Riots in Stockholms suburbs

On your request, here is the article that was published in Sweden’s biggest morning paper Dagens Nyheter: 

Cars are burning in Husby. Boys are throwing rocks. It is regrettable and reprehensible and short-sighted and counterproductive and a slew of other negative adjectives. And it certainly is the parents’ responsibility as well, parents who, a long time ago, lost control over their own lives and the lives of their children.

Nothing can excuse the crime wave, but there is a lot that can explain it.

Now, racists are conveniently beating their chests and trying to spin the riots as an ”immigration issue”, but trying to define the problem as ”ethnic”

makes as much sense as trying to boil an egg without water. The problem is a complex mix of poverty, frustration, xenophobia, disenfranchisement, geography and class.

And gender. It’s about young, angry men who go out on a Friday night to party and wind up at a fast food restaurant because they can’t get into any nightclubs. Men who have no vacation plans and no plans for the future. Men who don’t know anyone with a place out in the country or someone who can recommend them for an internship. Men who buy into a social definition of manhood that they cannot attain. But there is no sympathy for them. Sympathy is for other people.

I grew up in the neighboring borough, Rinkeby. Fires burned there sometimes during my childhood. The boys there couldn’t find any other way to channel their anger than to crush and burn. Their externalized rage led to the regular dispatch of fire trucks. Then, they finally got a place in the news flow.

’If you can’t succeed at being the best, you can succeed at being the worst’ is how their philosophy could be summarized. ’You have to fight to be seen’.

We girls internalized the anger. We were silent, carrying exclusion in our hearts, never really let it explode. We accepted segregation’s stigma and the curse of always being ”the others”. We tried to deny the humiliation of poverty and xenophobia by ignoring it. We tried to ignore the shut doors and glass ceilings and dutifully suppress the rage like a dirty little secret.

My career as a journalist got its start thanks to the young men’s riots. I was asked to explain the frustration and put the chaos into words. I became the girl from the ghetto who could speak out, the borough’s unofficial spokesperson who finally couldn’t take simple excuses any more.

Since this, I have both experienced and described many riots and burning cars. I have travelled around in French slums where I, along with a Swedish Television crew, was subject to a barrage of stones and tomatoes. I have visited Brixton’s burnt neighborhoods and I have travelled around in Sweden’s concrete jungles, from Rosengård to Råslätt and Rågsved, and I have met angry children in the quicksand of hopelessness who I tried to encourage to find other ways to change society, break down the barriers and shatter the glass ceiling of bigotry.

But I share their anger. I share their frustration. In spite of writing and speaking about this problem for more than two decades, in spite of the large

number of people who have warned about the ticking time bombs, I see little ambition to create a brighter future for the kids who live in the dark, unlit corners of society.

On the contrary. These socially disadvantaged areas are plagued by budget cuts and downsizing. It is the young people who have nothing to lose who are dangerous. They are the ones we all fear and look down on. But their bothers and sisters in the boroughs are those who suffer the most since, even though they are innocent, they all get to stand in the light of shame. Boy and girls. Young and old. Workers and the unemployed.

We should talk more about the alienation that is growing in the younger generation in a paralyzed periphery of society, young people who don’t see any other way to protest against the arrogance of power besides using violence.

May the residents of Husby get their lives back, and may we all understand that we are the ones who will have to pay the bill for the slashing of social budgets, which punishes the weakest and profits the strongest.

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