“Denmark is equal,” says the white man who has never had the (mis)fortune to experience the subtle differences in how a non-white woman is treated when she is with her white husband and when she is alone. I’ve lived here for over a year now and am sick of the one-sided illusion. Denmark is highly progressive in terms of democracy, yes, but racial prejudice still exists whether one acknowledges it or not.
Most white people are unable to understand, see, or pick up on the subtle ways they sometimes treat foreigners.
– roughly 70% of the time when I’m alone at a store or supermarket, white people will cut the line and step in front of me. 99% of the time if my husband is with me, they won’t dare to do that. (Is it because I’m an Asian woman that white people unconsciously assume I’m submissive?)
– 10/10 times white salespeople, gym instructors, cashiers, neighbors, etc. will greet my husband with a “Hej!” and a smile, whereas, as far as my experience, when it’s me it’s 50/50. There have been moments where I’d smile first and greet them first, but they’d still not reciprocate the courtesy as you saw their smile for the previous (white) customer visibly drop.
– when I go to the municipality to process papers or the doctor or the dentist etc., white workers will automatically address my husband/in-laws and ignore me, regardless of the fact they speak perfect English and are undergoing business with ME.
– the dismissive and careless way teachers handle us in the foreign school OR how some of them give a white Australian classmate way more attention than the other non-white pupils in the room. (That classmate has expressed his discomfort at the over-attention without us prompting)
– the times when my African friend gets purposely left behind by the bus because the drivers pretend not to see her waiting at the bus-stop.
– how the white mailmen greet and strike a conversation with my Filipina friend’s white husband/in-laws, but never with her, not even in Danish.
– personal white acquaintances who have made distasteful “jokes” (e.g. “Look at these dumb yallah-yallahs.”) about Muslims that happen to pass by us in public.
– numerous white work colleagues who “playfully” asked my husband if he met his Asian wife on the internet, or if I’m good at massages, or if those massages have a “happy ending,” or if he’s excited to come home because his Asian wife is waiting for him to have exotic, crazy sex with.
– creepy instances wherein a white security guard at a mall glared at me and my husband, and followed us around the mall for no reason thus being driven to think we’re just paranoid, but then finding out the mall has received several formal complaints from other customers over the guard having been discriminatory towards certain people.
– awkward moments when my husband’s peers get super offended when you talk about how white tourists act back in your third-world-country homeland because “Not all white people!”, and when you notice you get the most interrupted by others while speaking compared to anyone else in the all-white male group.
– how my Danish proficiency’s swift progress is correlated by a teacher with my simply having a Danish husband, completely disregarding any of my personal effort to study or talent. (Nevermind that my husband is bad at language so I can barely ask him anything or that he’s almost always at work)
These are only a few of the micro-aggressive behaviors I and some non-white-passing friends experience here. There are many, many more that we either have forgotten, forced ourselves to forget lest we stress ourselves out, are too drained to mention, or have yet to encounter.
Yes, they may seem like minor inconveniences you can easily ignore, but YOU don’t get to experience it nearly daily, constantly, incessantly.
Imagine going to the grocery and noticing the same workers greeting white customers and not greeting non-white customers? Imagine going to H&M and repeatedly having white people cutting the line in front of you, but NOT EVER daring to do the same to the white women standing in the other lines beside you? Imagine going through these “small” things every. single. day.
Now it’s not so small, is it? These are not coincidences or isolated incidences. These are subtle, racially prejudiced behaviors some of these white Danes don’t even realize they’re doing.
What’s funny is my foreign friends who are white-passing (foreigners who look like they are white/Danish) rarely get the same treatment, unless they’re overheard speaking their native tongue. Which begs the question – how do you cure something which white Danes themselves staunchly believe doesn’t exist?
How do you make someone listen when they don’t want to? How do you fix the reality and existence of casual, everyday racism when the white perpetrators refuse to believe/acknowledge they perpetuate discrimination because they’re offended at being labeled a “racist”? How do you explain to the most liberal white Danish person that even THEY have been socially conditioned to behave/feel/talk differently towards non-whites whether they realize it or not? How do you make someone god damn realize their expected stoic response of “I don’t think so, you’re probably wrong. Danes would never do that, I’ve never experienced that. People can also be rude to me and other white people sometimes” is dismissive and counterproductive and quite frankly dumb?
I’m writing this not because I’m pissed, but because I’m tired. I’m sick of having a bad day and a shit mood because all these teeny tiny situations slowly pent-up collectively until I can no longer pretend to be patient or chill. I’m sick of having to restart and delete my emotions again the next month only to have the same crap happen all over.
I’m exhausted at having to be fed with and take a bite of “the perfect equality apple” when that reality isn’t mine or many others’.
But as usual, I’ll be the submissive Filipino girl and my friends will also be submissive Filipino girls, quiet Asian girls, lazy African girls, passive Latino girls, invisible brown-skinned girls whom you expect to politely laugh at your jokes, because in your white Danish reality “Inequality and racism doesn’t exist” and – as you’ve shown and told us time and again – yours is the only reality that matters.