Monday, February 28, 2011

Ask a Korean! News: Sweden - Not the Least Racist Country in the World

The Korean previously wrote that America is the least racist country in the world, because:
[I]t’s one of the few countries that racial minorities are in a position to threaten the racial majority, and it’s the only one among those countries that is by and large successful in curbing the racist sentiments that inevitably follow from such a situation.
...
[A] country that has no significant number of racial minorities cannot possibly claim that it is not a racist country. How can you confidently say that your morals will overcome your survival instinct, if your survival was never tested?
Right now, Sweden's survival instinct is getting tested, and sure enough, racism inevitably rears its ugly head:
For a time, Sweden seemed immune to the kind of anti-immigrant sentiment blossoming elsewhere on the European continent. Its generous welfare and asylum policies have allowed hundreds of thousands of refugees to settle here, many in recent years from Muslim countries. Nearly a quarter of Sweden’s population is now foreign born or has a foreign-born parent.

But increasingly, Swedes are questioning these policies. Last fall, the far-right party — campaigning largely on an anti-immigration theme — won 6 percent of the vote and, for the first time, enough support to be seated in the Swedish Parliament.

Six months later, many Swedes are still in shock. The country — proud of its reputation for tolerance — can no longer say it stands apart from the growing anti-immigrant sentiment that has changed European parliaments elsewhere, leading to the banning of burqas in France and minarets in Switzerland.

...

Mr. Gasi was able to earn a doctorate degree here, and he has a job as a teaching assistant. But he still does not feel welcome. He points to the swastikas and the Serbian crosses etched in the hall outside the mosque he attends.

“It’s hard to watch the news,” he said. “It’s Muslim this, Muslim that. Everything is about how bad we are. The Swedish won’t say anything to your face. But they say things.”
Swedes Begin to Question Liberal Migration Tenets [New York Times]

If one wants to truly gauge the level of racism in a country, one needs to take a serious look about whether minorities are in a position to threaten the majority. Any country can claim tolerance when there is no one around to tolerate. Put differently, the formula for anti-racism is the proportion and status of racial minorities, times the actual tolerance practiced.

Can you really practice tolerance when you feel the racial minorities might change everything around you? That is the true test of how anti-racist a society is, and there is still no country on the Earth that does better on that test than America.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

16 comments:

  1. what the hell is AAK babbling about?

    First, Sweden and Europe in general are not just getting non-white immigrants*...they are getting refugees. Uncontrolled inflow of refugees. Those refugees are dragging down European welfare, which goes beyond US's, thereby worsening Europe's already terrible balance sheet.

    (*and for those "white=racist, non-white=not racist" crowd out there, keep in mind in the UK and France people are getting fed up with Eastern European immigrants who are white + Christian!)

    In the US, protected by two huge oceans, there are barely any refugees, so the comparison is already dead there. In terms of uncontrollable inflows of immigrants it is with Mexico, and surprise surprise - Americans are rightfully sick and tired of this open-border policy (you think 2010's Arizona police-checking-your-ID fiasco is an exception? You are about to get disappointed). In addition, there are plenty Americans who are racist, and some racists get to be powerful politicians - just as much, if not more, than Sweden, proportionally speaking. (Many others, of course, are not racist, just reasonably upset about bad immigration policy). And yet, somehow AAK wants us to believe his favorite country in the world is less prejudiced than *gasp* those damn Europeans!

    And let's leave propaganda and ideology aside and be perfectly honest: if AAK lived in a neighborhood of huge inflows of immigrants that increased crime rate (the NYT article points that even the firemen and medics were scared) and refused to accept American culture or learn English, would AAK say to his wife and child "Naw, we just have to be more open-minded"?

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  2. @cornflakes

    I'm going to have to side with TK on this one. You're right about the welfare in Europe being greater in Europe. This does exacerbate this issue there, but I think there are some things that might have been misunderstood, though I can't speak for TK, only myself. I think you're also right about calling out the white vs. non-white crowd. Not sure how many there are, but yes, certainly whites have been discriminated against even in the history of the US: Irish, Jews, Italians.

    But I think we do have a bigger threat to the racial majority than most European countries. And as TK has said, no other country comes down on any dissent of those minorities more than the US. As you pointed out, the US has an inflow of Mexican immigrants through the southern boarder. But the Arizona law had nothing to do with the fact that they were non-white, only that they were here illegally. If you read the bill, you have to be in an interaction with the police before they can ask you about your immigration status. Such pains would not be taken in other countries, where you would simply be profiled. But even still, the US media had a cow over this law. That's what TK is talking about. The amount of critique and introspection of this law was astounding! Concerts, riots, talking heads on TV. We had it all. Few other countries would look at the law this way and be that concerned with the rights of a minority.

    You are correct that the feeling of being sick and tired of this is not uncommon. But what Americans are sick of is high crime rates and drug smuggling. I'm not saying this law would fix that, but I think that's what's at play. It's immigrants (the Mexicans I've talked to) who waited their turn in line and bolstered their resumes to come here feeling they've been cheated, not racism.

    In a parliamentary system like the on in Europe, racists absolutely wield more power than in the US in government. They are needed to form coalitions for governments and therefore can act more easily.

    I think the only thing that enables immigrants to not accept American culture is our overreaction to racism. TK wrote about it, but basically it is multiculturalism. The immigrants are here because there is greater opportunity in America, and that comes with some sacrifices like learning the culture. Immigrants who have come from terrible places, like my grandparents know this and don't mind learning the culture. Trust me, it could be worse.

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  3. Yes, it's really easy to blame someone for racism when no one is threatening you. I'm from Eatern Europe and when I go to Western Europe no one can say by my face I'm not from there. But still there is much prejudice towards us and many Western Europeans don't like us although we look the same as them and have almost the same religion as them. It's the same when we go to the US - there are many more restrictions for us than for those who come from Western Europe even though we are in the EU.
    Also, why are you missing the gypsy problems in Europe? Do you know that last summer France ordered some gypies from Bulgaria and Romania to leave the country for which he was blamed for racism? But actually people who live in Bulgaria and Romania are so tired of gypies that they didn't blame Sarcosy, they just felt sorry that those gypsies are coming to their country again, I'm curious how all the Americans wouls react if they have to live near gypsies - if they rob you all the time, if they smell because they don't wash, if they destroy buildings... Would you still not be racist and accept them?
    All the minorities that live in a country must respect the local culture and adjust to it and must not break the rules in the society, otherwise they have no right to complain about bad treatment and not being accepted as equals.

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  4. As a Swede and as someone belonging to a "racial minority" I feel the need to add a few words.

    1. Sweden ≠ Europe. The Sweden Democrats are extremely politically correct when compared to even neighbouring Dansk Folkeparti of Denmark. While I don't doubt that most of it's members secretly harbour racist thoughts, the politics of the party is comparable to what is espoused by members of the Republican Party in the US (Protect "Christian values", quite anti-Islamic, very nationalistic). They (the Sweden Democrats) have long ago abandoned any talk about "race" (compare that with the BNP and you'll notice a difference), which helps explain how they managed to get as much as 6% of the vote in the latest election.

    This is also lost on the NYT article when it says that "the growing anti-immigrant sentiment that has changed European parliaments elsewhere, leading to the banning of burqas in France and minarets in Switzerland". Neither burqas nor minarets have been banned in Sweden and any politician (barring the Sweden Democrats) who tries to propose any such legislation is immediately shunned by his/her party.

    The attempts in other European countries to regulate what people are allowed to wear in public and what buildings they are allowed to build has been looked upon with extreme unease in Sweden (and we DO have a lot of Muslims here. To take but one example, the small town of Södertälje (pop. 60,000) has alone received more Iraqi refugees than the US and Canada have received combined). The fact that Swedish extremists, with less than 6% backing, propose roughly the same politics as the French and Swiss government do is rarely mentioned.

    2. "Can you really practice tolerance when you feel the racial minorities might change everything around you?"
    And how are American Muslims treated and portrayed by American politicians? I would be especially interested in the 6% of politicians who are the most extreme and then perhaps I will proceed with concluding how intolerant the American society is.

    How tolerant is the American population at large (not just liberal, urban-dwelling democrats) of Muslims? Sweden's largest immigrant population is the Finns but I doubt the situation of that minority would make Sweden seem quite as intolerant just as some American minorities face less intolerance than others.

    Finally, if anyone has bothered to read this far, I am not claiming that Sweden is necessarily more tolerant or less racist than the US or any other country. I am also not claiming that the Sweden Democrats are not a deplorable and despicable organization made up of incompetent politicians or that there is not a substantial and significant discrimination taking place against Muslims and other minorities in Sweden. I do, however, think that a fringe movement does not and cannot characterize the attitudes of a whole nation.

    If you want a fairly well-balanced outsider look on Sweden's immigration problems I'd recommend this article by Andrew Brown: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/18/swedish-elections-far-right

    PS. While I see no reason to reply to such an abhorrent comment, I feel the need to point out that not everyone in Europe is as racist as the above commentator "student".

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  5. @Dan:

    thanks for your reply.

    "But I think we do have a bigger threat to the racial majority than most European countries."
    I hiiiighly disagree. Countries like Sweden have few people in the first place, so a 10,000 inflow of immigrants has a much bigger impact than in US. Also, remember that Sweden is part of the "Old World", meaning a "New World" country like the US has less history and tradition...meaning, more of an "immigrant society" by default (not necessarily "less racist").

    And speaking of "New World", I like how AAK suggests that America is unique in its pro-immigration policy, completely disregarding Brazil or Argentina or Chile.

    "But even still, the US media had a cow over this law. That's what TK is talking about. The amount of critique and introspection of this law was astounding! "
    Any small portion of a 300 million population, provided they shout loud enough, can cause a shift in policy.

    "But what Americans are sick of is high crime rates and drug smuggling. "
    And the Swedes and the French are not? Europeans and Americans are alot similar than what you give credit for.

    "In a parliamentary system like the on in Europe, racists absolutely wield more power than in the US in government. They are needed to form coalitions for governments and therefore can act more easily."
    I just don't buy this. Maybe in all the US, as an aggregate. But when you look at specific states, esp. the border states who must confront the true costs?

    "I think the only thing that enables immigrants to not accept American culture is our overreaction to racism."
    I am skeptical to this argument. Poor assimilation into host country cannot only be blamed on the host country.

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  6. cornflakes,

    Countries like Sweden have few people in the first place, so a 10,000 inflow of immigrants has a much bigger impact than in US.

    Well, there is a simple way of figuring this out. According to 2005 census, racial minority in Sweden comprised of less than 5% of the country. (And that's including Eastern European, taking your objection into account.) The U.S. is about 25% racial minority.

    I like how AAK suggests that America is unique in its pro-immigration policy, completely disregarding Brazil or Argentina or Chile.

    The Korean has no idea how you got that impression.

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  7. The Korean--

    The U.S. is about 25% racial minority.

    No, it's about 33% racial minorities.


    I consider most self identifying white Hispanics to be a racial minority since most of them that we've gotten from Mexico and Central America are predominantly Amerindian, and their culture is notably different, usually, than that of the mostly Spanish Mexico City and Montaray elite. As well they perform very badly in school, comparably to or even worse than African Americans.

    Their vast and continuing enormous increase over the last 30 years especially has been terrible for the country. It's a good part of what's bankrupting California, well combined with democratic / public employee union leftism.

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  8. Btw--

    Survival is FAR more important than remaining non racist.

    Particularly when the kind of "racism" we're talking about (noticing group differences caused by whatever combination of reasons) is noticing that some groups aren't particularly aiding the social welfare of most pre existing Swedish citizens (to say the least), and therefore feeling that allowing their mass immigration should be ended.

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  9. AAK:

    You forgot to mention that the US's absorption of that immigration has been over a 100+ year period.

    "The Korean has no idea how you got that impression."

    You said that the US is the least racist country in the world. My point being, you could substitute "the Americas" for "the world", and STILL be making an unproven, biased statement.

    Then again, Americans have a tendency to think they are the best country in the world, so it is not too surprising for your Multi-culti post to follow this line of thinking.

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  10. @cornflakes

    You forgot to mention that the US's absorption of that immigration has been over a 100+ year period.

    I really don't think that is it. The metric that TK has put forth about looking minorities as a proportion and then the relative tolerance of the host country is better. The reason I say this is based even on my own family's experience. My family is essentially made of Polish Jews. I'll speak about Poland, but you can apply this to almost any European country with Jews and pretty much any significant minority you'd care choose.

    Jews had been in Poland since around the year 1000. And yet, still after all that absorption time, they lay down and helped the Nazis round up the Jews, allowed the largest extermination camp to be built in their country, and allowed the reduction of the Polish-Jewish population, previously at 3,000,000 (80% of world's Jews) to a mere 45,000. Jews fled Poland after this so that the current Jewish population there is about 25k, 0.065% of the world's Jews, even less than Germany has.

    Jews had lived there a long time, and they even enjoyed special treatment from the government due to the economic role they played: Polish coins with Hebrew on them, a anti-slander law for us, safe-haven granted during Crusades, a charter of Jewish Liberties, death penalty for forced baptisms. All this, yet Poland wasn't changed because the people were still anti-Semitic. Arguably, this government action exacerbated it, but I digress. As soon as the Plague rolled around, we get the first Jewish blood libel and Pogroms. Interestingly, Jewish culture thrived and grew at this time. But the government was always on the side of the Jews prior to 1700's or so. But this treatment didn't incentivize Jews to assimilate or Gentiles to tolerate them. This may be why when Russia partitioned Poland (1700's) and Hitler invaded, the Poles didn't object to the treatment of the Jews. I'd liken this a lot to our modern-day multiculturalism and affirmative action, but that's another story.

    Then again, Americans have a tendency to think they are the best country in the world, so it is not too surprising for your Multi-culti post to follow this line of thinking.

    Now this stereotype. I guess there are some Americans who are braggadocios about the country, but I think this is a gross overstatement. Americans are the most introspective country in terms of their image that I can think of. I don't think any other country, especially if they were a super power, would be so concerned with how much other countries "like them."

    But if we accept the premise for a second, I think it's justified. The United States, in only about 230 years, has gone from nothing to the great super power. Countries that have been around thousands of years, had a homogenous makeup, and that were powerful couldn't get it right, but the US did. Most of us are of immigrant descent, and most of us, certainly myself, know and appreciate the tremendous sacrifice our ancestors made in coming here just for a shot at making something of yourself. The US offered no guarantees of greatness or anything like that, only the guarantee that you could make something of yourself and free to do so. This is so simple, yet other countries, great empires on Earth for thousands of years, couldn't/wouldn't offer their people such freedoms. Instead, they offered them dungeons and subjugation that people like my ancestors fled from. No one is pretentious about American DNA because frankly, there isn't any. The US is a vast statistical improbability in the course of human history which has set an example for the rest of the world and has freed more people than all other countries combined. So I give those particularly cocky Americans a break. Just like me, they know what a blessing it is to be here (your odds are about 4.5%).

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  11. @Dan:

    Thanks for the response.

    I think the main problem with AAK's argument are these unsupported assumptions:
    1 - he assumes proportion of immigrants to non-immigrants in a (large) country is the best, or one of the best, means for the country's level of prejudice to be "tested". He completely ignores the nature, duration, proportion, and other factors of immigration (let alone whether immigration is the key factor in the first place. Remember, the Indians and Mexicans were there first!)
    2 - related to previous point: he assumes America has been thoroughly "tested"*
    3 - he assumes the amount of "reflection" in the media/public over American racism is proof of how "least racist" US is. It's almost as if the "hey, at least we talk about it!" argument (in itself lacking in quantifiable data with which to compare with other nations) somehow helps a racist America become less racist than others (like Europe)


    *this is where my "He is a typical American that thinks his country is the best" comment comes from. Is he really that ignorant of other countries - large and small - have bigger ethnic/racial/religious challenges than the US has ever faced?

    I think the US has had it damn easy, actually. Since the US is so huge in the first place, let's imagine that the Mexican inflow is into the tens of millions. Annually. And let's imagine it's not hard-working Catholic Mexicans, but completely un-Western (ex: masses of people praying in public in the middle of a neighborhood, blocking traffic, not to mention clashing with Christian/secular traditions of host country), very crime-ridden (scaring even your policemen and firemen) flood of people, who, btw are dragging down a great welfare system that your country labored to create and perfect.

    Or how about what Russia and China face: separatism and terrorism? Let's have those Mexicans vent anger through explosive violence - whether suicide bombs, or actual riots with casualties in the 100s. Or that they want to separate "former Mexican lands" from the US. While we are at it, let's imagine your northern neighbor Canada is not as a similar culture that is prosperous, but something like another Mexico or Pakistan - culturally different, poor, and ALSO flooding into your country.

    And all this happening in a matter of few decades.

    Then we'll talk. Until then, all these "proofs" of America's least racist position is just another American blabbling about the only country he has ever known.

    PS: Dan, Jewish history in Poland is by no means comparable to Jewish history in America. You should know this and yet, you are thinking like an American again. Instead you should be comparing Indian/Native American history.

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  12. I don't really think Americans are any less racist than anyone else. I DO think we're quite a bit more tolerant of immigration, though. As I've said before, mass immigration was pretty much required to build America as we know it. It takes people to build railroads, dig for gold, plant crops, etc- and it took a lot more to do those things in the 19th century. This isn't just an American story, either; pretty much all the countries in the New World attracted immigrants because of their abundant natural resources.

    Now, take a country like Korea, Japan, or even Sweden. These countries were net exporters of immigrants for a long time, largely because they lacked sufficient economic resources to support their populations. Heck, not that long ago, the South Korean government was desperately trying to LOWER the birthrate. Even today, a lot of people would consider South Korea to be an overcrowded country. Don't you think these circumstances would create a rather different attitude towards immigration, racism or not?

    Now, as TK has pointed out, the declining birthrates in Korea and Japan are worrisome from an economic standpoint. It will be interesting to see if these countries become more welcoming towards immigrants as the economic calculus changes. Likewise, it will be interesting to see if anti-immigrant sentiment increases in the U.S. if the economy continues to stagnate.

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  13. cornflakes,

    You forgot to mention that the US's absorption of that immigration has been over a 100+ year period.

    Two problems with this:

    1. The fact that U.S. has had a multiracial society for 100+ years was hardly forgotten -- in fact, it was the biggest reason why the Korean identified U.S. as the least racist.

    2. You seem to equate anti-racism with anti-immigration. Why? Anti-racism is a bigger concept than anti-immigration. Anti-immigration also excludes the most important racial group in America in its progress toward reducing racism, i.e. African Americans. America nearly disappeared (through Civil War) in major part because it could not internally agree on how to treat the minority race living in America. 150 years later, a black man is the leader of America. Seriously, name a country that has faced a bigger racial challenge AND met that challenge as successfully as America did.

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  14. "The fact that U.S. has had a multiracial society for 100+ years was hardly forgotten -- in fact, it was the biggest reason why the Korean identified U.S. as the least racist. "

    That makes little sense. What does a 100+ yr. history of multi-culti matter WRT being "least racist"....when in all those years, the US was about as racist as any country, short of mass genocide (except, as I said, Native American genocide)?

    "You seem to equate anti-racism with anti-immigration"

    I actually don't equate anything with anything.

    "Seriously, name a country that has faced a bigger racial challenge AND met that challenge as successfully as America did"

    This is how America-centric AAK is: somehow, going from slavery to black president inn 150 years is evidence that America is least racist. Which makes poor sense. That is like saying Pakistan and India - arguably far more sexist countries than the US or Europe - are somehow "least sexist" because they went from "founding democracy" to "electing a woman" in mere decades.

    Heck, if anything, I have a bigger admiration for countries like Korea that go from "homogeneity as core national identity" to "pro-multi culti government and public media" in the span of 20 years.

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  15. That makes little sense. What does a 100+ yr. history of multi-culti matter WRT being "least racist"....when in all those years, the US was about as racist as any country, short of mass genocide (except, as I said, Native American genocide)?

    Did you even read the "least racist country" post?

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  16. I came back to this post after reading about a particularly nasty anti-muslim rally in Yorba Linda, CA, and I was quite shocked to see the turn of this debate.

    In my opinion, debates about whether the US or certain EU countries do a better job at dealing with racism are similar to debating whether Harvard or Princeton are better schools (to use a tiger-mom friendly metaphor). Compared to some of the bottom feeders elsewhere in the world, the differences are not all that great...

    Speaking as a recent European immigrant to the US, there is much to be unhappy about when it comes to the treatment of immigrants to the US (current paperwork processing times are outrageously long -- a matter of years now). However, the EU has a few skeletons in the closet too (a whole generation of immigrants uneducated, without work and with very poor prospects) and in the long run the *only* criterion for being a successful nation is whether you manage to adapt and learn from your mistakes. Measured to that yardstick, the US does better (for now).

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