DEBATE: – It is incredibly frightening and sad that in 2020 we still have to stand up against such racist attitudes, write Isak Kvandal and Eila Máret Eira on the Vefsn Youth Council (translation to English by Laura Saetveit Miles)
Lately, a huge youth engagement against racism has been seen around the world. The huge movement against racism was set in motion after George Floyd was killed as a result of racially motivated police violence in the United States. This is a problem that has long characterized society in the United States.
While these demonstrations are taking place, there is also a big ongoing debate about wind turbine development on Øyfjellet and in the Vester mountains. Here, youth has not been as visible in the public debate, even though it is a very important debate for our municipality.
It can sometimes be difficult to understand what inspires youth. For young people, it can be difficult to get involved in serious political matters, but what always inspires engagement is when we experience injustice. The ongoing wind turbine debate has seen a debate climate that has been both heated and unnuanced. Adults cannot at one moment complain about little involvement from the youth, and at the next lead a debate at such a low level with so little respect for others. When not even adults are able to behave in this debate, it may not be so strange that young people choose to distance themselves.
It is incredibly frightening and sad that in 2020 we still have to stand against such racist attitudes, as seen in the debate on wind turbine development in our own municipality. One would think that the society had come a little further than the attitudes expressed among others in the Facebook group “Medvind – Bygg ut Øyfjellet”. When you see comments comparing the Sami native people to apes and Satan, you still have a big problem when it comes to racism in the municipality. It is not only these extreme comments that help create racist attitudes, but also the many comments that ridicule Sami culture and way of life. In the “Medvind group”, we have seen harassment using Sami cultural symbols and prejudice against Sami plans regarding reindeer husbandry.
These are attitudes that are dangerous to our society, but what is even more dangerous is when one does not stand up to them. Indifference when it comes to racism helps to trivialize attitudes that should have been gone a long time ago. To get rid of racist attitudes means not just being non-racist, but that one must actively advocate to be anti-racist and stand up to racism. A good example of this problem can be found in public Facebook groups, where both parliamentary representatives and our own top politicians are members without standing up to racist attitudes being conveyed in the group. Anyone who is silent in the face of racism is also a big part of the problem. Of course, we in the youth council accept that everyone has different opinions, but racist attitudes are something no one should accept.
In Vefsn, there has been Sami activity for hundreds of years. This is something we should be proud of and take care of. Therefore, it is important that the Sami population is listened to and heard in this matter. No one should overrun and harass an already vulnerable group, who will experience major consequences from the wind turbine development. It is okay that people have different opinions on the matter, but racist attitudes belong neither in the debate nor in society. Racism is still a major problem in the world, even in our own municipality. You do not need to have chosen a side in the wind turbine issue to understand that this is not okay. In order to get rid of racism, everyone must actively be part of the solution.