The electoral movement consolidated a racist worldview instead of proposing solutions
This is a cultural article which is part of Then24’s opinion journalism.
At Tucson high school in what was then republican Arizona there was for a time a so-called “Mexican American studies program”. The objective was to improve the living conditions of marginalized young people through targeted education. It was a complete hit. While the dropout rate for the student body at the national level was 48 percent, the program succeeded in getting all of its students through. 85 percent went on to university studies.
Even in Sweden, there are examples of investments that have strengthened so-called particularly vulnerable areas by creating participation and trust. The fact that there has been a dead silence about such initiatives in an election movement whose heated dramaturgy revolved around the “locality” must be understood against the background of the radicalized right-wing that shifted the meaning of the central concept of segregation.
The term segregation, from Latin segregator – division – means that a social and a spatial separation coincide. In research and political debate, the concept has been used to highlight the geographical, class-based and racist foundations of inequality. What is kept apart and layered is not only streets and the people who live there, but above all resources, assets and the goodwill of society.
In the election campaign, the structural perspective disappeared and segregation became a question of origin and culture. The distribution issues were hijacked in favor of a much darker ethnic angle. Segregation is now a key concept in a rhetoric of integration whose political direction is not primarily to break people’s vulnerability – but rather to foster an imaginary community, a nationalist-based universalism, based on “Swedish values”. As in the “Swedish equality” Magdalena Andersson used as a bat when she defended Anders Ygemans plans for maximum ceilings for “non-Nordic immigrants” in certain areas.
Segregation as another word in the incantation against the alien, then, whose not only problem but also cause, has been placed in ethnically coded groups. “We don’t want Chinatown, Somalitown or Little Italy”, as Andersson emphasized.
When the distribution perspective disappears the wide angle of the concept is omitted. In the election campaign, segregation was linked to certain areas when the problem is in fact a larger skewed structure – a shared societal responsibility. In other words, the housing structure on Södermalm is just as problematic as that in Rinkeby, but the idea of ”ethnic clusters” does not attach to white areas. Therefore, there are also no proposals to bus children from the inner city to counteract social segregation. Rather, the concept’s new emphasis has given it the “white sea”, like the queer philosopher Sarah Ahmed calls the invisibility of white privilege in racist societies to spread.
The fact that the concept is disconnected from its original meaning and, in scientific language, only deals with one of the poles, enables violent proposals. With reference to “lack of segregation”, measures are advocated across bloc borders that dramatically restrict the freedoms and rights of certain groups but also, believe nothing else, threaten our democracy for everyone.
Language tests for two-year-olds and address-based adhd screening has terrifying historical roots that open the chasm to a colonial legacy of racial biological institutes and forced sterilizations. And the chimerically liberal, but fundamentally deeply racist rhetoric obscures the very core of the strong images that have long dominated the media outlook.
One could think, for example, that the heart of the discussion about the shootings would concern the children and young people who are murdered and murdered, their families, friends and the areas where the tragic spirals of violence take hold. That these people are immediately singled out as the cause of another, more diffuse, problem, which has to do with “Swedishness”, reflects the reactionary coup of thought that has distorted the political conversation with as yet incalculable consequences.
In Tucson where not all equally excited about the school successes. The program drew bad blood from state Republicans, and after a legal battle, the school was eventually forced to close it. So-called “American values” prevailed over the human and societal value of letting young people find the joy of learning new things and being challenged, of feeling pride in who you are and letting it spread as a commitment to more people. Of all the young people who were deprived of their education, many today are likely lost in unemployment and in the drug cartels’ webs.
In a similar way, the new Swedish segregation line seems tailored to destroy the sense of dignity and life context that people, despite unequal conditions, create for themselves. The sense of meaning and power, after all, which is often rooted precisely in the children, and just as often relies on a neighborhood community. Precisely those feelings and contexts must be thwarted and replaced with – what?
The grim answer on why the election campaign did not become a bid for measures that can demonstrably reverse exclusion and slow down new recruitment to the gangs is that it was never about that. The threatening suburb was a fog curtain to avoid talking about other things, such as the climate crisis, but also a creation made to consolidate a racist worldview. The SD and their allies needed the shootings as legitimate fuel to push their dehumanizing policies. How else are we to understand proposals whose consequence is an increased polarization? It does not come as a surprise that the SD has done best far from the shootings, while the areas to be “saved” give the party a big thumbs down.
But everything comes back.
While the neoliberalism of the 1990s reinforced a class-based and geographical city-country opposition that paved the way for today’s right-wing populism, similar long-lasting repercussions are to be expected from the division that is now being deepened. Making people speechless and responding to class inequality with racism hurts us fundamentally, as a society. Regardless of the policy that will now be pursued, the treacherous election campaign itself has caused deep wounds. Many testify to fear of racist violence, children are afraid that their families will be forcibly deported and people feel that their human dignity, their right to exist, is threatened.
Some have described it is as if we have now crossed a threshold, a limit of decency. We have lived through an election campaign bordered by violent contempt for humanity, terrorist-classified assassination plans on the only bourgeois party leader who opposed SD, open Nazi flirting, troll factories and resistance to facts. We have woken up to a world where much seems the same but where something decisive has been shifted, distorted. The words sound the same but no longer mean the same thing. It starts with language, like the psychologist and Holocaust survivors Hedi Fried summarized the creeping shifts in thirties Germany.