Imagine all the people that came before you. In my mind it goes from a few faces, to a crowd, to a sea.
So many I can’t even picture them all with a face let alone a life of their own, my little brain goes 15 years back at most, yet they’re all there. Amazingly enough, even If I can’t keep track, my body does. They’re all there.
”If you got to pick a superpower, what would it be?” Classic question. Most of us have answered it multiple times and we’ll most likely answer it many more. We love magic, and mystique and the beyond.
I used to say ”I want to fly!”, or wish for a superbrain, but I could never quite decide what I’d choose for sure. Last year I did.
The idea has passed me by in various forms, and I have most certainly been shaped by my surroundings and the quite ridiculous amounts of sci-fi and fantasy that I’ve consume throughout my life. Really it’s alot.
My body pretty much runs itself, if I had to do everything my body does automatically by myself I wouldn’t have made it this far lol, I can’t even text and talk at the same time. Regardless, If I got to pick a power, I’d like the ability to tap into my double helixes (DNA) like a phoneline and chat with my predecessors.
I dreamt of it once. In my head I pictured it like a grand hall, with several etages holding a seated crowd looking down at me in the center, and I didn’t quite get what it was until my grandma came to greet me.
Homegoing is the name of a book by Yaa Gyasi that I just finished reading tonight. It brought back these thoughts I had. It tells the story of a familys lineage from Africa to America and the UK; from colonisation, to slave trade to now. Some of the people along the way are aware of their place in the family line, whilst others aren’t. As the reader you pick up on things that have been passed down all the same, unbeknownst or not, mannerisms, items, sayings, even fears. I won’t share too much, but this book will stay with me. It is beautifully written and it takes you in and holds you close ‘til it’s done telling its’ story.
If you, like me, have been wondering who came before you, if they thought about you like you think of them… Maybe you’ve beat yourself up for not knowing any or all their names, I know I did – let this be your reminder that they’re here all the same. The good, the bad, the ones you know and not, see they never left. Their story lives too, in everything that got you here, and that’ll stay with you even when you’ve forgotten all about it, just like your body breathes even if you’d forget to.
I haven’t been super into social media as of late, however one of the great benefits of these global networks is the access to and interactions one share with cool people who happen to be far away.
Specifically on twitter, I follow a bunch of these cool people. In particular a bunch of black intellectuals who lift topics on the daily that gets my head buzzing in all the the best ways.
One of them is Dr. CBS @ blackleftaf, who posted this tweet a few days ago:
Under it people started listing Caribbean writers who’ve made important contributions to everything from pan-africanism, anti-racism work and neo-colonial studies, to the basics of class/imperial anlysis from a non-western perspective.
My first thought was – Wow Im so grateful I follow great people who provide me with homework on the daily to further my dive in these fields. (Thus I started compiling comments into a list of people to check off.)
My second thought was, wow I have so much to read now, yikes (yay).
Here’s the list:
Frantz Fanon Aime Cesaire Walter Rodney Claudia Jones Winston James Jemima Pierre Lloyd Best Eric Williams CLR James Hubert Harrisson Oliver Cox Rhoda Reddock Andaiye Richard B Moore Alissa Trotz Aaron Kamugisha Percy C Hintzen Monique Bedasse George Padmore Zophia Edwards Marcus Garvey Amy Jacques Garvey Amy Ashwood Garvey Otto Huiswoud Harvey R Neptune Michael Bennett Brian Meeks Anthony Bogues Paget Henry Michael-Rolph Trouillot Michael Ralph Angelique V Nixon Sylvia Wynter
Some of them I’ve heard of before and some I haven’t, I figured I’d put the list here for anyone who might be interested in reading some of their work too. Some are older contibutions and some are newer ones. I recommend checking the original thread if you’re on twitter since I might’ve missed some that’ve been added later + following @ blackleftaf since she drops gems on the daily.
My plan is to check them off gradually along side my studies, and I’ll be starting with this one:
The titel of this post is a play on the supposed radicalness of prominent black thinkers. Specifically those who chose to criticize the status quo of the world – imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and white supremacy. They laid the foundation so that people like myself today who wishes to crack open the old paradigm and bring forth the birth of a new, can see where we’ve been and won’t have to start from scratch (at least in thought). They already knew that for us to move further, past ground level action, we’d have to do our homework, so they left us a bunch.
Why did so many ”radical” voices come out of the Caribbean? One might ask. I honestly don’t know. Maybe it was the violent birth of nations that wouldn’t have existed otherwise followed by the scramble for a new post-colonial identity? Whatever it was, it produced some of the greatest thinkers and voices in history.
If you end up reading any of them or already have and feel like discussing it – drop a comment, either on here, twitter or instagram. The digitalisation brought us together supposedly for this exact reason. I’ll also be checking in here with thought’s and maybe a review or two as I go along.
What does it mean to be a historian? And what does it mean to be a y(o)ung historian in the 21st century? You know, like a next gen’ type thing?
I think about this alot. I have to. There needs to be direction in my work, no? A basic idea, a purpose etc. The sheer fascinating with reading about our past isn’t enough.
We’re in the age of information, majority of our collectively gathered history is a click away at any given time. Thus, the historians ”original” purpose, to just simply know history, is somewhat rendered obsolete. The act of documenting history in the now is also somewhat taken care of, we record e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. now, literally everything.
So far though, I’ve managed to conclude that my purpose as a historian still seems to be to know history. But not as a means of a walking timeline, but as a lens or a conduite. Bare with me lol. A conduite meaning, if a 10 year old kid touched me, they’d be zapped and know none of it’s random. They’d know of the people that came before us and just how much they matter. They’d know the events that shaped our reality now and how it’s all linked.
Will I ever achieve it? No, absolutely not. My head’s too small and my time is limited. However, It’s a pretty cool purpose, and I’ll keep busy forever.
I feel like there’s a focus on the now. Our attention span is getting shorter, travel is going faster, time itself feels like it’s moving faster. It’s easy to remain centered and only focus on your immediate surroundings, your immediate reality. I’m not gonna knock anybody who is, it makes sense.
All I hope is that the people whom we’re currently standing on, aren’t lost to history. That when we as individuals look for our identity, we remember that the people who came before us helped shape who we are. There’s no shame in looking to them for guidance and help. Our past, our culture and our elders is an asset.
So when you ask yourself who you are, or why people do what they do, my job as a historian will be to say look to those who came before.
Maybe I’m talking out of my ass but I feel like this makes sense?
Regarding the y(o)ung aspect, I guess I just gotta make sure I package (or convey) our history in a way that shows just how relevant it is for today, for people like me. Aswell as document the perspectives and conclusions that my generation will be adding to the book later on.
Further more, yungHistoria is a hilarious name for a blogpost, and I feel it embodies the concept I’m trying to push here, which is me I guess? Me as a historian? Like – I’m down for both trap music and ancient civilizations. If you tell me there’ll be hiphop, Axumite coins, Ekpe masks AND pizza? I’ll be there in an instant. Faster than Europe ruined the economy of an entire continent type fast. Feel me?
So, after my first week at Uni, I wanted to share some thoughts and briefly reflect on it.
Most of the opinions I currently hold regarding the field of history or what it means to be a historian are fundamentally thoughts Ive had for some time, even if theyve been shaped and elaborated on through debates, active research and growth. I say this to highlight the backstory of my conclusions, which is this:
1) – I. LOVE. history. I could read and debate this stuff for hours, I’m so excited about this. I’ve been spending hours reading these first few weeks, and now all I wish for christmas is a faster and more effective way to retain information, thanks. (Relevant Avatar sidenote: For those who don’t know me my third favorite character after Aang and Toph was Wan Shi Tong, he’s goals)
2) – The achievements of black and brown people, as well as the African continent as a whole has been systematically written out, down-played and placed on the sidelines within this field.
(Many of you probably already knew this, as did I, but I get unmistakenly reminded whenever I’m in any designated setting than my own)
What to take from this statement you ask?
– If you’re of the opinion that ”black historians” are ”radical loonies” or that the concept of a ”black” historian is odd to you then you might want to go over it again. Some of them are of course, same goes for traditional western and eastern historians who’ve made up all sorts of things in an attempt to benefit from history (for example see the Piltdown Man). In any field there’s bound to be liars and loonies but I’m here to say that it’s been concluded as a fact – if you havent accepted it yet – that history has been consciously written to exclude/downplay the achievements of the people of the African continent (and their decendants).
Ironically, historians have been telling us this for quite some time in their famous ”History is (usually) written by the winners” – quote.
Most people don’t care about this that much, like really truly care. Which is okay I guess its not like history carries any form of political leverage or power. It’s not like a group of people were literally granted a country due to history. How do I know? Name one early complex society in the African continent that’s south of the Sahara, ill wait. Nothing? Okay. That’s fine. Don’t blame yourself. We like to put the blame on us and ofc part of the responsiblity is ours, but you mean to tell me that we have an entire continent, the very continent we as a species walked out of, yet majority of our historical excavations have been done everywhere else but there? Which is usually, in combination with the lack of documentation, the primary reason given for the lack of information available as well as provided.
I love history. So much. I can’t get enough of it, it’s like being told stories as a kid yet most of it’s (supposedly) true, which makes it even cooler. I geek out completely and been reading history mags (who’s target audience is clearly middle-aged white men,) since I was like 11 yrs old. Odly enough, the closest I got to seeing anyone remotely resembling myself in these mags were in stories of the Incas, Mayans, and Egyptians. (Us westeners sure love Egyptians, sometimes it gets weird).
Nonetheless, back to the topic at hand, It just doesnt make sense, rationally, logically, it doesnt add up. How, did our species walk out of that continent, (which we all more or less collectively agree on) and then proceed to collect information about everywhere but there? It must’ve been a conscious effort to place the focus somewhere else. Was it only a a matter of conscious disregard, maybe some plain disinterest due proximity? Probably a bit of both.
I opened up the discussion with a classmate, who seconded my thoughts and added that this has become more relevant of a question along with the recent concept and study of neo-colonialism/de-colonization. Which is true. Meaning that the idea itself already exists with the next generation of historians, I whole heartedly hope that we won’t collectivly fumble it and continue to echo the same withered textbooks people been reading.
So what’s the purpose of this post? And what’s the conclusion?
– That black historians were born out of a dire need. That the collective historical worldview is lacking and full of holes and that the historical field itself is very much alive (ill continue to say this dont @ me lol). It’s very alive and decisions are being made everyday about what gets put in the books and what doesn’t. Proximity matters – the way I look directly affected how I approach this field from jump.
I’m here and look the way I do because of history that goes further back than slavery and I want it to be included, I want to see myself in the books I read, beyond Egypt. We’re supposed to cover the African continent later on in the course, I read the introduction in which they already excused the lack of knowledge there was due to various circumstances. We’ll see how it goes, maybe i’ll have to double down on this. But for now, I’ll sit right here and continue to update my blog as I learn the (very incomplete) history of the world. I’ll keep asking why it doesn’t add up, whilst (fingers crossed) receving the tools to add some missing pieces one day.
”The Swedish Institute For The Study Of Racial Biology”, sounds pretty impressive right? All official, clean and correct. It was official. Very official indeed, but not the least bit clean or correct. This week we’ll talk about how the Swedish government proudly founded an institute in Uppsala specifically dedicated to the study of eugenics – simplified, some of you might know it as ”selective breeding”.
What is eugenics? Basically eugenics is a set of beliefs and or practices that are centered around the goal of improving the quality of human genetics by way of selective breeding. A term which is nowadays very closely associated with scientific racism and white supremacy. This obviously also calls for a desired vs undesired set of traits, resulting in a categorization where some people where classified inferior and others superior. Sort of. Initially it just started with the breeding, see the core idea (selective breeding), precedes the wider movement and field of study (where we know it from) that came later. Plato, famous philosopher, and all mighty wasp father (pre-wasp times), presented in his work The Republic, what his ideal society would be. The small philosophical ruling class were to be paired of with each other, highly intelligent men and women with desirable aptitudes. Selective breeding was essential, not only to continuously increase the quality of the ruling class, but also to keep undesirable lower class genes out. Fast forward a couple hundred years to the beginning of the 1900’s, this core idea has taken on new names, (eugenics is on of them), along with more detailed concepts and scriptures and developed in to a full fledged set of beliefs. Eugenics had been the talk of the town for a while, funny enough, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve probably already noticed that the field of eugenics clearly grew and peaked along side racism, transatlantic slave trade and divisive theories of the evolution of the human race. It’s almost like there’s a pattern here. A system of separate (supposedly unrelated) entities (scholars, workers, merchants, politicians, royals etc) all working together (by chance?) to reinforce their place of power and shape the world to their ideal eurocentric white haven, Sweden included.
We got so involved our leaders founded an institute in 1922 to map and document these racial and ethnic differences. They listed traits and ranked people from desirable to undesirable and deemed what was supreme. The results from this research was then used to set up our own selective breeding program, starting with systemic oppression and genocide to clear out the undesirables. In our case, those who ended up suffering the blow was our trans-population and some of our minorities (specifically Romani, Tornedalians and indigenous Sápmi).
Herman Lundborg – Sweden’s face forward in the field of eugenics, the first headmaster of the institute and one of the driving forces behind the motion to establish it. Fun fact for the Suedis’ reading this, the same people (representatives of present day Centerpartiet and Socialdemokraterna) who backed the motion to establish this institute also passed the motion for compulsory sterilization of ”undesirables” a little later. But back to Lundborg, this man worked incredibly hard to push eugenics in Sweden, urging the government invest in their research and take serious action against the degeneration of our population, I imagine in his mind maybe he felt he was saving the world. See him and his people were concerned that poor people with undesirable traits (a supposed knack for alcoholism, crime, mental illness and dark hair/skin) were having more children than rich people with desirable traits (well educated, cultured, white and blond). So they photographed, measured, interviewed and studied the communities of Romani, Tornedalians and Sápmi. After studying over 100 000 Swedes by 1926, Lundborg gathered the institutes initial research in the book The Racial Characters of the Swedish nation: Anthropologia Suecia (Svensk raskunskap). The book was full of nude pictures of various body types of different ethnicity, lists of ethnic/race based traits and a part which covered the ideal ”Swedish-Germanic racial type” traits with a picture to go with, depicting a naked white blond man who previously won the beauty pageant of the same name.
For anyone who’s still not convinced that this was an institute created to promote and support systemic racism by means of scientific racism, here’s a quote from an old professor from the time of the institute sharing some thoughts: ”I believe that the Nordic tribes, that formed the indoeuropéans, should’ve been acutely aware of their their psychological and physiological supremacy and should not have tolerated of any mixing. See even a drop of gy*py blood, in an otherwise strong host tends to ruin their morals (less of an effect on intellect). Initially, sadly (the field of) eugenics (racial-hygiene) can’t do much other than to keep the worst degeneration that is already in motion at bay”.
I’ll get into the details of the grander consequences that this government funded ”unofficial” breeding program had in next weeks post. I call it unofficial, because it was never referred to as a breeding program per say, however the laws and regulations were there, restricting who’s allowed to reproduce and where some were allowed to live/work. All of this fit rather neatly next to our already existing (also government sanctioned) laws regarding forced assimilation of the indigenous Sápmi (and various other minorities). At this point you might wonder why I keep mentioning them by name so much over the other groups of people, and well, it’s because they were here before present day ”Swedes” got here, yet they’ve been treated incredibly bad. Like horrendously bad. Our government basically tried to wipe them out, and not even in the ”we’ll just shoot and kill you”- kind of way, but in a ”we will erase your identity, existence and your culture, secretly killing your people over generations”- kind of way. So I have to mention them.
But hey, we’re at the conclusion, and by now I imagine you got a pretty good idea what the institute was for and why it was founded. I could get more into detail regarding the research itself, or mention more names of Swedish eugenicists, but I don’t believe it’s vital. What’s important is that you walk away from this remembering that this is something our (Swedish) people did. Legally. With the governments full support. We can’t ever forget it or leave it behind. Because the ripple effect of those actions are present today, and we still greedily ”share” the land with the ancestors of those same people that we literally tried to kill a few generations ago. Many of their elders still remember and still suffer based on our actions and the discrimination hasn’t stopped since, just changed. Swedish eugenicists will be listed in the links below for whoever wants to dive deep, but for you who’s just checking in. Don’t worry about it. Just remember this the next time some random journalist, or your uncle at the midsummer table claims that Sweden doesn’t have a history of racism.
Header:The header for this post depicts the state institute’s first location, known today as ”Dekanhuset” in Uppsala. The eugenics research was carried out here from it’s founding 1922 until 1937 when they moved into a new location (Västra Ågatan 24). Here they stayed until the official end of the institute in 1958 (remaining work was transferred to Uppsala University).
So in this part we’ll talk about Carl Von Linné, the prince of botany, and the role he played in Sweden’s contribution to systemic racism as well as his role in (some say) the very foundation of the ideology itself.
You probably know him from the previous 100 SEK bill or as ”that famous flower guy”. It’s impossible to grow up here, or live here for a period of time, without seeing his face or hearing his name. He’s one of Sweden’s greats. What Charles Darwin was to the science of evolution, Carl Von Linné was to modern botany. He formalized the two-term naming system (binomial nomenclature), which is used to name flowers, plants, animals and organisms and in turn categorize them. He helped the world (somewhat) agree on a universal naming system and provided a system by which to do so (if you which o know more about the system in detail, you’ll find that here), this was his life’s work (1707-1778). We use this same system today for ex. when referring to ourselves – Homo sapiens ( + another sapiens in our case), Homo is our genus (our race), it includes everything from our long dead archaic ancestors to us today. Sapiens means wise, it’s the name we gave ourselves because unlike our previous ancestors, somebody decided our most notable trait seems to be our wit. Then recently somebody added another sapiens, to differentiate between earlier generations of Homo sapiens vs you and me, since we’ve been around for a while now.
– So, he categorized animals, named some plants, what’s the big deal? He clearly did us a great favor. He helped lay the foundation of taxonomy and the scientific field of ecology? Yeah, you’re right, he did all that. However the categorization didn’t stop there, he helped lay the very foundation of categorizing humans too and here’s where it starts going south.
Linné’s system of taxonomy, aka the system he used to categorize plants and bugs, was also known as the very first system to include humans grouped with apes, rather than as a separate group. He noted that both species shared the same anatomy, thus he grouped us both under Antropomorpha (manlike). He received loads of criticism (and some praise later on) for it. Putting man at the same level as monkeys and nature itself (in 1735) was incredibly disrespectful. (White) humans were seen as spiritually and physically more advanced beings, created in the very image of God. A lot of people refused the idea that they could be related to apes, or that they were apart of nature rather than above it. However this controversial evolutionary debate wouldn’t really take off until a few years later with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859).
Systema Naturae, first edition published in 1735, was Linné’s most famous work, and he came to publish several updated editions of the book over time. This first edition contained some animals and plants he had classified, however here he also introduced the concept of subdividing humans in to four varieties based on continent and skin color. If you’re read up on racism, or just grown up and existed in today’s historically racist society, you’ve probably stumbled across these classifications before: Europæus albesc (white europeans), American rubesc (redish american), Asiaticus fuscus (tawny asians, later changed to Asiaticus luridus, meaning yellow asians) and Africanus nigr (short for nigriculus) (blackish African). He also added an extra section known as a ”wastebasket” specifically for the purpose of categorizing humans that didn’t fit anywhere else, humans that were seen as monstrous, wild, abnormal or ”unknown”. Each one of the groups came with their own characteristics of course, based on his measurements and observations. White Europeans were, to quote ”of fair complexion, sanguine temperament, and brawny form… (they were) of gentle manners, acute in judgment, of quick invention, and governed by fixed laws and their mother”, yellow Asians were melancholic, greedy, inflexible and governed by superstition, red Americans were hot tempered, stubborn, ”free” and governed by tradition and the black Africans were, to quote ”Of black complexion, phlegmatic (cool) temperament and relaxed fibre… Of crafty indolent (lazy), and careless disposition and are governed in their actions by caprice (impulse)”.
This (basically) marks the very invention of the concept of race, at least as a respectable scientific field of study. Other people contributed as well, other people were discussing the same things at the time, but Linné’s Systema Naturae became the blueprint, the reference. People have always been racist/discriminatory/oppressive, however from now, it becomes acceptable to measure skulls, establish an institute for the study of racial biology (we had one here in Uppsala, Sweden) as well as castrate, systematically oppress and assimilate indigenous tribes, all under the name of science. Sweden did all of these things and more. Other countries did all of these things and more too and science provided an excuse, a sheet to hide under. We still use science as an excuse for these same people to this day, speak of how their interests were strictly scientific, they were children of their time, that they couldn’t possibly know what their studies would be used to justify. All (mostly) true, and after we’ve acknowledged that I hope we can accept then how being a racist doesn’t have to be a conscious effort, you can literally just be a child of your time/environment, this is one choice, however here’s another on, NOT being a racist means you make a conscious decision to work on not being one. Our collective history of racism, and it’s role in our ”modern” civilization’s very foundation means we’re left with a structure today that perpetuates it.
I’ve seen loads of people come to Linné’s defence to talk about how he wasn’t really racist, he just categorized people based on their looks. The reality is we’ll probably never know whether he was or not, we can speculate – Hmm yes most people like him at his time were, but for the topic at hand and as a conclusion of this topic to be honest it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we need to recognize the impact his work had on both botany and racism.
Ah yes, racism in Sweden. Very much present, and not at all new. In this series I’ll go over why. We’ll start with the colonies.
I have to make this post. Last week we had a Swedish journalist come out with an article claiming Sweden isn’t racist, and that Sweden doesn’t have anything in common with the US thus we shouldn’t try to import their issues and make them our own. The actual truth though which he missed is that black people in America paved the way and shaped what modern black activism is today, and there’s no shame in us adopting their blueprint in hopes of dealing with our own issues with racism alongside with showing solidarity for their struggle. Especially since Sweden’s got quite the nasty history of it’s own which all too often seems to be forgotten. When I was a kid, we didn’t learn about this in school, which leads me to believe that most people don’t have the slightest idea of Sweden’s roll in the transatlantic slave trade. In later parts of this series I’ll go over various major events in Sweden’s history of racism, in this part I’ll briefly cover Swedish colonies. ‘Cause Sweden had colonies. Not for a very long time. Not very large ones, but colonies none the less. We don’t get to act like we didn’t have them. Here’s a list: Nya Sverige, Cabo Corso, Guadeloupe, Porto-Novo and Saint Barthélemy.
First out is Nya Sverige (New Sweden). Located on the east coast of north america, in a small area along the south side of the Delaware river (an area which today is part of the states Delaware, Maryland New Jersey and Pennsylvania), this colony was founded in 1638. The land was purchased by the Company of New-Sweden (Nya Sverige-kompaniet) from the local indigenous Leni Lenape people in exchange for wares, as part of Sweden’s colonization of America and was the first permanent Swedish settlement in the area. So to put it briefly, the settlement was struggling from the beginning due to illness and poverty, however things started getting really bad towards the end of it’s run. When the swedes arrived back in -38 (accompanied by some Dutch people due to a co-operative agreement) the first building they set up was Fort Christina (still there today), a base of defense, named after the Swedish Queen Kristina who was ruling at the time. The Dutch, residing further up the river, also on the south side, weren’t feeling it, so they proceeded to establish a second base of their own 12 km (7 miles) from the Swedish one – to mess with them. Tension was growing between the Swedes and their Dutch neighbors next door. The Swedish settlements’ governor at the time was ruling with an iron fist and seizing property to gear up in case a battle were to break out, this made the settlers unhappy so they started running away to seek refugee over on the dutch side. The governor then hired local Leni Lenape to hunt down the runaway mutinous Swedes and bring them back dead or alive. Fast forward a bit, (past some squabble back and forth), the Dutch governor lays siege to Fort Christina in 1655, the Swedish governor gives up, and so after 17 years since establishment the colony was no more. (Or well, most Swedish people decided to stay, but now the colony was under dutch rule and they renamed the base Fort Altena.)
Then there’s Cabo Corso, with it’s prime location along Africa’s gold coast in present day Ghana. The land was purchased by the Swedish Africa Company (Afrikanska kompaniet) in 1650 after making a deal with the King of the local Akan people (Efutu Kingdom). (It got to keep it’s Portuguese name Cabo Corso after the previous Portuguese settlers.) That same year, the first Swedish ship of settlers, under the leadership of Henrik Carloff arrived and built the base Carlousborg (still there today) and the settlements main export/import was intended to be gold, timber and slaves. The Swedish Africa Company, that was mentioned earlier, was founded by Louis De Geer (ill talk about him more in another blog-post later on, he’s important) after getting a special permit from Queen Kristina to establish a trade post here The queen also granted the company monopoly on all Swedish trading beyond the Canary Islands, aka they we’re making a lot of money. So what happened? They were geared up for success? Well, remember the Carloff guy, leader of the first group of settlers? He was made director of the island, however a few years in, he got accused of dealing in some off-the-record trading of his own and got fired. He left the colony pissed, went to Denmark (whom Sweden recently been at war with), spoke to the King, and the King was like mess with some Swede’s? I’m down. So Carloff returned to Ghana with a brand new gun-heavy ship, hired 2000 local Asafo (Akan warrior groups) and conquered Carlousborg. Now the colony was Danish. Carloff appointed his colleague Schmidt responsible for the settlement, and left for Denmark again taking ships and riches with him. Side note: this was one of the things that sparked Swedens second war with Denmark lol. Later when the Swedish government and King Karl X Gustav dealt with the danish to reclaim what was stolen, Carloff ghosted with the treasure and there’s been no record of him since. So after the Swedish-Danish peace treaty that was signed in 1660, Denmark was supposed to return the colony to Sweden, but uhm, you know Schmidt? Carloffs sidekick? He sold it. He sold the colony to the Dutch and ghosted with the money. Thus, our gold coast settlement was no more after 11 years. The end.
Just kidding, next up is Guadeloupe, an archipelago located in the Caribbean right above the Dominican Republic. This was a short one, it was ours for a whole 14 months, between 1813-1814. When talking about Guadeloupe, we also gotta talk about Napoleon Bonaparte and Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. We’ll start with the last guy here, if you’re Swedish and reading this you might know him as King Karl XIV Johan. So briefly summed up the crown prince, king to be, died abruptly, leaving Sweden with no heir, at least none the nobility liked. So this one guy called Georg Adlersparre made up a story about needing a co-sign from Napoleon to instate this random duke as an heir and convinced everyone to let him go to Paris. The real reason he wanted to go was to fetch a French heir, since he believed the only person who could lift Sweden out of their post-war financial crisis and restore it to it’s former glory was a french guy. French people were very popular (and obviously not popular) in Europe at the time due to Napoleon making a name for himself trying to conquer everyone. So he got there, spoke to a bunch of important generals, and picked out one of Napoleons favorites, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. He was like – come and be our next king, and Jean was like sure. The old king then adopted him and he was renamed Karl Johan. So, to the Guadeloupe part, the archipelago was under British rule (previously french) and the brits were fighting Napoleon in the ongoing war. Sweden (clearly) sided with the french, so the Brits were like – Hey side with us, help us take down Napoleon and we’ll gift you this colony we got. Sweden was like ok cool. We started putting a crew together to sail down and claim it as our own, but before we even set sail the island had been returned to its french former owners and all promises got flushed. The brits payed us some money instead as a sorry.
Then there’s Porto-Novo. Lol, so uhm. In 1733 Sweden tried to gain a hold in India with the Swedish East India Company, so they started building a factory in the city of Porto Novo (today’s Parangipettai), then got sacked by the brits and the french a month in. That’s it.
Lastly we got Saint Barthélemy (Saint Barts), the most commonly known one and the colony Sweden held onto the longest. Sweden bought the island, (located in the Caribbean, off the coast of Puerto Rico), from France in 1784. A remnant of the ownership can for example be seen today if you look at St Barthélemy’s capital, Gustavia, founded by the first Swedish settlers that docked at La Carénage harbor and named after the Swedish King Gustav III who bought the island. French was kept as the predominant language and Swedish was reserved for the senior officials and wealthy merchants. The island produced a moderate amount of goods, mainly cocoa, cotton, sugar, tobacco and fruit. Slave trade was permitted, and special laws regarding taxation were written to cover slave trade alone. There was also a specific set of rules put together by Governor Pehr Herman von Rosenstein called the Code Noir (the Black Code) which was set to control the life of the island slaves. The code noir split the population into the assigned groups: white people, liberated colored people and black slaves. In the early years, the colony made a lot of money due to it’s favorable position along popular trading routes, but towards the end the colony was losing money due to other routes gaining popularity as well as a series of devastating hurricanes so Sweden sold it back to France in 1878. This was our last colony.
Sweden’s part in the transatlantic slave trade: I put Saint Barts last, because around the same time as the colony was slowly coming to an end (from 1813 and forward) Sweden also started discussing abolishing slavery in their colonies outside Europe. It was going out of style. On St Barts, as mentioned above, during it’s peak both Swedish and international slave trade was conducted. It was officially abolished in 1847, when the Swedish government bought all the remaining slaves on St Barts and set them free. People like to point out that there was ”only” 10-50 ”documented” Swedish shipments of slaves, and even less so only 10 of which were registered to have been done with Swedish ships. I put ”only” and ”documented” because the numbers aren’t exact, since there hasn’t been a thorough survey of our old documents, there simply hasn’t been an interest. We also paid Brits/Danes/French and American’s to ship slaves for us. We bought people, we sold people, we made deals with surrounding islands. We also had a bonus on St Barts that shipments (of people) straight from Afrika could be imported taxfree if they went through us, all to make St Barts lucrative. – 50 shipments tho? that’s only like 0,1% of all slave trade that took place. That’s like nothing, yeah but then we’re not counting that our economical involvement was far greater. I wish I could find records of the total amount of trips funded by Sweden, all the deals we made money from through tax and what-not, our numbers would definitely go up. Sweden made money off of transatlantic slave trade, it’s part of our heritage and helped fund what we are today, whether we like it or not. We whipped, killed, hot branded ”livestock” and used iron collars, just like the other countries involved.
Fun fact, slave-trade has actually been illegal in Sweden since 1335, however, it obviously was not outside of Sweden. So Swedish people brought their business elsewhere. It’s odd though, because Swedish Kings and Queens were involved in establishing every single one of these colonies, both financially and as acting hands in negotiations, yet here it was illegal… it’s almost as if there was a double standard… It reminds me of how in history class we’d talk about the Holocaust, and how the division of tasks enabled the entire thing to go on as it did, because everyone involved could go – No no I just oversee this or that I’m not really responsible or involved. As in how the real racism and slave trade is going on somewhere else, not on our porch, so Sweden’s hands are not clean. Not only are we not taught about it in school, but whenever you try to look it up or read about it in your own time, the opening-lines to all the texts tend to ring the same with their –First things first, Sweden’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade was so teeny tiny minuscule… I don’t care. I didn’t come to read about it because it was ”less” than other countries involvement, I came to read about it because it should’ve been a part of the school curriculum from the start. Just because it was ”less” doesn’t mean we get to write it out, and bump it down the roster below Magnus Ladulås (Swede’s will get this reference).
Anyways, this concludes part one with a brief introduction of the colonies, I’ll continue with part two next week which will cover some other aspect of our history of Racism. Until then, stay hydrated. (It’s 30°C outside (86°F) in Sweden right now and it’s new to us.)
Some extra links (some are in Swedish and some are available in both Swedish and English):
This weeks post is a little different than usual. I’ll be back next week with a new series of posts on Sweden’s history of racism, but tonight I’m sharing some thoughts I had a few days ago during one of my regular late night stretching sessions.
I’ll start with stating that I believe that there’s a direct link between mental strain and physical pain. This has also been scientifically proven through various studies for ex. around mental illness and its effects on the body (see this for an example or if you’re unfamiliar with the theory). Most of us have either experienced a stomachache from being nervous, gotten a headache from sheer frustration or heard of another person’s aching neck caused by stress. This is common, and generally accepted. Our brain is what registers that we’re in pain, but also what causes us to feel emotion, so it’s very likely that more of our mental activity has manifested itself physically (aside from an obvious stomachache). Maybe we’re just unaware of the actual amount of ”saved up” pain that our body is holding on to?
So, I was stretching my lower back, which is one of my problem areas in the sense that it’s really tight, like it’s very not flexible, and it’s been tight for as long as I can remember. I blame it on my lack of consistent stretching in life up until recently as well as me not really using it for anything (except everyday to literally hold my body up). Nothing strange about it, most people have issues with their lower back due to all the sitting and slouching we do on a day to day basis. I did what I normally do, breathe through it and lean into the pain. That’s the blessing and the curse of stretching for flexibility, it’s painful, yet enjoyable, you just get used to it (kinda). As I felt the tension lift from the muscles in my lower back, I slowly started feeling a breeze of sadness accompanying the usual wave of relief and focus. Where it came from? I don’t know, maybe it was a subconscious reaction to the Brent Fiyahz track I was listening to at the same time, or an old thought that slipped by without me noticing, all I know is it was gone as quickly as it came. The thought that arose then was that it’s easy to forget that some of the mental strains or traumas we go through in life get stored in our body physically, either in forms of instant pain or for them to appear later when it’s too late for us to connect the dots. As I mentioned in the intro, what I mean is that the mental pain we feel (stress), literally manifests itself as physical pain (also stress).
Most of us don’t know our bodies that well. We harbor tightness/stiffness, bad posture and injuries or neglect it through improper diet, no exercising or other unhealthy habits. We can’t overlook that a lot has changed in terms of how humans live now vs how humans lived back when our bodies still had time to keep up with our technological advancements. Maybe we need to start viewing these hidden tight spots, caused by mismanagement or stress, these muscles holding on to tension, as physical manifestations of us holding on to our ”bad” feelings over time? A consequence from us not setting time aside for proper self-care. Keep in mind this is just me speculating, my brain is making it sound more philosophical than it needs to. Yet it’s an interesting and strangely beautiful thought to think about possible ways in which our mind and body physically display and actualize their tight connection and reliance on each other. The conclusion to this train of thought ended up being that If I take good care of my body, it’ll make sure to take care of me too.
In reality, the positive effects of stretching, focused breathing, as well as exercise are all well documented things. I know that the relief I feel is most definitely an endorphin high. Still. We tend to carry impacts of life with us on the outside in the form of burn marks, scars and wrinkles, it wouldn’t be too surprising if we unknowingly carried some of it with us on the inside too, not just as thoughts and memories in our brain, but as tangible parts of our body.
Abolish the police, yay or nay? – A debate more of us should be having and why you might want to get into it.
Personally I’ve previously found it hard to truly stand by the idea of abolishing the police, in part because I’ve been raised to fundamentally believe that the government has every ones best interest in mind at all times (a lie), but most of us have also been told that there’s some things we just couldn’t possibly understand as commoners. For me it’s also due to the fact that I never really heard anyone suggest an option, aside from maybe chaotic anarchy, which was presented as an absurd joke to underline just how important the work of police really is (as in, if we’re left to our own demise we’ll revert back into wild animals and start killing each other). However one of the things these few weeks of heated online debate has taught me is that there’s an entire body of literature dedicated to this very subject. Aka what do you do when the organisation set in place to stop people from hurting and killing each other is doing the hurting and killing? I saw a tweet by @neontaster that read:
And I thought – Or in many black peoples case, something you shout at the top of your lungs when your family and community is falling victim to a government sanctioned body with a monopoly on violence. Nonetheless, whether you’re on the for or against it (or some sauce inbetween) side of this debate, this phrase has turned into an echoe with most of us unsure of what this would actually mean, so here I am writing about this, in hopes of pushing the commoners debate (myself included) past this phrase into actually discussing in real-time what it could mean. Somewhere along the way we settled for ‘humans can’t take care of themselves, they’re stupid and irrational, somebody has to keep them in check, hmm… a group of humans will do’. I don’t know what happened here, I guess it’s like how democracy is the worst way to run a country, except for all the other options.
Let me bring up a classic example touching on human behavior in positions of power, or in any ”fundamentally good vs evil”-debate: The Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971. One of the most well known experiments in the history of psychology. The purpose of the Stanford Prison Experiment was to examine the impact of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. To quote Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist behind the experiment.
”Suppose you had only kids who were normally healthy, psychologically and physically, and they knew they would be going into a prison-like environment and that some of their civil rights would be sacrificed. Would those good people, put in that bad, evil place – would their goodness triumph?”
To sum it up briefly goodness, did not triumph. The experiment was supposed go on for 14 days, but got cut after 6 days since the guards got abusive and the prisoners showed signs of severe anxiety and stress. Interactions between guards and prisoners were hostile. Guards became aggressive and prisoners became passive and depressed. Even the researchers themselves got dragged in, Zimbardo himself, head of the experiment, posed as warden and overlooked the abusive behavior of the jail guards until a student pointed out the horrible conditions and argued it morally wrong to continue with the experiment. Conclusion, when placed in positions of power, humans tend to behave differently than they normally would, leaning towards the evil, with very few exceptions. It’s worth noting though that the experiment has been criticized for being unethical, and for it’s unrepresentative sample of participants (white middle-class males). These last two factors has made the results difficult to apply to other scenarios and a wider population.
Alright, now let’s talk police, alternative solutions if we were to abolish it and what to do with the unreliability of the human mind.
From what I’ve been able to find out, many of the theories for an alternative to police revolve around changing the way in which we police people, as well as dividing the bracket of responsibilities that the police carry in most societies today. This can be hard to imagine, when I was initially posed with the question, my first thought was what could policing be other than what it is today? However reading through this stuff It became apparent that it’s really not that make-believe at all, especially if we center the question around what the police are supposed to be doing, which is protect people.
So, think of it like this, we have psychologists, to dissect and offer guidance and support for ”lost” human minds, rehabilitation centers for various forms of addicts, cameras, security numbers and systems for surveillance and help lines for victims of abuse. We have specialized people for these tasks, people who study for years in their respective fields, yet a cop is supposed to be able to handle all these various kinds of situations on the daily, preferably without issue or fail. They’re also armed, trained in combat, and expected to be ready on site within minutes of call. A huge responsibility is placed on one single organ of society, as well as a whole heap of physical and legal power in terms of weapons and ”passes”/leaniancy regarding the law they were sent out to represent and uphold.
Let’s be real here, these expectations sound rather unrealistic, inefficient and high-risk in terms of failure. Of course running a society isn’t easy, and there are always details the human factor tends to miss, regardless of if you’re an elected and respected politician or a random woman with some questions and an internet connection. So what do these people who’s work I’ve read suggest we do? Well, simply put, we de-fund the police, and put that funding in all the other organs of society responsible for handling all that stuff I mentioned earlier, these same places who probably suffered from de-funding themselves due to a need for more police, or a summerhouse. As a bonus, when the responsibility is split, so is the power! Or well, it has to be, for it to make sense. (Sidenote: Most people call for de-funding as a first step towards abolition, not as a solution to our current problem, de-funding alone wont cut it since the issues and desired solutions require a full revamp of the our policing-narrative, a clean sweep.)
What else do we need to take into consideration? Well, let’s look at a modern day example of what a society can look like without our version of police: Rojava. This autonomous self-governing state located in the north-eastern part of Syria, has established a system of it’s own where they have two separate groups of people responsible for different instances of safety in society; The Assayish who are responsible for the ”city” and the HPC (Civil defense forces) who are responsible for the ”community”. The Assayish are responsible for watching the borders, arresting criminals, guarding government building etc, whilst the HPC on the other hand consists of volunteers from local neighborhoods who receive basic training in security and only patrol their own neighborhood. The dividing of responsibility, encouraging everyone to help out aswell as proximity to whom they protect reduces the risk of de-humanization and hierarchical behavior. Close-knit neighbors and family protecting each other helps maintain the delicate power-balance.
So we need to take this with us into the equation too, proximity, inclusion and divided responsibility lessens the eventual hierarchical/power-crazed behavior.
Next thing to, connected to what we mentioned earlier, is that people tend to commit crime when they’re desperate, low income, bad housing/healthcare is directly linked to criminal activity, thus some of the money taken out should be re-invested in increasing the living standard for the people at the bottom of society and improving social services. This sounds like some imaginary utopia, and with how our society is built and running today, I absolutely agree, it is imaginary. Personally I fear it’ll get turned on it’s head and provide another market for big companies to capitalize of, like they capitalize of the privatization of prisons and hospitals. Yet, that shouldn’t hinder us from arguing for steps in the right direction. There’s always gonna be stuff to improve, and we shouldn’t normalize calling a cop if the issue is mental health, because then we’d just be overlooking and covering up the actual issue. The people that end up taking the hit for the higher ups falling out are marginalized and oppressed groups at the bottom of society. We can’t have that.
The stuff I’ve read about abolition is based on the american police and prison system, but I’d still urge the Swedish government to push for the same kind of reform, people are having issues with their police everywhere in the world. All because somewhere along the line it went from supposedly serving to protect all lives at any cost to defeating imaginary bad guys and taking your made up law into your own hands by throwing and wrestling a pregnant black woman to the ground over a subway-ticket (Sweden) or rushing into (the wrong) black woman’s house to shoot her in her sleep (USA). Clearly it’s time for something new.
I realize the actual reform is going to be more complicated, and there’s a myriad of ways in which we can implement it, some people have been suggesting everything from drone-surveillance to specialized elite forces and a market for professional assassins, (this is another reason for why you might want to get in on this lol, although if it comes to it, maybe we wont have a say in drone surveillance or any of the other, see Omniscient). Nonetheless, yes, this topic is huge and I’ll be linking some statistics around anti-brutality methods recently implemented that’ve failed ex. police body-cams, as well as issues with the social construct of crime itself – at the bottom of the post. I’ll also link some alternatives to calling the police that you can use in the meantime that can be applied basically anywhere.
Our world is an un-equal and un-just place, but it’s also an incredibly intelligent, globalized and highly technological place, so let’s urge our leaders to reform and improve it whilst also pushing for change individually. The system is clearly long overdue for an update, too many people have died and continue to get killed.
So I agree, abolish the police.
Links I’ve used as sources, plus more info on abolition: