The Swedish government plans to remove the concept of race from all legislation, claiming that accepting that there are different races means one race is superior to another.
However, the National Afro-Swedish Association has criticised the proposal, arguing that the concept of race is important in order to highlight discrimination.
Swedish Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag told Sveriges Television (SVT) this week that: “We know that there aren’t really different human races. We also know that the fundamental grounds of racism are based on the belief that there are different races, and that belonging to a race makes people behave in a certain way, and that some races are superior to others.”
He said the “concept of race” had a negative connotation and was likely to stir up prejudice. Therefore he will remove the word from Swedish legislation.
“Legislation should not include the word race, if we argue that there are not actually races. I have wanted to remove the concept of race for a long time,” the minister said.
The concept of race is included in around 20 Swedish laws, including criminal code, student financial aid laws, and credit information laws, according to The Local.
On Thursday the Swedish government began an investigation into how to remove the concept from all legislation, as has been done in Austria and Finland.
However SVT reports that Zakaria Zouhir, a Left Party activist and President of the National Afro-Swedish Association (ASR), opposed the Government’s decision on the concept of race: “It is an important tool to highlight the structural discrimination that exists in society. And that affects a significant portion of society’s citizens, solely because of their skin colour.”
Kitimbwa Sabuni, another spokesperson for the ASR, told The Local:
“This scientific racism that Ullenhag is focused on, when he says that racism is based on believing in different races, is not true. How many people in Sweden really think that way? Maybe 100. That’s not the problem. Racism existed before the concept of race biology. Scientific racism is just one chapter in the story of race and racism.
“For us, this is just trying to take away the possibility to even talk about it. It’s critical. How can you apply for a grant for fighting racism if the concept of race doesn’t exist in legislation? Racism will disappear de facto from the agenda. The government is lost in a fantasy, a fantasy which counteracts effective work against racism.”
But Ullenhag rejected the argument: “As long as we continue to use a racist term so we leave racists with the strongest tools of their argument,” he says.