Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Anti-Roma Racist Apartheid Stink of the Sheraton Stockholm Hotel Can't Be Washed Off as "Mistake"

So, this is what happened in my country today:

As the Swedish Government was to launch a long awaited and important white book, documenting and finally publicly acknowledging decade after decade of endemic discrimination and persecution or Roma people in Sweden, one of the main speakers, Diana Nyman, chairman of the Roma council in Gothenburg, and specially invited prominent guest to speak at the ceremony – where also the Queen and the Crown Princess took part, besides the minister of social affairs, Erik Ullenhag – was heading down to the restaurant of the luxury Sheraton Hotel in the very centre of Stockholm, where the government had booked her to stay, to have breakfast.

 This, however, proved to be a challenge, as she...

'...was almost knocked over by a staff member who rushed to bar the Roma expert and speaker from entering the breakfast room. 
"Even after I had showed that I'd paid for breakfast the staff insisted that I stay in the lobby," Nyman told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN) on Tuesday. "They got me coffee so I could drink it there instead." '

In Dagens Nyheter, representatives of the Government comments dryly that it will now "revise its business relations" with the hotel, while Diana Nyman declares that she will (of course!) report the hotel for unlawful discrimination.

Quote above is from The Local. And some Swedish renderings are here, here, here, here, here.

Just now, the hotel CEO, Thomas Johansson, finally commented, labeling the incident as an "unfortunate mistake" and then immediately contradicting himself by referring to an ongoing internal investigation, obviously implying that the hotel actually believes that something more than an accident had occurred.

Of course, it's no accident and, of course, it's no mistake!

The hotel staff knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. They were barring a proven guest of the hotel from having breakfast and entering the restaurant only because of her "Roma looks". Based, I suppose, on some hazy notion that "We can't have those people around our fine restaurant guests, now, can we! What will our guests think!?" Keep her happy with a cuppa in the lobby, just to prevent any fuss, before she's on her way and all can return to normal". 

This is without any doubt a crystal clear case of conscious apartheid and blatant racial/ethnic discrimination. Moreover, I hold more than likely that the staff actions are perfectly in line with longstanding practice at the hotel with regard to Roma people, it's just that they never had anyone of them so visibly as a guest before. The equally likely fact that the Sheraton chain somewhere, I'm sure, has some sort of human rights and equal treatment policy doesn't mean zilch in this context. One might add, moreover, that the behaviour of the hotel staff is perfectly in tune with the deeply embedded culture towards Roma people in my country, documented by the White book launched today. So, I would guess, that – in fact – Sheraton is only unlucky here, to have their first visibly Roma guest, the incident would have been extremely likely to occur at any "better" accommodation establishment in town.

So, please, Mr. Sheraton CEO, Thomas Johansson, please stop pretending what only makes you look ridiculous. Admit that your hotel – as probably most others in this country – has a cultural and institutional ethnic/racial discrimination problem, giving rise to apartheid behaviour towards guest or possible guests based on "racial profiling" from your staff. Admit it and deal with it!

In the meantime, I find the reaction of the Government most apt, and if the Royal court does any business with Sheraton, it would be very logical for them to turn their affairs elsewhere as well. Not to speak of the Nobel Foundation, which often uses Sheraton to put up laureates and their families. Just as a bit of a motivator for real change, I mean – you do believe in financial incentives, don't you?

And all of you others, if you happen to visit Stockholm in the future, here's how the Sheraton Stockholm hotel looks like again. Just in case you want to follow these fine examples when making your free choice on the market of where not to hole up, I mean: