A name too much

So it happened once again in Norway, after July the 22nd 2011. Yet without bloodshed this time. An armed 21 year old of ethnic Norwegian origin went into a muslim prayer house in Bærum. Attempting slaughter out of racist motives he was heroically hindered by two elderly men present in the mosque. All honour goes to them. This incident on 10th of August sent creepy reminisces of the attack 8 years ago. The attacker had in online posts singled out the notorious Christchurch attacker as one of his idols. This time it failed, but who knows how many like minded are out there in this country?

In the wake of this, and preceding the wake of the coming the election, the politicians are now frantically calling for " Action-plans" against "muslim-hate". In a press conference the Government proudly announced that they are decided to make one. Even the Minister of Justice Mr. Kallmyr said this was needed. This is amusing because several representatives of the multi-cultural Norway have requestedthis for years, especially since such a plan already was established for "Anti-semitic hate". However, the government last reply was that the Action plan against antisemitism could be used as a guideline. This was creative, a reference manual against racism belonging to another ethnic group! Just delete that which doesn´t fit!

Recently the well known SV-politician Camilla Ahamath announced that she changed her children´s surnames. She feels she has to spare her children this type of abuse by deleting their foreign sounding names. Being a caring mother she did not want them to meet the same racism and psychic molesting she met when growing up in Norway. Ahamath´s case is one we do not often hear about.

She was actually born and raised in Laksevåg in Bergen with her Norwegian mother and her father who is from Sri Lanka. She was given her father´s surname. And looking a but different, somewhat darker, she was regularly abused when growing up. Now as a profiled politician she often meets horrendous racist remarks in the commentary section. In her case she would not count as an immigrant since she was born and raised by an ethnic Norwegian. However, in practice and socially, her father´s legacy seems to erase and disqualify her undisputable Norwegian background. Are people with only one immigrant parent viewed as bastards in Norway?

This underlines the power of racist symbols, in particular regarding names. It has been well documented that people with foreign sounding names are negatively discriminated in the labour market. The explanations for this may vary, some researchers emphasize the pragmatic sides of the issue, such as employer´s fear of communication problems or competence unclarities. While this may sometimes be the case, an more plausible explanation is to see this expressing a more general racism prevalent in Norwegian society. How else, then, could we explain stories such as Ms Ahamatha´s? After all she had prolonged, negative responses that all were linked to her name and skin colour.

- Sheila Parrera