By Kai Teo
I mean, look at me. Feather tattoos, long black hair, brownish skin. I must be an Indian (by the way, you’re actually referring to a Native American, they were wrongly termed Indians because Christopher Columbus thought he arrived in India when he actually landed in the Americas).
I haven’t been subjected to much racism since I moved from my birth country Singapore, to Sweden, six years ago. My ancestors are Chinese, and I look like I could come from anywhere. I don’t fashion my sense of style over the traditional Native American look, I just like feathers and nice tattoos. But walking around town sometimes attracts comments ranging from, “Hello, Bruce Lee! Kung fu?” to “Hello, you Indian? You play the flute?”.
Personally, I’m not sure if that’s considered racist. I mean, I’ll give it to you, you haven’t seen many people looking like me in your life, except maybe on TV. You see me on my bike, you get overly excited, you feel compelled to say something.
I usually laugh it off or go all silent in surprise. It’s just a weird way of saying hello isn’t it? You don’t see a Swedish guy going up to a black guy and go, “Hello, Africa! Lion King!”
It’s that kind of comment that if you don’t respond, you might be encouraging their ignorant behaviour, and if you do respond, you might get stabbed.
Sweden’s experiencing a terrifying rise of the extreme right-wing, and the last elections showed us that besides Malmö, the city I live in, the whole region has cast a majority vote in the racist right-wing party, Swedish Democrats. This party really doesn’t like anyone who doesn’t “look Swedish” and will drive us back to our “home” countries whenever they get a chance. Yes, that includes Bruce Lee, Lion King, Ahmad from the Falafel restaurant, and me.
Oh, and dear white people, racism isn’t just about you. Most of these racial outbursts actually come from people who didn’t look so white. So yea, even immigrants can be kinda racist against other immigrants. Given the current sensitive political climate, no one really dares to talk shit about immigrants. But assholes, bigots, and xenophobes permeate all nationalities, religions, and skin colours.
It’s not a political thing though. It’s more of a people thing. Let’s not have double standards on who is allowed to be more racist or less racist. Let’s not have double standards on anything. Let’s all instead strive to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion etc. And it’s also kinda racist to assume that because someone came from a country that is very religious, they must have been deeply influenced to uphold the patriarchal structure, and that as people from the progressive West European cities, we should be more understanding to their macho behaviour because it’s part of their culture, beliefs, and upbringing. Patriarchy is not a culture. Intolerance is not a culture. It’s just lousy behaviour.
And, hey, religious people, it’s the same god all the different prophets are talking about, they just came during different time periods to different cultures, thus the different religions, but they all bring the same message – the message is love. So chill out.
In the true love that our prophets teach, there is no patriarchy, no bigotry, and no homophobia. It was the misinterpretation of the message that gave rise to such intolerance.
So back to the question – is it ok to scream at me from your car, “Hello Indian”?
I personally wouldn’t consider it racist. Because Bruce Lee is kinda cool and Native Americans are kinda wise. So far, no one has done the Asian slitty eye thingy or openly assumed that I have a small penis (which might be true, but it’s not about the size). But saying that it’s ok definitely opens up a Pandora’s Box that goes out of hand really quickly. Ah, I see your mind going to dark places.
And please, my non-white immigrant brothers and sisters in Sweden and in Europe, this is a crucial time and we need to show our host countries that we’re nice people and we don’t encourage, or practise, any form of racism. So stop calling me Bruce Lee.
Oh by the way, I also wrote a book. It’s funny and kinda smart. And I’ve sold close to 500 copies of it so far. Check out Rainbow Warrior Handbook and order one if you’d like to support my little love revolution.