From Iceland — Racism Very Much Present In Iceland

Racism Very Much Present In Iceland

Published June 3, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by

An 8-month-old boy was the subject of a racist confrontation at Vesturbæjarlaug swimming pool last week, RÚV reports. The parents of the child are still shaken from the incident, and it underlines one of many documented cases of racism in Iceland.

Kolfinna Kristófersdóttir told reporters that she was at the pool with her eight-month-old son, Kristófer Flóki, when the incident occurred.

“A woman beside me asked me whether the father was dark-skinned and where he is from,” she said. “She looked at him and said, ‘Yeah, so he’s a little mulatto?’ I told this woman that I would not stand to have my son called this word, but then I had to hear it five to seven times more.” Shaken, she vacated the pool.

Vesturbæjarlaug issued a statement saying that they are taking the matter seriously, but the parents of the child told reporters that they were disappointed that the woman in question was not told to leave the pool.

“One incident is one incident too many,” Kolfinna said. “No one should have to put up with not being able to go to the pool without being harassed with prejudice.”

Sigurður Helgi Grímsson, the father of the child, was adopted from Sri Lanka, and told reporters that he has experienced racism in Iceland his entire life.

“It’s difficult to talk about but I just have to, for my son,” he said. “Icelanders, we think that we’re not racist, but there is a lot of it. All my life, there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t hear something. My sister is dark-skinned too, and her children have been subjected to racism because of it. There are endless examples.”

The Grapevine has long documented the persistent presence of racism in Iceland, and this latest incident should come as no surprise to our regular readers.

While openly declared racists are often met with concerted resistance from other Icelanders, aggressions such as those that were targeted at Kristófer Flóki do happen. In the worst case, this can be manifested in the form of violence.

It bears mentioning that there will be a demonstration at Austurvöllur at 16:30 today, with the dual purpose of showing solidarity with Black Americans, and to remind Icelanders that they must also combat racism closer to home.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!