In the last week, I’ve learned a lesson about blogging: the title matters more than I thought. While I might agonise about the contents of my blog, I rarely think much about the title for each post. So last week when I wrote about racism and white privilege, I lazily titled my post, White Privilege. In hindsight, I should have given it a more appealing title if I wanted to get my readers’ attention, because this blog post, as important and as heartfelt as it was, turned out to be one of the least read posts I’ve written since I started blogging nearly three years ago.
In contrast, any blog I’ve written on the travails of motherhood has consistently attracted at least twice as many readers as my post on racism did. The only topic less attractive than racism, it appears, is disfigurement and disability, which after all were the focus of my blog when I first started out.
What does this tell me? That people prefer to read about things they can relate to or find amusing. While there is nothing much amusing about disfigurement or racism, they are topical, to say the least; racism is alive and kicking, and people with disfigurement and disability continue to be treated as second-class citizens in a society that fetishizes beauty, perfection and success.
As much as I would love to write funny stories about my mad-hatter family, and I will still write them now and then, I cannot and will not shy away from writing about issues I believe are of enormous importance to all of us, even if they’re uncomfortable to read. We’re living in a time when right-wing views are becoming normalised in political discourse. Right-wing identity politics and populism are winning the day in Italy, Slovenia and I fear, in Sweden, where the third largest political party has deep roots in Nazi ideology.
In Britain, the Home Office’s policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ is not just wrecking the lives of its main target, illegal immigrants, but has led to the detention and enforced removal of foreign nationals legally residing in Britain, including EU citizens and people of the Windrush generation who came to Britain legally and who are in fact British citizens. And it’s only got worse since the Brexit referendum, so much so that I have made a conscious decision to stay clear of the Home Office for as long as I can, rather than risk being told I’ve got no right to stay in Britain once Brexit happens.
My situation, however, is nothing compared to that of thousands of people who risk deportation to countries where there’s no rule of law, no democracy, no human rights to protect them. In the unlikely event that I had to leave Britain and return to Sweden, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Sweden, after all, is hailed as one of the most democratic, gender equal and socially progressive countries in the world.
But what happens when the third largest party in Sweden becomes the largest party and the one to form a government? The notion of the right-wing Sweden Democrats ever gaining power seemed utterly ridiculous only a few years ago. Today, reports indicate that they are the fastest growing party in Sweden with as much as 18% of voters poised to cast their ballots in favour of a party that embraces a 1930s kind of ethnic politics. It is no longer inconceivable that the Sweden Democrats could one day form part of a Swedish government. If that day were to come, I am not sure I’d want to be Swedish anymore.
Illegal immigrants – many of whom are risking their lives to escape an unbearable life in their home country – are treated as hardcore criminals by European governments hell-bent on keeping any ‘undesirables’ out. Everywhere walls are being erected; people’s worthiness is often judged according to the colour of their skin, religion, earning power and physical ability.
As a woman living with a facial disfigurement, in a country where I am a foreigner, and married to a black man who’s suffered racial abuse since childhood, and with whom I am raising two daughters of mixed heritage, I have no choice but to write and speak about the issues facing not just my own family but the world around me.