#bestof: ” 24 Heures dans la Peau d’un Autre ” — FR-EN-SW…

17 May

We have posted this letter recently in various languages, we shall consolidate all posts related to the subject


An Open Letter to Beatrice Ask

Jonas Hassen Khemiri

Artwork by Ellen Blom

In 2009, the Swedish government, along with law enforcement and the Swedish Migration Board, implemented Project REVA, a program meant to expedite cases dealing with people who are in Sweden illegally. This program has only recently been implemented in Stockholm, where police have begun to check IDs of anyone who they suspect doesn’t have proper papers. Despite the fact that police are not to ask for ID solely on the basis of appearance, many say they have been questioned because they don’t “look Swedish,” raising concerns that police are practicing racial profiling in an attempt to increase deportations.Not surprisingly, this created an uproar, but when Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask was asked in a radio interview whether she was concerned by this apparent profiling, she brushed off any concerns, saying that what people thought was racial profiling was just a matter of “personal experience,” and she indicated that she does not intend to take any specific measures to address the matter.The writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri wrote the open letter below in response to Ask’s comments. It ran in the Stockholm paper Dagens Nyheter on March 13, 2013. By the end of that day it had broken the record for the most-shared DN.se article on social media. According to a DN article about the story, it was shared on Twitter enough times to theoretically have reached every Swede with a Twitter account. It is now the most linked text in Swedish history.
—Rachel Willson-Broyles
Dear Beatrice Ask,There are a lot of things that make us different. You were born in the mid-fifties; I was born in the late seventies. You are a woman; I’m a man. You’re a politician; I’m an author. But there are some things we have in common. We’ve both studied international economics (without graduating). We have almost the same hairstyle (even if our hair color is different).

And we’re both full citizens of this country, born within its borders, joined by language, flag, history, infrastructure. We are both equal before the Law.

So I was surprised last Thursday when the radio program P1 Morgon asked you whether, as the Minister of Justice, you are concerned that people (citizens, taxpayers, voters) claim they have been stopped by the police and asked for ID solely because of their (dark, non-blond, black-haired) appearances. And you answered:

“One’s experience of ‘why someone has questioned me’ can of course be very personal. There are some who have been previously convicted and feel that they are always being questioned, even though you can’t tell by looking at a person that they have committed a crime […] In order to judge whether the police are acting in accordance with laws and rules, one has to look at the big picture.”

Interesting choice of words: “previously convicted.” Because that’s exactly what we are. All of us who are guilty until we prove otherwise. When does a personal experience become a structure of racism? When does it become discrimination, oppression, violence? And how can looking at “the big picture” rule out so many personal experiences of citizens?

I am writing to you with a simple request, Beatrice Ask. I want us to trade our skins and our experiences.


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