he laughed a little. My worst fear of him having gotten into another argument regarding his race was confirmed as he told me what had happened: “Some greatly white Swedes felt threatened by my not so white Swedishness”.

Two grown men had chosen to pee on my brother’s car and harassed him until a fight broke out. Let us all just note that my brother is born and raised in Sweden, speaks Swedish and English (as required by the state), holds a Swedish passport, has a Swedish mother, and a father who pays at least 40 000 SGD per year in Swedish taxes. I honestly can’t really see what more he could possibly do to be more Swedish or supportive of the Swedish system – other than be depressed, dye his hair blond, tan in solariums and use blue contacts – as per tradition. And as you can tell, these changes wouldn’t really alter anything other than the way he looked from the outside – no longer a dark-haired intruder, but rather a “normal” Swedish guy.

Let’s put this in contrast with my “Swedish” friend (I call him this because he “looks Swedish”) who also has one Swedish parent, is 5 years younger than my brother but has stripped the government of more money in financial support (not because he is poor, but because he has chosen to drop out of his government-funded school), and has no future aspirations to support his country, nor has his family paid as much in taxes. Although it may come off as I dislike him or his family, I really don’t; I am simply trying to illustrate the differences that their mere looks have created. His blonde German mother is seemingly more adequate for a Swedish society than an Iranian man. So one of them gets patted on the back for talking openly about his illegal use of tobacco and alcohol, whilst one gets harassed and beaten up for fueling his car. Oh, what a delightfully perfect system you are protecting and promoting, Swedish Democrats. Right on!

It wasn’t until this incident occurred to my brother that I started to question what I had written in 8th grade. What actually is a Swede? Is there a checklist to tick in order to determine if you constitute as a particular nationality? To me, it is a daily struggle to – in the light of refugee streams and global chaos –  try to grapple with the issue of nationality – particularly when it is put above the issue of humanity.

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26 Replies to “Nationality Versus Humanity”

  1. A truly inspirational story Sarah!! In an era when the issue of ‘nationality’ is gaining so much of media, political, economical and humanitarian attention, your story is very thought-provoking and raises some very interesting questions…….

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  2. This is so amazing to read, as we need the younger generation to start tackling this very complex issue of race and racism. I also grew up with racism, coming from a Canadian aboriginal family, but because I am mixed (with a European father) and therefore lighter skinned I don’t get the same kind of treatment my cousins, who are darker, get. My female cousin, for example, is a lawyer and therefore much more educated and successful than me, but whenever we go into a shop or restaurant together, she is always treated with suspicion, as if she doesn’t really belong there. The more we see the kinds of responses the Swedish Democrats, Trump supporters, and the Balkan countries (like Macedonia) who are now closing their borders indefinitely to Syrian refugees, the more we have to understand we are part of a pattern of renewed racism and violence that plays on peoples’ fear and insecurity – but the more we have people like you around to question what all this really means, and to build a new definition of nationality, borders and belonging . . . in short to get rid of the old definitions of identity so we can create new ones for ourselves . . . the better we will all be. Loved Ms Palekar’s comment too – if corporations can be “transnational”, can people be that too?

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  3. I believe we can always go back to what we have thought in the past and still connect it to the current issues. I am also convinced that nationality should not matter when it comes to treating people as we can categorize ourselves as humans. There is no such thing as “this nationality is better than that nationality”. However, in this society that we live in, we seem to confront stereotypes and racisms that seems like we don’t know how to stop. We need many generations together to try to move forward towards diminishing these issues as it takes time to change how people perceive, think of and respond to others. For me, I have learnt to be more open minded and to really look for who they really are, not based on where they come from or their skin color, by living in Singapore where there are many different races living together and respecting other religions and cultures.

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  4. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring and strong story.
    Reading your story reminded me of an issue which is happening in my home country. Japan is a small island nation and therefore it has been conservative towards the outside world throughout history. But I feel that due to recent difficulties in diplomatic relations, extreme conservatism is becoming widespread.
    In Japan, there are many Japanese people who have ancestors who come from countries such as Korea and China. Although they have Japanese citizenship, work and pay taxes, and play their role in the community, they are exposed to prejudice by those who claim to be the “Real” Japanese. Many of them (somehow) believe that all of these people have this anti-Japanese feeling inside them, and that they are different from “Real” Japanese people as they keep cultural traditions or values from their homeland, which is nonsense. Some heartless people even tell them to “get out of Japan” (although these people are actually Japanese citizens).
    This is actually strange because, if we trace our roots back to thousands of years ago, all of our ancestors came from China, Korean peninsula, and other parts of the world. Therefore, actually there is no such thing as “Pure” Japanese. But people tend to ignore this fact.
    Behind all these stereotypes and hatred is the media that distorts the reality, and anger and dissatisfaction that people have towards their life and the government which makes them blame everything on others.
    When I had lived in Japan, I didn’t know anything about this issue. However, through studying overseas in a highly international community and opening up my eyes to what is happening around the world, I became increasingly aware on the issue of racism and prejudice, and noticed that racism is actually happening in my home country. It was shocking to know, but we have to do something about it.
    I believe it is our role, as global citizens who are more open-minded and more liberal then those in our home country, to raise awareness, educate and make people think deeply about this issue of racism and prejudice.

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  5. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring and strong story.
    It reminded me of an issue which is happening in my home country. Japan is a small island nation and therefore it has been conservative towards the outside world throughout history. But I feel that due to recent difficulties in diplomatic relations, extreme conservatism is becoming widespread.
    In Japan, there are many Japanese people who have ancestors who come from countries such as Korea and China. Although they have Japanese citizenship, work and pay taxes, and play their role in the community, they are exposed to prejudice by those who claim to be the “Real” Japanese. Many of them (somehow) believe that all of these people have this anti-Japanese feeling inside them, and that they are different from “Real” Japanese people as they keep cultural traditions or values from their homeland, which is nonsense. Some heartless people even tell them to get out of Japan (although these people are actually Japanese citizens).
    It is strange because if we trace our roots back to thousands of years ago, all of our ancestors had come from China, Korean peninsula and other parts of the world. So actually there is no such thing as “Pure” Japanese. But people tend to look away from this fact.
    Behind all these stereotypes and hatred is the media that distorts the reality, and anger and dissatisfaction that people have towards their life and the government which makes them blame everything on others.
    When I had lived in Japan, I didn’t know anything about this issue. However, through studying overseas in a highly international community and opening up my eyes to what is happening around the world, I became increasingly aware on the issue of racism and prejudice, and noticed that racism is actually happening in my home country. It was shocking to know, but we have to do something about it.
    I believe it is our role, as global citizens who are more open-minded and more liberal then those in our home country, to raise awareness, educate and make people think deeply about this issue of racism and prejudice.

    Like

  6. That’s a really good article Sarah, thank you for sharing.
    As someone who comes from a country, Switzerland, where the ‘racist’ party (they have made some racist comments and publicity) has been the dominant party for many years, it saddens me that this party which goes along with the lines of Le Pen in France and Trump in the US is rising in one of the most liberal countries in the world. My country still has a big conservative population that does not particularly welcome people who ‘look different’ or are foreigners. Maybe to conserve your liberalism, now would not be the best of times to merge and create Swedenland where the meatballs have holes in them and Toblerone tastes like cinnamon buns (https://twitter.com/swedense/status/715879559514730500).
    I am also someone who does not have a very swiss background. Neither of my parents were born in Switzerland and nor were my paternal grandparents or my maternal grandfather who is of Tunisian origin. My maternal grandmother is my closest relative (not including my brother) who was born and raised in Switzerland, as for her husband, my grandfather, he has a very dark skin and is a Jew. It was quite a shocker when my grandmother brought her home to her parents who were Swiss, Christian, cheese makers and lived on a farm in the country side. My brother and I however did not get our grandfather’s looks, having a much closer resemblance to my grandmother with blue eyes and light coloured hair and skin. So if I went to Switzerland, I would not be considered an outsider because of my looks, until someone tried to speak to me in German if I were in the German part. However, people seem to purely base this on looks as I have only lived 5 years of my life in Switzerland, I’ve lived abroad in Singapore and China more than I have there, but except for my family there that already know all this, no one would consider us as ‘outsiders’. I know people who have lived there longer than I have and don’t have Swiss passports that get a tougher time for applying to jobs or with taxes.
    In my country it’s also largely about a question of money, it’s not a very socialist country, even though it’s very democratic. If you have a lot of money it’s all smiles and an easy life and negotiating taxes with the tax collectors and it doesn’t even matter if you’re not Swiss… On the other hand, if you don’t have a lot of money, you’re in trouble, the cost of living in Switzerland is the second highest in the world and the government’s not that keen on giving money to change that especially if you’re not Swiss…
    This is a difficult issue to bring up in Switzerland as the majority of the people there vote for the UDC (the ‘racist’ party), though thankfully it is a near Direct-Democracy which means we get to vote in all the country’s policies, not the government. The best option for us to combat this is to start in schools and inside the government because they’re the one who are saying ‘that’s okay’, the UDC has openly made racist comments and publicity, and in Switzerland there are ‘political parties’ that young people join. The Green Party and Social Democratic parties have thankfully been gaining support in the past few years while the UDC has been losing some, though the recent refugee crisis in Europe might change that in the next general elections. The Liberals in Switzerland will just have to keep their fingers crossed and hope more Liberals rise up their cantons (states).

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  7. Thanks Sarah for sharing this. Such a well written and inspirational article.

    To be honest, Sweden to me has always been a place that is famous for peace and the friendliness of its people. It is no doubt a surprise to know that there are also people who share the similar mindsets and beliefs to Donald Trump’s, even the leaders. From seeing Trump’s campaign of banning Muslims, calling Mexicans rapists, to some of the Eastern European countries closing the boarders for refugees while treating them with tear gas, to eventually reading this article written by this fellow schoolmate about similar issue happened in Sweden (the last country on the list I would expect). I was reminded of the terrible racial segregation back in 1880. Yet,136 years later, we today still have people, leaders promoting the idea of separating, labeling people based on nothing but race, skin color, hair color. Clearly there is a huge amount of hatred out there but how many people have ever wondered why? Is it that the government and its policies created such a situation that is prompting the hate to grow?

    ‘What makes a swede?’ Is no longer a question that is only for the 30 chosen people to answer for the purpose of fulfilling the needs of a program. It is a question that many young France born French teenagers with Muslim background, are asking themselves, questioning their nationality, identify, before they make decision flying to Syria, or even going on a suicide mission. It’s all because of the fact that they are colored, they are Muslim so they don’t get the same amount of support as others do from the government. France is an example but looking at the refuge crisis and the responses of other countries, the same issues happen everywhere.

    However, instead of saying ‘there was humanity’, I strongly believe that there are existing humanity and justice among us in the society today. There’s always a good next to an evil and I believe that most people are capable of figuring out what is good and who to follow. We have leaders like Bernie Sanders who is opposite to Trump and it’s ridiculous policies; and believes in piece and believes in the solution of bringing people together instead of separating them apart. It is a shame to see there are still ignorant people judging based on race, skin color; but let’s just hope as time goes by, people will learn from the history and make the right decision.

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  8. Thanks Sarah for sharing this. Such a well written and inspirational article.

    To be honest, Sweden to me has always been a place that is famous for peace and the friendliness of its people. It is no doubt a surprise to know that there are also people who share the similar mindsets and beliefs to Donald Trump’s, even the leaders. From seeing Trump’s campaign of banning Muslims, calling Mexicans rapists, to some of the Eastern European countries closing the boarders for refugees while treating them with tear gas, to eventually reading this article written by this fellow schoolmate about similar issue happened in Sweden (the last country on the list I would expect). I was reminded of the terrible racial segregation back in 1880. Yet, 136 years later, we today still have people, leaders promoting the idea of separating, labeling people based on nothing but race, skin color, hair color. Clearly there is a huge amount of hatred out there but how many people have ever wondered why? Is it that the government and its policies created such a situation that is prompting the hate to grow?

    ‘What makes a swede?’ Is no longer a question that is only for the 30 chosen people to answer for the purpose of fulfilling the needs of a program. It is a question that many young France born French teenagers with Muslim background, are asking themselves, questioning their nationality, identify, before they make decision flying to Syria, or even going on a suicide mission. It’s all because of the fact that they are colored, they are Muslim so they don’t get the same amount of support as others do from the government. France is an example but looking at the refuge crisis and the responses of other countries, the same issues happen everywhere.

    However, instead of saying ‘there was humanity’, I strongly believe that there are existing humanity and justice among us in the society today. There’s always a good next to an evil and I believe that most people are capable of figuring out what is good and who to follow. We have leaders like Bernie Sanders who is opposite to Trump and it’s ridiculous policies; and believes in piece and believes in the solution of bringing people together instead of separating them apart. It is a shame to see there are still ignorant people judging based on race, skin color; but let’s just hope as time goes by, people will learn from the history and make the right decision.

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  9. Thanks for sharing this amazing story Sarah!
    Racism and discrimination have always been a problem for all time. I believe it is human natural. People are always afraid of people who look different because they often feel unsafe and can’t feel the sense of belonging. Hence, it is easy that people generate hatred towards different races. However, I believe that is not the main issue. The main problem is the politicians who try to increase their political popularity, utilise people’s hatred to achieve their goals. They intentionally blame everything on immigrants. As the result of their behaviour, people who are racist become radical and believe racism is the mainstream. This will be like a chain reaction that spreads rapidly and even influence or manipulate people’s mind. Personally, I believe this is the biggest weakness of the democracy as people might not be educated and their emotion can be easily incited. I hope people can learn from the history and realise what they are doing is reprehensible.

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  10. Hey Sarah,
    I really like what you wrote up there. I mean that is the constant question that we are asking ourselves living abroad and studying in a non-mother tongue language (for me and some asian ppls). I hear discussions between Japanese mothers (of course because I’m Japanese, so I take this nationality as an example but I bet all other countries and ethnic groups and cultures and every single group that you can label have this issue) about what makes them belong to their nationality. As mothers raising their children in a country where they are not a nationality of, or having children with different nationalities (btw some ppl call them “halfs”, but my mom calls them “doubles” and thats pretty cool), they question the meaning of being a Japanese.
    It is about nationality. Yes, but also about individuality. What makes you you? Why am I a Japanese when I have lived more of my life abroad. and to be specific, I have never lived in the same house for more than 2 years in my life except for the one I have moved last Saturday. And also by living out of Japan it made me more aware of myself as a Japanese. (I would think ppl who live in the country will have less chance to think about it especially in a country like Japan where you don’t share borders on land with other countries). I am “pure” Japanese, and I hold a Japanese passport and this and that… but so what? I know some Japanese friends who can’t speak Japanese, or can speak but when I talk to them they feel totally not “Japanese”. That made me think about why I felt so.
    There was a time when I questioned why is there a thing called nationality in this world, I mean why was I specifically born Japanese when in the end I’ve only lived there for 4 years on and off? Well from example we can say I’m from the East and I’m from the North or so. But then I started to think that there is something that identifies something about you for belonging in that community. When I read the article about how foreign journalists were surprised on how “well behaved” the Japanese were after the 2011 Great Eastern Earthquake, with no stealing and helping each other and sleeping on the side of the staircase (meaning caring for others even in their own hardships). I thought that was it. It’s really the “quality” of what you are that makes you identified as a part of a group. Because I have seen Japanese who seems totally like an American (its not a bad thing and I know ppl who are totally Japanese although they are totally not Japanese blooded). But then I wonder why were they born in their nationality when they became “Japanese” or “American”? Maybe that has another conversation to be discussed.

    Okay so that was the nationality part I wanted to talk about (blab about?). But then I know the real problem is not just about personal identity of being in a nationality. I think it is also about how ppl are now more focusing on excluding rather than being open. I know it must be a hard time for you and your brother and all the other ppl who are in Europe and all around the world. But I just wanted to share a way of seeing things that a person once shared with me.
    I sometime hate my self for being so full of ego and being selfish and this and that. Well I can go all the way to the word limit of this message about how bad a person I can be. But then of course I can’t spend my whole life nagging about it. So that person said, “See each challenge as an opportunity. You are only given as much of hardship that you can handle (which I thought was quite true) so the more difficulties you have, that means the more capacity you hold.” and yes, when I look back, I feel I have missed so much opportunities because I ran away from hardships or didn’t even notice I was given a chance. But there is another quote from a book that says, “A cactus can’t live in the north pole and a polar bear can’t live in the desert. and they don’t have to force themselves to live there.” Its kinda opposite of what I shared before, but maybe it’ll be fun to debate on 😛
    Anyway if you have company then you can do almost anything! That’s what I learnt from finally staying in one city (Singapore) for 6 years now and finding a friend to be together for that long. And I can see that you are a good friend to your brother and you guys are close. and your friends too! so I hope all those difficulties you and ppl around you are facing can be overcome! (I actually think you really are capable of them. I admire parts of you that is really amazing!)

    Sorry for the really really long message. I didn’t intend it to be this long );
    Good luck!

    Miki

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  11. Hey Sarah,
    I enjoyed reading what you wrote up there. I have lots to say, and I actually wrote it down BUT when I posted it it just disappeared and I’m really depressed so I’ll just keep it short and to the point.

    Okay in my former message I talked on and on about nationality, but I guess that was just too much blabbing. Well I see Japanese mothers worrying if their decision to bring along their children abroad and make them study in a not mother tongue language sometimes, is the right thing for their children, and wondering how that might affect the individuality that they will hold. (Especially people who have parents with different nationalities)(btw I found it interesting to see some ppl call ppl that are usually called as “halves”, “doubles”! That’s pretty cool right?)

    I think their concerns might be an actual problem too, as I have seen ppl who are like total American although they hold Japanese passports and have Japanese parents, and vise versa. But we can’t deal with the problem if we don’t know what actually should define us as Japanese and others. As I have mentioned, I have seen ppl who are totally like Americans although their nationality is Japanese. Why did I feel that way?

    That all reminded me of an article I read few years ago about 2011 Great Eastern Earthquake (EQ). Foreign journalists were surprised by the amount of crimes that occured in Japan after the EQ. Almost none! and there was a photo of ppl sleeping on the side of the stairs of a station. The caption mentioned about how the Japanese ppl are considerate of theres even in this hard times. and I thought those quality that Japanese ppl hold and the values that we share, are what makes us Japanese. I bet there are some qualities that the Swedish community really stands out for! (friendliness? from what I see in you! ;D )

    The second thing I wanted to share was about how hardships is not something negative. There are countless negative things in the world (of course) and in ourselves too. I would once in a while hate my self so much about how egoistic I can be. Okay that’s the negative side. But what can I do about it? It’s true that I have so much bad parts in me. But then a person told me that “see each hardships as opportunities. You are never given more than you are capable of. So the more difficulties you face, the more capacity you hold. You should be more scared when your life is so easy.” That really saved me. I may be not the perfect person but that doesn’t mean my starting point is negative hundred and others are like negative ten or so. It’s more of like I’m a large glass, and yes I need to work hard to fill up that cup, just like I need to work hard if I’m a negative hundred starter, but more full of potential. Not negatives because I am a bad person. I felt that really shows what a human is like. They are not bad or good ppl but maybe a bit emptier or has a bit bigger cup to fill 🙂

    So then that’s what I wanted to share with you who is facing hardships and you who is supporting the ones in hardships. I know its actually painful supporting ppl in hardships because you can’t take the load for them instead. But just saying, having friends to support really widens your world. Maybe like if you have two cups, together they make the capacity of two cups with a bonus 10% ;P

    Good luck and all the best for you and your family and friends!!!

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  12. Hi Sarah,

    This was a really nice article to read! It’s very inspiring and made me think about the society around us…
    Well, I’ve grown up in America, a country of many different races. At my elementary school there were people from different parts of the world too- in Texas, most of the “non-Americans” were Mexican, because it was geographically close. Maybe because we were young, but I didn’t really feel that non-whites at school were treaded differently from others. As I see current news of racism in America and the election campaign, this really questioned me…
    I came us by thinking as we grow up, the society changes the way we view each other. We are all equal at first, however by unconscious input in our minds by the society of how to judge people by their race or nationality, is what changes how we mistreat people. This is I believe what is the beginning of racism. For Sweden, I feel the society is quite strong and connected. Sweden can be considered as a patriotic country (sorry if I’m wrong and not in a bad way), and that is what makes it difficult for people in that culture to accept others that look different.

    It feels weird because humans are humans! And we’re all the same but just because of our physical appearance or the way we talk or do stuff makes us different and is seen differently in other’s eyes. I guess it’s just a matter of being open-minded and accepting things that are different from what is considered “normal” in the society. It seems easy, but is not…and is what is causing current issues in the world. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, it matters what is inside you!

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  13. Hi Sarah,

    This was a really nice article to read! It’s very inspiring and made me think about the society around us…
    Well, I’ve grown up in America, a country of many different races. At my elementary school there were people from different parts of the world too- in Texas, most of the “non-Americans” were Mexican, because it was geographically close. Maybe because we were young, but I didn’t really feel that non-whites at school were treaded differently from others. As I see current news of racism in America and the election campaign, this really questioned me…
    I came us by thinking as we grow up, the society changes the way we view each other. We are all equal at first, however by unconscious input in our minds by the society of how to judge people by their race or nationality, is what changes how we mistreat people. This is I believe what is the beginning of racism. For Sweden, I feel the society is quite strong and connected. Sweden can be considered as a patriotic country (sorry if I’m wrong and not in a bad way), and that is what makes it difficult for people in that culture to accept others that look different.

    It feels weird because humans are humans! And we’re all the same but just because of our physical appearance or the way we talk or do stuff makes us different and is seen differently in other’s eyes. I guess it’s just a matter of being open-minded and accepting things that are different from what is considered “normal” in the society. It seems easy, but is not… and is what is causing current global issues. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, it matters what is inside you!

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  14. What does it mean to be a Swedish? To be a Japanese? To be a Chinese? Or have any national identity. Does our nationality define who we are and what we can do for our country? I don’t think so.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, it is very inspiring and yet terrifying. We live in a society where we are often judged by our skin color, by how we look. It is human nature, it is not right to do but it is very hard to change. People who have traveled a lot and interact with different people, we know that the nationality of that person does not define who they are, but people who have never travel outside of their own town might not have the same view. What they have seen and experienced are limited, and of course they would be scared by reading news and getting faulty information and views from the government, social media and different resources. If I did not come to study overseas in an International School, i think i would be scared and be racist as well. I would also judge people that does not have the same skin color as i have.

    I think it is hard to change people’s mind until they actually get to know the person. Unless we prove to them that they are wrong, not everyone is the same. With the help of social media, more and more people are voicing out, telling people not to stereotype, not to be racist. A really good example would be the blindfolded muslim man with sign “ I’m Muslim, but I’m told that I’m terrorist” and “I trust you, you trust me? If yes, hug me.” at Place de la republic in Pais, days after Islamic State terrorists attacked the city. A Syrian YouTube star, Alshater took his idea and experiment the similar thing in German. He stands, blindfolded, with sign,’ I am a Syrian refugee. I trust you- do you trust me? Hug me!” He waited a long time for someone to hug him but after one person did, many followed. He wanted to tell people that,”you can’t say that all Germans are Nazis, or all refugees are Firas, because we are all different people and all of us need time to get to know each other and to be together.”

    People are using different ways to share their ideas, it does not have to be big or a huge event or a speech. It could just be a hug, and it made a big change. I think even though they are people like Trump trying to pull our society apart, it is scary and terrifying but we also have people on the other hand that still have hope, whom are still trying to pull our society together and we will eventually win. For me, what I can do and I will do would be keep on track of what is going on around the world, sharing my thought with friends and families, share my knowledge to people who are not aware of it. Thank you for sharing your story, now I can pass it to someone else!

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  15. Hey Sarah! Thank you for sharing your inspiring thoughts and experiences.

    I think we always struggle with accepting differences between each other. When we face something different, we often show vigilance and tendency to reject it. It’s like a foreign substance in our eyes. I think nationalism is one of the ways that we protect ourselves or make us feel that we are protected from something different from us. However, extreme nationalism is very dangerous as it tramples diverse nationalities and cultural background and could bring massacre in worst case.

    I think racism begins with stereotypes and all the stereotypes begin with our hasty generalization. We often forget that ‘majority’ does not mean ‘all’. In my opinion, a person who has different look but the same background as natives in a country is a native of the country. For example, there are many Korean children who are adopted by families in the US. They spend their whole life in the US. It is very hard to see that they are Koreans because they can’t speak Korean and all they experienced and learned was the US culture. Thus, they are actually Americans.

    Reading your story and writing this comment, I wondered why we always see the difference between someone and us first. Why can’t we find something common among us first? Why do we feel afraid of accepting differences? If we find the answer for the later and try to find something in common among us, I believe that it is a first but big step to solve racism.

    We are different but same. We speak different language, we look different, but we share the same root and we are same humans. No one is better than the other.

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  16. Hi Sarah!
    There were many astonishing things to know, and inspiring from your story that you had shared with us.
    I think telling other people about your own country is a difficult thing to do, because we always feel supportive towards our home-country, and it is much harder to accept the reality if the issues are occurring at our country. I think being honest and telling about the truth needs lots of courage, so I really respect you for being brave for sharing this story.
    It was astonishing to know that many people were staring to support the idea for anti- refugees. This is strongly connects to stereotype because many people tends to think that all refugees are dangerous, poor, and someone who should avoid talking. But this does not apply to everyone. We tends to decide from what the other people say. but we actually don’t know whether this is true or not.
    Judging from the visual impression isn’t always right, but it is a difficult thing to do since I also have an experience of judging people from their looking. However, life in Singapore changed my mined. There are many different nationalities and religions in Singapore, and I stopped thinking about their looking because I realised that we are all different from each other.
    Stereotype is not only a global issue, it also happens in a local region. Being open minded, and realise that we are all different, it might be a one step forward for solving this issue.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Like

  17. Hi Sarah! Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us!

    I personally believe that nationalities or race, has nothing to do with who you really are. Since every human being is special and unique. There are much more bigger factors that could affect human’s personalities and behaviours, such as education level, environment, or genes. And nationalities and race are definitely not one of those.

    But right now, we are seeing people forming groups due to their race and tried to exclude others. I personally feel sad about this because it seems like our time has slowly gone back to the past when people were so close minded and attacked people base on their race, just like the time when the blacks were separated with the whites . I am also afraid that if this continue to happen, or become worse, how much potential our society will lose, in all kinds of industries, just because of their skin colour or nationalities.

    So I think we should take responsibilities of this, since we are the generation that might be live in this kind of society, and I hope everyone could put themselves in others shoes, think if they are the one who are being attack and pigeonholed but has never done anything wrong or bad, what would they feel?

    Like

  18. Hi Sarah! Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us!

    I personally believe that nationalities or race, has nothing to do with who you really are. Since every human being is special and unique. There are much more bigger factors that could affect human’s personalities and behaviours, such as education level, environment, or genes. And nationalities and race are definitely not one of those.

    But right now, we are seeing people forming groups due to their race and tried to exclude others. I personally feel sad about this because it seems like our time has slowly gone back to the past when people were so close minded and attacked people base on their race, just like the time when the blacks were separated with the whites . I am also afraid that if this continue to happen, or become worse, how much potential our society will lose, in all kinds of industries, just because of their skin colour or nationalities.

    So I think we should take responsibilities of this, since we are the generation that might be live in this kind of society, and I hope everyone could put themselves in others shoes, think if they are the one who are being attack and pigeonholed but has never done anything wrong or bad, what would they feel?

    Like

  19. Hi sarah,
    This is such an amazing story to read. I know that it is not easy to tell a big audience about your own feeling about your country but you’ve nailed it! Same like Sweden, Indonesia is a culturally diverse country and we have our history about 100% Indonesians attack Chinese-Indonesian community. I’ve realised that the reason a certain race dislike other race because they have their insecurities and feel threatened about their position in their own country. The reason of May 1998 riots in Indonesia because the fully Indonesian felt very threatened by the Chinese-Indonesian communities because the Chinese-Indonesian are certainly prosperous while the Indonesians can’t compete with the Chinese-Indo and 1998 was our country crucial moment because of this riot. Many people have fled the country to escape from such a terrible incident to save their own family from being killed or sold.

    Also, being an international student in a foreign country have change my point of view of thinking and my country by reflecting and seeing what the rest of the world have been up to. I do the same thing like what you did, I compare and contrast my country to other country and I came up with a conclusion that being open minded, respect each other & being aware are the keys to solve this issue or/and similar issue and have a peaceful society.

    Like

  20. Thank you for sharing your personal experience with me. In my opinion, since the first thing that decides an individual’s impression is his outlook (which can be his race), we can deduce that the people who assaulted your brother’s car may have known him superficially. I think that because there are so many issues going on with the muslims and skin colors currently, this issue is stimulating the racisms and false identity. I really like how you talked about the standard of being ‘sweedish’, because this directly relates to this kind of issue, like how being ‘muslim’ is, for some people, treated as being ‘terrorist’. However, I want you to also understand that kind of people’s principle, that they are threatened by those news stating about ISIS and other muslim terrorists committing terrorism, and that it is unpredictable when they will be assaulted as well.

    Like

  21. I am very proud of you Sarah this is an amazing piece and sheds light on what people believe about races and where they come from, Just because you have a turban on your head doesn’t mean that you are any different to a white person with blonde hair and blue eyes and people have no reason to disrespect other races because of current problems that some members of the religion cause. These are assumptions that people make on a day to day basis and should really gain wider knowledge on the issue.

    Like

  22. very interesting topic, especially now. I have been doing research on ledership in the last 2 years and what i found is how fear stops leaders from doing the things they need done. And this issue of rising nationalism is, in my opinion, a fear thing. As an African and academic, it fascinated me to read this about Sweden and it gives me an interesting perspective about the fear that is engulfing the world and leads people to withdraw into sameness as opposed to difference. i have a few clients who are Swedish (not sure how pure -now that you asked I will wonder) and I will have a hat with them to also hear what they are thinking. Thank you for this.

    Like

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