It’s been four years since I have been back from Switzerland, but so much of me still holds the land of cheese, milk, and money close to my heart. Ahhh, the green hills, the clean air, the pure chocolate, and… the blatant racism.
Okay, so the racism I don’t hold to my heart, but growing up as a Jewish Cuban in Forsyth County, Georgia, I thought I knew real racism. However, my time in Switzerland taught me that there are still parts of the world (**cough, cough, Europe) that are racist in different ways. They express it in a way that says “We aren’t racist, but we don’t like (fill in the blank with whatever group of people has the highest immigration rate to that country).”
When I was in Switzerland four years ago, the sheep ad was plastered everywhere. Of course, there were quiet, uncomfortable rumblings about the ads from the younger generations, but the ads were oddly part of the normal routine for the Swiss. I have written about the times that I had a direct run-in with some racial slurs and incidents abroad, and I have learned more about race relations than ever by being a white teacher in a predominately black school.
As a blonde haired (at the time) and blue eyed white looking girl, the Swiss had no problem with me. But my friends were mostly Asian and I remember walking down the street with them one evening and some Swiss guys were mocking them and generally being assholes. I also remember when my sister, who is much browner than me, came to visit and we went shopping and the store clerk followed her around the store to make sure she wasn’t shoplifting (and not me).
The longer I stayed in Switzerland, the more friends I made. What was surprising is that most of the locals I was friends with were from another country. However, they were not technically Swiss yet, because it takes a long time (almost nine years) to become a Swiss citizen, but they were settled there, living full lives without citizenship. In comes casual racism, where the citizens can blame the immigrants for the country’s “problems.” *Problems are in parentheses because Swiss problems are really not that bad, in comparison to the US, or the rest of the world.
Sound familiar? It should. Every nation, in the history of the world, has been divided by race or religion or a school of thought. Wars have been fought. People have died. We still have not learned our lesson. Immigration is not a problem in a globalized world, or at least it shouldn’t be. Europe is facing the same problem right now, but the Syrian immigrants really have no where else to go.
Where am I going with this? I didn’t write this post to tell you that we are all doomed. Actually, I am glad to see a counter attack on these “sheep” ads. The YouTube generation is fighting racism one view at a time with feel good videos like this:
Shot in the lovely Lausanne, of course.
What I love about this is that it takes a simple problem, and without mocking the sheep ad, it outsmarts it by saying “don’t be a sheep, you aren’t a racist.” I love it–what a simple, clever way to use media to bounce back.
Meanwhile, in America, Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video has conservative white girls up in arms (for lack of a better word) because she used the name “Becky” as a derogatory name for the skank who slept with her husband. Alright all you Beckys, simmer down, it’s an insult to basic bitches whether they are white, black, hispanic, or asian–it’s not race specific. Sorry, but Beyonce is not ruining race relations. And reverse racism still is not a thing.