A new law that is soon to come into effect in Sweden should make a big difference in addressing rampant racism and discrimination of immigrants especially Africans in Sweden. According to the law, two civilian police offices will now be stationed outside major restaurants to monitor whether guests with dark skin color are being discriminated against when it comes to admission in restaurants.
In Stockholm, the situation has been pathetic with Africans avoiding specific restaurants where they are sure they will not be let in because of their skin colour. In some cases, Africans have suffered paralysis after suffering brutality at the hands of violent security guards who prefer to use force to silence a guest protesting against discrimination.
Just like other Africans, many Kenyans have fallen victims to these kinds of attacks especially in Stockholm. Although many cases always go unreported, others have found themselves in the Swedish or other media.
In one of the worst cases which was later thrown out by the courts, Albert Taabu, a Kenyan artist, was beaten unconscious by security guards at Tre Ramare restaurant in Stockholm some years ago under circumstances that pointed to racism. Mark Gaya called an ambulance which took Taabu away. When police arrived at the scene, there was no case “due to lack of evidence”.
A Gambian national who was also brutalized at the same restaurant had to undergo brain surgery to save his life. He was beaten senseless by one of the guards who later escaped prosecution because according to police, the case was not strong enough to be taken to court. The case had been weakened by police themselves because they refused to allow a live parade where the Gambian could have identified the guard who beat him up. Instead, they said that pictures would be used. When the Gambian protested that he could not identify the guard through pictures, the case was dropped “due to lack of evidence”.
According to the new rules, any suspected case of discrimination will now be taken up on the spot by plain clothed police who will stand as witnesses. Once a case of discrimination is suspected, the restaurant will be ransacked and the management questioned to verify any arguments used by the guards to stop dark skinned guests from getting in.
The leading reasons normally include excuses to the effect that “You are not dressed properly”. This normally happens even when you have put on your “Sunday best” clothes. You can also be told that you are drunk. In a funny case, a Kenyan teetoller was denied entrance because he had “consumed too much alcohol!” When he protested, he was pushed away and told to leave the scene. He refused and decided to call police, not to establish whether he was drunk but to establish whether he had consumed any alcohol. He believed that police could use their alcohol meter to prove the guards wrong.
We pitched tent at the entrance to wait for police because we believed that this time round, the guards had been caught with their pants down. When police arrived, they said that they could not use the meter to resolve the case because the meter can only be used in traffic related offences. They also refused to intervene to enable the Kenyan to be let into the restaurant arguing that “he could go elsewhere”.
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They argued that the restaurant was a private business and that it’s the management which decides who comes in. We were a group of Kenyans and we were surprised when police later gave us an ultimatum to leave the vicinity or face arrest. They feared that after the altercation, our presence at the scene “was a security risk”.
Sometimes, you can be told that you are wearing the wrong pair of shoes or that the restaurant “is for members only”. When you try to dig how you can become a member, you can be told to “come during day time and talk to the boss”.
One day at Stureplan, an immigrant who had been discriminated against contacted his friends and they came back with an AK 47 rifle and sprayed the guards with bullets causing fatalities. The action was seen by immigrants in Sweden as a consequence of racism and discrimination at restaurants across Sweden.
Today, it is standard procedure for guards across the country to wear bullet-proof vests because of growing number of shoot-outs and knife attacks by immigrants fighting back discrimination or ill treatment by security guards.
According to the guards, they are normally given instructions by their bosses on whom not to let in. Apparently, Africans are normally denied admission at pubs because when they drink, they make a lot of noise thereby scaring away Swedish customers who end up avoiding restaurants frequented by Africans. When this happens, the restaurants have maintained that they normally have to put up with huge losses because Africans and immigrants generally never spend huge amounts of cash on food at restaurants unlike the Swedes whose culture includes dinning at restaurants.
Another argument is that Africans are normally more interested in taking away the white girls for “extended exercises” and not drinking per se. These excuses could be true or false but the fact is that racism and discrimination by security guards has been rampant.
Now, when you are refused entry because the restaurant or club is for members only, plain clothed police should be able to go in and establish whether this is true. If this is not true, a case is supposed to be filed on the spot and charges brought to court for justice to be done.
The rule should now be extended to the labor market where immigrants are not getting jobs they are qualified to do because of the colour of their skins. Authorities have been playing with the idea of anonymous job applications as a way of addressing the problem although it is still not clear what will happen.
In a celebrated case, a Kenyan doctor was relieved of his duties because elderly white patients he was dealing with notoriously reported to nurses that “They never saw any doctor inside there”. “There is no Doctor. There is just a nigger sitting in there”. When they were reminded that the nigger is the doctor, they simply said “Aldrig i livet” which means “Never in my life”.
In an experiment which was conducted in Stockholm by a University student, a very dark African male never managed to sell sausages at a street kiosk but when he was replaced by a blondy the following day, the sausages started selling like hot cakes leading to questions as to whether the Swedish society was racist or xenophobic.
In the mean time, the new law on restaurants needs to be celebrated because it is an admission by the Swedish authorities that the problem exists and it needs to be tackled. The Swedes have been pretending that the problem does not exist.