Since moving to Iceland five years ago, I’ve been repeatedly shocked by the racism that exists in this country, and the complacency from Icelanders that enables it to thrive.
My most recent experience with this worrying phenomenon was when I took my kids to Árbæjarlaug pool on a sunny Sunday morning and swam amongst not one but two people with a plethora of white supremacist tattoos exposed on their bodies—swastikas among them. When I asked an employee what the policy was on visitors with racist tattoos, they said: “There is no policy that I know of. Iceland is a small country, and is still a little racist.”
Feeling once again like I was getting the same old “well-what-can-you-do-about-this-tiny-island-insert-shrugging-emoji” answer, I sent the same question to the City Council. The response I received a few days later was directly from the Human Rights Office, saying that tattoos fall under a person’s freedom of expression. To me, this sounds a lot like the lame excuse that Trump pulls out of his ass when he is caught accepting money from white supremacists. Shouldn’t symbols of racism and anti-semitism fall under the category of hate speech?
From the average citizen all the way up to city hall, I’ve come to the frustrating conclusion that racism is something that is just accepted in Iceland. It’s rarely even discussed with any seriousness. Meanwhile, peacefully protesting refugees who are voicing their need for basic human rights—much like those enjoyed by the Nazis at the pool—are pepper-sprayed by the police.
To the people of Iceland I have this to say—enough is enough. Stop making excuses for Icelandic racists, and stand up against what you know to be wrong. And stop the double standard against people who come here to seek a better life. Just because we live in a small and isolated country doesn’t mean that we’re incapable of change. Our actions today towards increasing acceptance and tackling hatred will have profound effects on society—and future generations will thank us.
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