How US Protests are Seen from Switzerland, An American Abroad Vision of Things

Jun 3, 2020 | Cantons | 0 comments

A story of George Floyd, killed by a policeman met an aggressive reaction in the United States. During a week protests spread nationwide: from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

Americans living abroad were hurt and worried about the situation hit their home-country.

Tonya lives in Switzerland for 11 years where she enjoys entire peace and neutrality. However, on the 1st June she was feeling a shock while seeing 1000 people marched through the streets of Zurich to show support to the Africa American community struggling against police brutality and continued racial injustice in America.

She expressed her thoughts in the essay for SUISSEPIC.

Photo: Maria Talanova / suissepic

“America is first and foremost my home. I carry her with me always. The way every person who has left their home, either by choice or force, carries it with them. We are intrinsically connected to the land our ancestors cultivated. 

There is some idea that, when we are separated by distance from our home, there will also be an emotional distance. This is false. I feel the events unfolding in the US as though I were on the streets myself, surrounded by state sanctioned violence, by the people who swore to protect us, though I am sitting in a farmhouse, in a quiet town in Switzerland. The only sounds are bird song and the wind against the trees, but somehow I am still able to hear the protest chants and songs and screams. 

This is my 11th year living in Switzerland. I love this country too. I spend most of my free time exploring the mountains with my husband and dogs. I am awed by the natural beauty of Switzerland and the kindness of her people. On June 1st, that kindness spilled over in a tremendous showing of solidarity. Over 1000 people marched through the streets of Zurich to show support to the Africa American community struggling against police brutality and continued racial injustice in America. These acts of global solidarity are re-energizing to communities who often feel cut off and alone in their struggles for justice. Especially in the US, where the media and the president continue to gaslight the protesters, to invalidate their cause and make them believe they are in the wrong. When the global community stands up, as they have a human responsibility to do against all inhumane acts, the message is loud and strong. ‘You are not wrong. We see you. We are on your side.’ 

This moment is significant not just in the US but everywhere. There has been a wave of strong right-wing politics washing over much of the world in the last decade.  Accompanying this movement you will typically find an uptick in racism, xenophobia, nationalism, anti-education/science, aggressive leadership and a militarisation of the police. All of this, more often than not, culminating in violence. 

 But we live in the ‘Swiss Bubble’, which can feel far removed from these events happening right now in the US and beyond. Plus, Switzerland has had a lot of success with integration and overcoming xenophobia. However, reports show that racism, both verbal and physical attacks, have been on the rise in the last decade here. 

While the US struggles with institutionalized racism of ages gone by, much of Europe seems to struggle with accepting itself as modern and diverse. 

Yes, many have given up problematic cultural relics like the children’s game ‘who is scared of the black man’ and “Chaschperli” children’s tapes. You’re unlikely to see a blackface schmutzli anymore. But there is still a startling amount of people who casually use derogatory slurs when referring to black people. Many still make excuses for their parents and grandparents prejudices, explaining them away as ‘from another generation’. There is always an increased police presence in areas where many POC reside, reinforcing the idea that those who are not white, are dangerous.

The individual greatest form of resistance to the right wing wave and the violence that almost always accompanies it, is unlearning our internalized biases and prejudices. This is not a one time event like attending a march, it is a lifelong journey. It is difficult work, as any internal work is. It is checking your own privilege. Listening to, supporting and the amplifying voices from marginalized groups. It is donating and volunteering and organizing.  It is having difficult and uncomfortable conversations with your friends, family and employers over prejudiced behaviors. 

It is a mistake to be apathetic in the fight against racism. Racism is a sickness that spreads like wildfire if it is not held in check. The situation in the US is proof of that. Learn from our mistakes. Switzerland is in an enviable position where relatively small steps can be taken to create a more inclusive and kind nation. There will always be detractors. People who fear change. But Switzerland is already a diverse and modern country, anyone trying to stop progress has already failed”.

By Tonya Weber for SUISSEPIC