Denmark’s Radio

When I taught English as an additional language, I advised my students to listen to podcasts, watch tv and see films in English. Anything to expose them to the language in an enjoyable way. The theory is, if you experience pleasure your brain will give you an extra boost to remember vocabulary or assimilate syntax.

Taking my own advice, I would listen to the radio while washing up or what have you and watch the news of an evening.

In the end, I had to stop because of the relentless xenophobia of the Danish media. I was not experiencing pleasure, I was not entering a flow-state. I was constantly irritated. I remember putting on a local radio channel in the early days and had to switch it off when they were asking the leader of the far right what she wanted to listen to.

The state of Danish news is probably a post in itself but I just wanted to focus on Danish radio.

Left to myself, I bought an internet radio and split my attention between Alouette, BBC 6 Music and occasionally NPR or Radio 4. I just stopped listening to the Danish radio because nothing good was coming of it. But then I got a boyfriend and he likes to listen to programmes on the radio, rather than music all the time when he is driving. So, I have had to listen to a lot of talk radio in my time here.

On ordinary FM, there are two talk radio channels that I know about. 24/syv and P1. P1 is more traditional and 24/syv is more modern. As much as I enjoy Radio 4 and NPR, P1 rubs me up the wrong way. If they talk about Denmark, it tends to be in terms of how Denmark is the best at something. There’s always something of the 9th grade geography project about their pronouncements on other countries and cultures. Of course there is some interesting, quality programming that does not irritate me. There are tech shows and shows about the Danish language which never get on my nerves. But if they talk about anything to do with current events or world news, the lack of self-awareness or introspection grates on me. 24/syv never gets to me in the same way, I advocate for this channel if music is not an option.

We recently got a dog and we leave the radio on when we go out so she does not feel so lonely. The kitchen radio is usually tuned to P1 so the boyfriend can listen to it while he cooks. In the past couple of months, and it may be coincidence, almost every day I walked into the kitchen, they were talking about Islam. They have a lot of repeats so maybe I was walking into the same show at different points but I don’t think I was. They never say anything offensive or ignorant but it’s remarkable how much they go on about Islam without involving Muslims. It’s just non-Muslim talking heads talking about The Other.

Anyway, it was getting to me and sometimes P1 has shows that involve animal noises or odd noises as illustrations, so I tuned the radio to a music channel. The commercial ones are alright, they just play music really. I managed to tune it to P4 one day, this is a local channel that plays middle of the road pop and rock. This works for dogs and humans. Until the other day, they were talking about the word ‘neger’ and whether it was socially acceptable to say anymore.

Again, it was just the perspective of white Danes. One white Dane went on about his ‘dark’ friends from Denmark and how some of his best friends (from his time in America) were black. His major point was ‘they’ don’t mind. The lack of awareness that his impression based on a self-selecting sample of people answering a socially awkward question might be subjective was striking.

Then they interviewed various white people who insisted that their intention was magical so anyone taking offence just did not understand the spirit in which their racial slur was intended. They pulled out their kindly old grandmothers who were simply not able to keep up with a changing political landscape and language as examples for why no one needs to keep up.

I had to stop listening because although they were coming down generally on the side of ‘well, it’s outdated now’, the premise for the most common arguments of why the word is not that bad grind my gears.

(When I turned the radio on again, they were discussing the word ‘åndssvag’ (moronic/retarded/daft), and how it had become taboo. Again, no one with special needs were asked how the word made them feel. It was just about how people with privilege feel about showing consideration with their choice of words)

What strikes me is that some of the radio channels funded by mandatory licence fees are keeping integration from happening. The immigration debate, issues surrounding multiculturalism, world religions 101, the changing face of politeness as a culture evolves; all these issues are discussed in such a way to drive a subtle ridge between the intended listener and The Other. Foreigners are rarely involved in discussions about integration (though I have heard it, they picked three good immigrants to talk about the adorable ways Danes are different). Islam is discussed almost non-stop which serves to make the divide seem more important and unbridgeable than in reality. Changes to Danish society are presented as being imposed on the Danish people, rather than adopted by them.

What would be better would be programming that includes us. Programming that talks with or to us rather than about us. Stories about how similar we are for every story about how we are different. It would be an improvement for programs to engage in critical thinking, rather than the bland regurgitation of a talking point.

Danes: Stop saying ‘neger’ is not derived from ‘nigger’

Because it does not even matter that it is closer to ‘negro’. You have spectacularly missed the point.

This must be taught during samfundsfag in folkeskole considering how often it is brought up by well-meaning Danes.

If an English speaking person dares say anything about the distressing use of ‘neger’ in Danish polite society, a Dane will pop up to say “BUT REMEMBER, it only means ‘negro’, not ‘nigger’!”

Danes who do not want to consider themselves racist, Danes who like to think they’d invite a black person over for dinner, if only they knew any; are all over this if they see it.

Oh well, fine then! English speakers, stand down…

Except, the Dane shows no awareness that the word ‘negro’ is NOT OKAY in English anymore.

Let’s look at the history of the words ‘nigger’, ‘negro’ and ‘neger’ for a minute.

In the 1600, 1700s and 1800s Europeans kidnapped human beings from Africa, abused them and forced them to work in dangerous conditions until they died. They killed and tortured them whenever they wanted. Children were separated from parents routinely. Women were raped routinely. They did this on an industrial scale.

In order to be able to do this, the Europeans needed to de-humanise the targets for their abuse.  Much like the Nazis needed to identify Jewish people as rats to allow the atrocities of the Holocaust, the Europeans reduced their victims to one word. A word that did not give any clue it was being used about a human being.

They used the Spanish word for ‘black’. They reduced their targets to a word that summarised the essential difference in appearance between the two groups and the justification for their atrocities. As they became more comfortable with treating people like this, the word they used changed. The English speakers corrupted the word into ‘nigger’ and the Danish speakers corrupted the word into ‘neger’.

Danes don’t like to talk about the Danish slave trade anymore. They don’t even call it the DANISH slave trade, they call it the Danish-West Indies slave trade. As if there were no slaves in Denmark, it was all so far away.

Danes still refer to black people as ‘neger’. In headlines, in conversation, on television, on the bus, during physical confrontations. Black people are routinely called “neger —” where their name goes second.

Sometimes, old people mean it in a more neutral sense. In their time, it was okay to dehumanise on the basis of colour and they just have not unlearned that. Old people racism is NOT what we are talking about. Younger people who ought to know better use it. And they use it as a slur, more often than not.

I am white and I got called a ‘neger’ in a bar for speaking English. She was NOT using it in a neutral sense. Or a historical sense. She was not even using it in a descriptive sense. She was trying to verbally attack me and that was the word that came to mind.

If English speakers try to point out how messed up this appears from the outside, Danes line up to say it IS NOT actually messed up.

They always go to great pains to say that it is a linguistic difficulty. That if ONLY the English speaker was fluent in Danish, they would understand their mistake straight away. (If pressed on the point, they usually go into ‘but THEY use it’ but that’s a story for another time)

Sorry, no dice.

The word ‘negro’ is not acceptable in English. For the same reasons and strength of feeling as for the word ‘nigger’. Sure, ‘nigger’ is only used as a slur and ‘negro’ has a history of being the word people used in the olden days. But this word is not acceptable. Because it dehumanises. Because of its association with slavery. Because of how it makes people feel to be described in those terms. Because it is a reminder of a painful chapter in history and all the negativity that went along with it.

You want to claim ‘neger’ is closer to ‘negro’? Fine. Stop defending it. Stop defining it in comparison to a worse word.  Stop saying it is neutral. Stop using it.


Dehumanisation in Danish Marketing

Denmark hides behind two national myths to excuse itself from poor behaviour.

1: We are a homogenous nation without a history of having to get along with others

2: We have a unique sense of humour which magically stops anything from being in poor taste

Denmark is now part of a global community and however homogenous they mistakenly imagine their history, they have to get along with others.

Even though this has been true for a long time, it has not stopped them from being outrageously idiotic on their promotional material. Come with me now through the Hall of Shame:-

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Let me know in comments what I forgot.

Now I have handled why this shit is wrong before. I’m not going over it again.

I only bring it up because the Swedes complained about the masks in Haribo sweets and so Haribo won’t make them anymore. That means they won’t be available in Denmark.

Sweets stop being available all the time, Haribo don’t owe Denmark crude racial stereotype licquorice. You’d think Haribo not only stopped supplying sweets to Denmark but blocked other brands too, from the over reaction here.

The Metroxpress covered the story with good-natured bafflement about those ‘crazy politically correct Swedes‘ and rabble-rousing pieces about how ‘angry‘ Danes are at the Swedes for ruining their enjoyment of dehumanising sweets.

TV2 interviewed Professor of Philosophy Vincent F. Hendricks, who is half-American half-Danish. I won’t lie, when I saw him, I thought that tv2 had just found a black person to speak for all black people a la The Brass Eye.

The interviewer was bizarre and said that it was a slippery slope, that if you can’t have masks of crude racial stereotypes then you won’t be allowed to have ‘Jødekage’ any more (so-called ‘Jew cakes’ because they were sold in Jewish bakeries in the 1700s not because they are crude racial stereotypes of Jewish faces in biscuit form)

Hendricks was AMAZING. He started out with the homogenous national myth, as a gateway for the heavier criticism that he made. But he made it with love! It was great.

He said that Denmark has been able to get away with being provincial for a long time but now this shit is being noticed and the world will think that Danes are backwards peasants. He also asked why it is just black faces that get this treatment (though south-east Asian faces get it too), and what is it even for? I wish I could find a copy because I’d just put it up on here and not paraphrase wildly.

Anyway. It didn’t work, the Danes are still really into having not to think about de-humanising groups.

That last sentence was a sort of a test. If you were a Dane who got really agitated because I de-humanised you by saying you are all into not having to think about de-humanising groups whilst simultaneously not being all that bothered about the masks, you are a fucking hypocrite.

Homogenous or not, Denmark has to wake up and stop being so childish. This stuff is hurtful. This stuff makes lives harder. Your children don’t come into the world being mouthbreathing peasant scum, YOU make them that way. You do it by having sweets that encourage your children to think that certain groups are only caricatures. You are the reason that when ever I teach Danish kids about Japan or China and I ask what they know already, they reach for their eye corners to stretch them back. You are the reason that white Danish children attack black Danish children with crude racial abuse. You are encouraging it. By saying ‘these groups are not human really’, you are setting your children up to attack them.

And it affects the adults in your country, contributing to micro aggressions (and macro aggressions, face it), which affect the lives of people with facial features being caricatured in these products.

The problem isn’t that crazy Swedes cannot take a joke or Haribo have set themselves up as moral arbiters or black people should realise that intent is magic (“I don’t mean it to be offensive: it isn’t!”) The problem is that Danish people still think that black and Asian people are not all the way human.

So it shows up in Danish culture a lot. It shows up and reinforces the idea over and over. You are all so used to it, you do not see how toxic and off putting it is.

The Swedes want to stop reinforcing it, Haribo don’t want to make a brand of confectionary just for one country especially after conceding it was racist.

Denmark has to evolve or die. It’s not good enough to continue being a hick country with hay in your mouth. It’s not good enough to say you didn’t realise it was racist so it isn’t racist. It’s not good enough to say that since it amuses you, it is acceptable. It’s not good enough to say that since you believe that black people only moved to your country a short time ago, it is not a problem.

You want and need foreigners to do the jobs your own people are incapable of doing. They won’t come here if they think you are racist pieces of shit. They won’t visit you as tourists. They won’t buy your butter cookies at Christmas. YOU will become a joke. Worse than a joke because no one thinks it is exactly funny that you are racist.