“Is Sweden a pronounced racist country, built on principles and a system that deliberately oppresses people who are not blond and blue-eyed? Daily Dagens Nyheter has lived that lie throughout spring.”
These words, part of a column in May in daily Expressen, come from Marcus Birro, a Swedish-Italian poet, author and columnist. Birro is referring to an open letter strongly suggesting a racist Sweden, written earlier this year by author Jonas Hassen Khemiri to Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask, a letter that sparked a debate in Sweden. It is also Birro’s way of saying congratulations to Sweden on the country’s national day, celebrated June 6. “I am a second-generation immigrant, and should reasonably have a voice in (this) matter,” Birro continues. “On the other hand, I am not desirable in the circles where debates of this kind flare up. I am, unfortunately, also a middle-aged, heterosexual man, and on top of it all a Christian (Catholic). Alas, all this counteracts my foreign descent and has immediately disqualified me from partaking in the discussion.”
Birro continues to write that as a Christian in one of the world’s most secularized countries, he has taken more beatings than he can handle.
"As an entrepreneur and someone who crosses borders in a conformist and closed off cultural world, I have been hushed down and ridiculed throughout the years. Few, if any, have been as derided as yours truly. Am I then a victim of structural racism? No, I have finally come to the realization that I will have to live with these types of attacks as long as I persist in wanting to do things that are a bit on the outskirts on the safety zone.”
And Birro draws the following conclusion: “Sweden is not a racist country. Sweden is a country built by immigrants. My dad is one of those who came here in the 1960s and built the ‘wellfare state.’ His and my mother’s work have given me the opportunity to be what I want to be. Sweden is a country that supported me when I couldn’t support myself. Sweden is a country that gave me the chance to rise again after I had fallen and then fallen some more. Sweden is a country that offers thousands of possibilities from every lost chance. Sweden is a country that guides its citizen right when they are about to go wrong. Sweden is a country that rakes the paths clean of condemnation and denial.”
In spite of not having a proper higher education, Birro writes, he’s been able to fulfill his dreams of writing books and columns. Breaking through, he adds, is possible. “I’m sure there are structures that makes problems for people. But when people lie up structures and then force reality into these structures, the personal responsibility goes missing, the parental responsibility goes missing, as does one’s own conscience. In the end it is all about you and your life. You have the possibility to choose. You make your own choices. No structures in the world can stop you from anything. Sweden is not a racist country. Sweden is a broad-minded, tolerant and good country. With its share of shortcomings. I have thousands of objections, and on top of it I am also objected to a lot of things. But it’s about time we stop putting the blame on others. It’s about time we take a look in the mirror and take personal responsibility for our lives. Congratulations Sweden on tomorrow’s National Day. We are in this dream together.”
Photo: Thomas & Malin Brindefalk