Lone Aburas comes to Furuset Library and Activity House December 4th to talk about the book Citizen ( Medborgar) together with Sumaya Jirde Ali . That talk is part of the arrangementrekka Feminist Reading List. We have talked to Aburas in advance of the event, about her own text. It’s an I speak (the hour of accounting) and Claudia Rankines Citizen, recently renamed Norwegian by Kristina Leganger Iversen and Camara Christina Lundestad Joof.
Raseriet som motor
The two authors Rankine and Aburas have both written texts about their experiences with racism in the United States and Denmark, respectively. Rankine as African Americans, Aburas as non-white Danish, with Egyptian Muslim father. However, they have very different expressions in their texts. Rankine’s text has a bad expression, among other things, she talks about how racism takes place physically in her body. Lone Aburas portrays racism with greater rage in It’s a me who speaks . How does she manage to be so tough?
“I was very touched when I read Rankines Citizen , just because the texts express sadness and pain. She shows a vulnerability in the encounter with discrimination and racism that I can definitely identify with. I recognize in the feeling of powerlessness and an uncertainty as to whether it is a self that is too sensitive and paranoid. Because what is experienced as racism either is not perceived as such by the sender or is explained as a kind of sensitivity of the recipient.
Aburas remembers that being exposed to the kind of dignity that racism is creating the feeling of shame.
“I rarely read the first half of my book because it’s about my own experience of racism that I’m ashamed of being exposed to. It’s something to conquer people with the pain and injustice you’ve experienced. It can also make some people sour because they find it uncomfortable to realize that they belong to a white majority. The rage has been an engine and a driving force for writing about these things in book form, because shame and grief for me seem to be inhibitory in terms of writing these personal things like a brown person.
To me, rage was a tool not to turn the feeling of injustice and powerlessness inward, which in my worst case may seem destructive and make me anxious.
Stand together in the rage
“I think that people exposed to discrimination, racism and homophobia are fully in a position to react with anger,” points out Aburas.
But rage works clearly in texts, the author believes. “In real life,” it does not work the same way.
“If I meet people in connection with events that deal with the book, I think it’s uncomfortable to defend why racism makes me angry. Then the mind certainly does not seem like a useful tool. If people think I exaggerate or make myself a victim, the worst thing I can do is to react with anger.
“One of the most important tools in the face of racism is perhaps the feeling of having more in the back, not standing alone,” says Aburas, referring to another book by Rankine, Do not Let Me Be Lonely . Aburas want to achieve a similar effect with It’s a me who speaks :
“I hope the book gives people who experience racism a sense of not being alone. To be seen and recognized. Then you can call activism; whose activism can be understood as a way of speaking to someone who experiences the same.
In this way, literature can act as part of the fight against racism, Lone Aburas believes.
– Literature can describe experiences that non-white people can play in. In all forms of art, especially in literature, in movies and in series, it is a great potential to fight cultural stereotypes. Or just the absence of non-white persons. I think I’m a way to fight racism, she explains.
That non-white children should grow up and never see a non-white person, other than a vegetable trader, terrorist or biperson of a white protagonist, hopefully will not be a norm much much longer.
Greater awareness in the United States
Both Afro-American Rankine and Danish Aburas have described racism in their books. But what is the biggest difference between racism in the United States versus Denmark?
“I think that in the United States it is better to acknowledge racism. In an American context, racism is something that has had to be taken into account because of apartheid and the time of slavery. In Denmark, it is a self-perception that we are a cute little putt-nation, but in reality we have been a colonial power in both Greenland and the West Indies. By that I mean that the feeling of being a superpower and seeing other cultures as being inferior is not strange.
She elaborates on the description of the Danish conditions as follows:
“There is still a lot of racism in the United States, as you can read in Citizen . But in Denmark there is a perception and a self-perception that it does not exist. That everyone is color blind. If you as a non-white person experience racism, it is often encountered with an idea that you are paranoid and oversensitive. For many years, Muslims have been demonized and totally deprived of any kind of individuality. These are the ones you choose when you are politicians: Who can be most hard against groups from non-western countries? Judging from a political point of view, one can hardly be a sensible and well-functioning person if you are declared Muslim. Then you must at least prove it first.
One of Aburas’ sources of inspiration for It’s an I talking friend and author colleague Caspar Eric who has written the Nike collection.
“He wrote sorrowful and cool about a weekday with cerebral palsy. He did so well and brave that I thought I could open my pain points, that is, my experiences with racism, “says Lone Aburas.
She is also inspired by the Danish poet Klaus Høeck and his poetry collection Black Sets from 1981.
“He writes beautifully, violently and equally about the Palestinian freedom struggle in sonette form. In my own book, I also describe how concrete political laws, measures and rhetoric have a large, often lethal effect for refugees and immigrants, she adds.
At the tough ending question: how can we fight racism at all (except through superlative texts), Aburas comes with no less than a ready-made manifesto:
– In the beginning of 2018, my friend and author colleague Hanne Højgaard Viemose and I wrote a manifesto where we finally come up with concrete advice on how to combat the system that will actively be free of persons from non-western countries. To me it is also racism. The instructions can be tolerated here in a Norwegian context.
Hereby the manifest is transmitted directly: