The Flower Memorials after July 22. gave me hope
Today, hope is just as strong, but faith may have somewhat weakened. For those who think skin color defines Norwegian, my children will never be Norwegian.
Krister Hoaas, @KrHoaas, Father
It is July 22, eight years after the blast in the government quarter and the deadly bullets on Utøya. I think of those who were brutally murdered because they stood for values like diversity and tolerance because they believed that these are values that define what we as a nation should be. For me it’s personal.
I remember the flower memorial in Oslo and all the warm looks we got, where we stood with our three small Ethiopia-adopted children in the Town Hall Square. In all the upsetting, sad, and heartbreaking hurt, I also felt that what I was experiencing and what was being said from all the country’s pulpits in those days gave hope for a less polarized value debate, for a greater we and a more inclusive way to be Norwegian.
Today, eight years later, hope is just as strong, but faith may have somewhat weakened. For it is not what we do during public gatherings, or say in memorial speeches and political debates, that determines the direction of our society.
It is all the little actions we do in everyday life, the words we use about each other, how we talk about each other, how we respond to others’ lack of tolerance, how we strike down on normalization of the extreme, in everyday life and in politics.
All of this defines where we as a society are heading, and how we should interact with one another – and in questions like this, unfortunately, silence is the same as agreeing. For without a counter-vote, the boundaries of what are acceptable attitudes and statements are being pushed further and further towards what was previously extreme.
Because it hurts when the four-year-old desperately clings and screams and doesn’t want to go to kindergarten, because the other kids just talk down the skin color and only want to play if the toddler is a doormat or dog. How do these children’s parents talk to theirs?
It hurts when the 13-year-old angry leaves the football pitch in a game they’ve won 9-1 because the opponent’s attacker has shouted “damn nigger”. How do clubs, coaches, and parents handle this?
It hurts when the eight-year-old is furious coming home from playing football because another child has said: “I don’t pass the ball to black people”.
It hurts when the eight-year-old wants to wash off his skin color because “everyone else” says the child is not pretty.
It hurts when a 12-year-old is afraid to take public transportation after experiencing being bullied by older boys because of skin color, without anyone else intervening.
It hurts when the eleven-year-old talks about an old lady, who has just told the child that it does not belong here in Norway.
It is painful to be afraid of what prejudice these children may face when they become adolescents and adults. Will they be judged on the basis of their own skills and achievements, or will they be attributed to cultural traits and negative traits based on how they look?
For those who think skin color defines Norwegian, they will never be Norwegian. But are they Norwegian enough for those who think Norwegian is about their definition of culture? How to see cultural affiliation?
Will they ever be Norwegian enough for those who believe “Norwegian values” defines Norwegian? For how do you see values? On skin tone?
I am not at ease, hopeful and with faith but need help. We need as many people as possible to protest, stand up against racism, intolerance, polarization, and hatred. In this way, we can show that the child murderer and the political terrorist who would cripple the AUF and the Labor Party, which bombed the government quarter and Norwegian democracy, are not right. That he loses, that hatred loses and tolerance wins.
It will be the best answer, the best flower memorial.
Original first published on July 22. 2019 in Norwegian in Bergens Tidende
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