“Let it rain. Let freedom reign”
As the words thundered across City Hall Square, the sky above the Danish capital suddenly opened up and the rain started pouring down on the 500 people who had gathered to commemorate the latest victims of police violence in the United States – Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Alva Braziel.
Protest organisers Sade Johnson and Mary Namagambe argue the recent shootings in the United States present an opportunity to confront issues of inequality and racism within the Danish society, where they say public racist slurs are commonplace and political parties across the spectrum have adopted cultural racism as an integral part of their platforms.
Writer Lesley-Ann Brown spoke at the event, and argued that cultural racism flourishes in Denmark due to a lack of public scrutiny on the challenges faced by people of colour.
“Working within the school system, I have seen children being called the n-word by their teachers. That is violence, and it is violence when the politicians decide to use that word,” she said in her speech.
While Denmark has traditionally been regarded as a liberal and tolerant country, placing a high value on social equality and social cohesion, I think it hasn’t escaped the wave of racism and xenophobia that has swept over continental Europe following the refugee crisis.
Ethnic minorities are continually problematized in the Danish media as both a threat to Danish social cohesion and welfare. I worry that this negative reporting has fed the ‘unconscious grammar’ of cultural racism – subtle, ingrained and institutional preferential treatment for white Danes over their non-white counterparts.
So it’s not so strange to have a protest in Copenhagen over American police killings. Racism and bigotry is something we need to think about too. M