Double standards

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Norwegian – but only because he’s good at something

“If Alexander Rybak had been unemployed and robbed a kiosk, he would have been a foreigner. But because he can sing, he’s Norwegian”
– Runar Mæland

This double standard has proven to be the norm in Norway time and time again, especially in the last 5-6 years. Any non-ethnic Norwegian that succeeds for Norway in any sort of competition is Norwegian. Any non-ethnic Norwegian – of any kind – who commits a crime or gets in to any sort of trouble, is a foreigner. The first thing the newspapers look for when a crime is committed is “is the perpetrator non-Norwegian?” Should the perpetrator be half-Norwegian, half-something else, the Norwegian half will be overlooked.

The latest example of this is, of all things, a fencer. Fencing is a sport that most Norwegians were only vaguely aware that existed until Wednesday evening. Suddenly, a young, talented fencer by the name of Bartosz Piasecki appeared – ethnically completely Polish, but he has lived all but two years of his life in Norway. Out of nowhere, he took a silver medal. The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation even delayed the main newscast (Dagsrevyen) to broadcast his semifinal live. After the silver medal was in the bag, one of the first comments was “And now we only need to learn to pronounce his name”.

Many of us breathed a sigh of relief and pointed a “loser” sign at the Norwegian press a year ago when it was discovered that the man behind the terrorist attacks (known as “he who shall not be named”) was as ethnically Norwegian as it is possible to be. The most foreign element he had was a vague wish that Norway return to a more medieval variation of Catholicism – fortunately, Catholics have become so accepted in Norway that the media left that part of his crazy ideas alone.  

While I am well aware that this double standard is not something that is unique to Norway, it is something that we Norwegians need to get rid of if we wish for a harmonious and peaceful society. Either we have to accept that the guy who succeeds is Polish, or Kenyan, or Pakistani – or, hopefully, we can accept that the guy who has Chinese parents, and has lived in Norway for as long as he can remember, and in a bout of frustration stabs a guy at a party, is as Norwegian as I am.

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