‘The concept of race is not founded in biology, but in history and society.’
I read this sentence a year or two ago somewhere, I do not remember exactly where, but it made me think a lot.
Once it hit me that despite the number of dark skinned people living in Switzerland, one rarely sees an advertisement with a coloured person in it, be it on a poster or on television. Once in a blue moon, we see some advertisement with dark skinned people but, mostly in the background and never on focus. Unless you are a footballer or a successful athlete.
I decided to ask an acquaintance of mine who works in advertisement. The answer he gave me shocked me to the core. He said, many companies have this phrase they use when doing a poster or a television commercial, which basically excludes dark people from appearing in commercials:
“Only Obama-brown, not darker”
This is a shame if one considers that out of the 1.9 million foreigners living in Switzerland, 84,000 are people of African origin, not including those who have become Swiss nationals. We should not forget that not only African migrants are dark skinned, there are also Tamil migrants from Sri Lanka with a population of 50.000 living in Switzerland. Fortunately for them, they are accepted and more tolerated here than people of African origin.
Being dark skinned in Switzerland is not a bed of roses. The skin colour plays a very big role in many sectors of life, be it in the labour market, in looking for an apartment, going out to have a meal with friends and family. Most of the time, one is treated with mistrust. One in every two dark skinned person living in Switzerland has been insulted or discriminated because of the colour of their skin.
So, when big companies who could actually make a huge difference in the fight against racism, systematically promotes it by using such slogans like ‘Only Obama-brown, not darker than this’, one begins to wonder what kind of example they are setting.
Migration is a reality, globalisation is happening right in front of us and we are a part of it whether we like it or not. I reckon it is time we involve people of all skin-colours and of all race and social background in all works of life (of course with the right qualification). It is time we stop judging people by the colour of their skin, the sound of their names, or their sexual orientation.
Many people of colour in Switzerland are treated as second class citizens. This does not exclude people with a higher education. I know of a situation where a dark skinned nurse goes into the room of a patient to administer treatment and on entering the room, the patient tells the nurse ‘You do not have to clean this room because a work mate of yours just cleaned it about 10minutes ago’. The nurse was judged by the colour of her skin.
There is another situation where a lawyer was recommended to a lady, to represent her in a case. When they met the first time to talk about the case, the lady, on realising that the Lawyer is a man of African origin, told him bluntly that she needs a lawyer who is of Swiss origin. Unfortunately, today in the 21st century, many of us still think that dark skinned people are best suited in doing cleaning jobs and helping out in kitchens.
Racism is something that helps the offenders to feel better about themselves.
There are so many forms of racism worldwide. We also have racism among dark skinned people. Many who were born here believe they are superior to those who migrated here. Then there is racism between different migrant groups.
Dark skinned people are not the only victims of racism. Though a minority, they are sometimes the culprits too. Racism is a tough fight and we can only hope, it is a fight that will be won, through sensitisation and awareness.
If we need change to happen, we have to start with ourselves. I think, there is a bit of racism in us all.