What have been some of the experiences of black immigrants living in Sweden?

Answer by Kriztofer Plitzkin:

This is a random picture of me and my wife in our home in Umeå, Sweden.
Jason Boykin ´s answer to this question is very interesting and holds many points I would agree with.
However, I would like to bring some perspective to the subject.
Anna Holmén introduced a very valid point by mentioning the fact that Swedish people are suckers for everything American. There is some sort of odd cousinage between these two nations. I am not really sure what is the origin of that phenomena but if you are American, Swedish people are generally drawn and friendly to you. And if you are Afro American probably even more so, because you are not only American but you are also "cool" and probably "soulful" too. In other words, being African American works quite a bit in your favor if you set foot on Swedish soil.
Being a black African in Sweden on the other hand, can be a slightly different experience …
Let me put it this way, I emmigrated to Sweden 12 years ago now, a young African male of Malian and Burundian decent. I applied for residency by way of asylum process, by that time I had been honorably discharged from the French Foreign Legion and seeking for a new life.
To be fair to everyone I was not born poor, I was not fleeing for my life -rather the opposite- my father was a very rich man back in our home country, I had left home simply to become my own man by enlisting as a legionnaire. I had a high school education from a top French expatriate private school and nothing to envy materially from any upper middle class youth the same age in any "First Tier" country. One could easily say I was a privileged kid. My quest was rather for adventure and building something of my own.
I obtained a permanent resident permit (equivalent of a permanent Green Card) within six months of my arrival in Sweden. Six months within which I had managed to learn and be able to speak pretty much fluently Swedish.
This last factor being a very important one in any society one needs to integrate, language is crucial. Being able to speak Swedish to Swedes opens quite a door. Most people and societies in general can be wary of immigrants who cannot speak the language. It is a normal anthropological behavior related to humans, nothing I deem particular to Sweden or Swedish people. I grew up in Burundi among other places, Burundians can be quite closed to non Kirundi speakers too…
But back to Sweden, mid 2000´s, young , well educated , well mannered , 20 year old kid. I would like to point at the fact that Swedes´general attitude towards black people can vary greatly in different places in the country sometimes even from one city area to another.
I became a resident of a suburban area out of Sundsvall, called Bredsand. At that time, Bredsand was not a " ghetto" , or a forsaken " banlieue" as French people know it. Not yet. This occured only under the course of the last couple of years due to worsen immigration and integration politics the country is being subject to. It was a lower class neighbourhood already then but not yet what some would call a "ghetto". By that time, the building I was living in counted 3 Swedish families, 1 Kosovan family, 1 Albanian family, 1 Iraki Kurdish family and me young single Malian kid.  We all got along pretty well, eating at each other´s place, visiting and watching films together, doing each others´laundry, watching each others´kids, celebrating Christmas, El Eid and Midsummer together, regardless of religion or ethnical background… Like one big family under the sky as the late great Bruce Lee would have said. No interaction problems whatsoever between Swedes and immigrants. 
But despite the rather harmonious interaction we all enjoyed on my block, times were not always rosy for that young black kid trying to make it in Sweden.  I was on many occasions segregated within the context of sports and education, despite excelling at these things, my performances were often oddly underrated. Details that it would take too much time to describe here as they could be an entire tale by themselves but out there in society was also a most unfriendly animal.
I could mention a few situations :
Being openly called an " ape " in broad daylight by passants, being called a " fucking nigger" on my way to a cashier in a coffee shop, being randomly told " You need a shower" by an uknown man in a disco ( and believe me I smelled pretty darn good on that day) , being told " You happy you got some sun now, nigger, aren´t you" on a summer promenade and being harassed by an entire crowd of people chanting racist chants and shouting insults related to my ethnical background, being constantly stopped by the police while riding my motorcycle and having to constantly prove that I indeed own my vehicle;  these are exemples of situations I am no stranger to…
Around 2008 I moved to another part of town called Södermalm. Middle to upper middle class neighbourhood this one, there was not a single person of any other ethnical background than Caucasian Swedish other than me living there, at the time I moved into that area. There,  I was able to rent an annex appartement to a villa owned by a Swedish family. These were wonderful and genuinly kind and generous, very tolerant people. As many Swedes can be. But in the same neighbourhood, I cannot count the number of hostile looks and negative energy I have been subject to (it is a pretty common thing to me even nowadays. Not much can be done about it ). But these people I was renting from were amazingly gentle, helpful and generous and treated me very much like one of their own sons. Believe it or not it is something (paradoxally) engrained in old Norse culture which hospitality is a characteristic trait of and which remnants are still found in many Swedes. There is a great minsconception about Swedish people being unfriendly or cold as a matter of fact it is rather the opposite, to a degree. It varies from individuals to others and Swedish people have different ways of being approached and approach others than most Europeans for that matter. They are Scandinavians. The key to interact properly with them is to understand their ways, which are subtle and minsunderstood by many.
I met my beautiful wife back in 2012, we have been married for about two years now. She is Swedish. There was so far a major incident with our previous landlord who constantly harassed, abstractly threaten and disrespected us, he even openly insulted me in front of my wife implying that I was a profiter in this country (assumption many Swedish people can do about immigrants) as well as other disrespectful things I will not care to mention …  After two years of that type of harassement we have finally moved away to a new town. While these things do not constitute the bread of my overall experience in Sweden  they do however paint one more shade of what being a black person in Sweden can imply for some.
I have the sheer luck not to be a thin skinned person. Thanks to the way I was brought up and the environments I have experienced during my childhood as well as my time in the French Foreign Legion, I am not easily dettered or scared away. I never felt hurt nor cut by any of the affored mentioned situations I have been subject to. The thing is that I happen to heir from a very old family on my father´s side. I am able to mention at least 6 of my great grandfathers spontaniously and I am able to trace my ancestors accurately back to the 16th century. Ancestors whom I know the feats, greatness accomplished and the tales around them. Having over 400 years of noble blood, all the way back to the great kings of the Malian Empire running in your veins doesn´t make you " better" than anyone  but it sure gives you a sense of identity and self assurance superior to most people. Being called an " ape " or a "  fucking nigger" or any of these things never have done anything but provoke a laugh or at worst only a very temporary frustration on my side. It is being married to a wonderful, kind hearted woman who now must also from time to time, carry the burden of bad looks or disrespect ,simply for being my wife, that hurts me the most. She does not deserve this, a native of this land, to be a victim of certain people´s intolerance and ignorance…
But make no mistake about it, Sweden is overall a wonderful country, full of some of the most wonderful people I have had the chance to meet. It is a complex society on the brink of mutation in different fashions, where the old ways are giving way to new ones. For better and worse. And this creates frustration and tension among and between all the social classes this country is composed of. Being able to navigate Swedish society as a black person has been quite an experience, it still is and I do carry a lot of love in my heart for this country and its culture . When people from different cultures must integrate another one it automatically implies a certain level of friction,  some incidents, certain anthropoligical factors play into it. It is human life on Earth. Being black, especially African, unfortunately can come with a certain amount of prejudice in any society in the West and many other places in the world. Even here, in a generally highly tolerant society like Sweden. But I was not raised to be a victim, I was raised to adapt and overcome which I have done here in Sweden and I suppose that´s what human beings must do, wherever they are. Thanks God, I am not a Palestinian in Gaza , a young black man in Ferguson or in Alabama in the 1910´s, there is no Ku Klux Klan waiting with torches liten up oustide of my home. I have very little to complain about. Swedish society has been good to me in many regards and I knew the rules of the game before I moved out of my home country. I knew one thing: I had to accept that wherever I would go , I would never be home again. I would live and grow there but I would never be home again. This meaning that I never ever expected to be treated fairly 100% of the time, a crucial mindset… Many other immigrants around me did not make it. Many fell to discouragement and entrenched themselves in holes of bitterness, resentment and petty crime and never climbed back up…
Sweden is were I live, I owe a lot of love and loyalty to this country and I hold the same respect and caring for this nation as I do my one true home. I hope I do not come across as someone who has suffered an ordeal in this country , that´s far from the case but all the things I have mentioned here are true experiences and I had to make them heard in order to enrich this topic. These situations are still very marginal to the overall experience I have had in Sweden, it would take an entire book to talk about the positive things I have enjoyed in this country as a black person!
That is my experience (in a nutshell) as a black person living in Sweden.
Cheers to you all ! 

What have been some of the experiences of black immigrants living in Sweden?


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