• INJECTION Magazine

Neutrality In Switzerland Is An Illusion

© all Illustrations by INJECTION

NO to racism part 1 of 12.

When three white politicians are chosen to represent the black community on Swiss TV.

Has racism become ordinary in Switzerland? Even though in movies and throughout history Switzerland is represented as the neutral country in the middle of Europe, the reality is different. 

"Racial discrimination is not an abstract concept but a reality, which people who should be protected from in Switzerland experience ever day," writes the Federal Commission against Racism. Not only in the US but also in Switzerland, Black people experience police violence with drastic consequences. In February 2018, Mike Ben Peter, a Nigerian died during a preventive control against drug dealing on the open road when six police officers pushed Mike Ben Peter to the ground and put his hands behind his back. Before that, the officials are said to have kicked him in the genitals until they were able to overwhelm him. Mike Ben Peter collapsed in the presence of the police. He died of a cardiac arrest in the university hospital twelve hours later. Sadly this is not an isolated case. In the past four years, three black men have been killed in police operations in Switzerland.

Last Friday it was noticed once again how divided the opinions of the Swiss people on racism are when SRF Arena, a significant Swiss national television show where politicians, exponents of associations and opinion leaders debate about different topics, hosted a debate with the name: Now we, the black people are talking (Jetzt reden wir Schwarzen). 

Ironically, three whites and only one black man stood on the podium next to the white moderator who said that they wanted to speak to those who were particularly affected by this. Two other black women sat in the back row. When this topic came up, the SRF moderator justified themselves that most of the black people they had asked to come to the show had declined. Nevertheless, SRF decided to put the two women for the majority of the screen time (68 of 85 minutes) in the back instead of giving them a stand.

We've translated and compiled the strongest arguments of all guests on the show.

Andrea Geissbühler, National Council SVP BE (national conservative, right-wing populist and liberal political party in Switzerland), Police Officer

“We [the SVP] are the only ones who actually try to prevent racism from arising. This in Switzerland is not racism, it is disrespect, but the black population is not affected the most by it.”

“The people who have to take the most in this country are policemen and policewomen.”

“I don’t think any of you had to experience what a police officer has to put up with, not even a black person.” 

“I don't know any racist from the SVP.”

James Foley, Speaker Republican Overseas Switzerland

“The issue of racism is being exaggerated. 30 years ago, it was bad in the USA, today left-wing forces make political capital out of it.”

“Donald Trump is not a racist at all.”

“They try to push the idea that racism only affects black people.”

“I think the whole issue of institutional racism has a bad past so that they totally miss the point. The point that every life matters.”

Gabriella Binkert, President SVP Val Müstair

"If I was at a demonstration and people found out that I was part of the SVP, I would have to be afraid of being attacked. And there's the problem. Then you go and demonstrate for that, which is all fine but you exclude the others."

"Being very integrated, children and others haven't even noticed me as a dark-skinned person."

Kiko, Comedian

A reader informed us about an encounter she had with Kiko three days before the show and out of respect to anyone experiencing racism as well as SRF we decided against giving him a voice on our platform.

“He started the conversation by saying that the BLM-movement was totally stupid and asked what we would think about it. He told me that he was invited to talk about the BLM debate on Friday at SRF Arena. He laughed and said that "those idiots" think he is going to defend the BLM movement, but he is a strong Trump supporter. He said that he was probably the only dark-skinned person behind Trump, but Trump had the right values. He started to make jokes about black people. After he left, I wrote directly to the SRF Arena editorial office to inform them about Kiko that he wanted to express a completely different opinion than he had told them. I wrote to them that he had made fun of it and said that they had no idea what to expect and that he was clearly trying to legitimize racism with “this is just an old woman who doesn't know any better." - Reader, Female, 23

Samira Marti, National council SP, BL (left-winged, social democratic party of Switzerland)

“We have a racist history and a colonial past. Since the last century, we [Switzerland] have been the founders of the new right-wing movement on the continent and the strongest party in the country is openly racist.”

"We have a problem with racism and we need to solve it. That's all the peaceful demonstrators on the streets want to say. That this itself is such a provocation in Switzerland shows that we have a sensitivity problem and a gap in education.”

“That we as the white majority in the country have the power to say that we don't renounce racist terms, just because we can is the problem for me. This is about power.”

"As a politician and as a white Swiss, I have the responsibility to think self-critically about racism."

Angela Addo, Juso-Member (Young Party of the Swiss Social Democratic Party) and Co-organizer of the "Black Lives Matter" rally

“Every time we talk about racism, you see the white fragility, caused by pointing your finger at someone and saying they are racist. That is not the case. I can work on myself and everybody can work on themselves. We live in a system that is built so that white people can benefit from living in this racist system.”

“I have been followed by the police with flashing blue lights, but as soon as I opened my mouth and spoke Swiss German, the air was out.”

Although the show didn't go as smoothly as probably planned, SRF managed to demonstrate, due to the fact that the show was so intense and impulsive, how the problem of racism is still very present in Switzerland. Surely, some racist mindsets and behaviour can be changed by this show and the general movement so that we can work towards a more tolerating and accepting future.