Report: Foreign adoptees in Norway experience discrimination and racism

Kjersti Binh Hegna Photo: Private

A new report published by the Institute of Urban and Regional Research NIBR, OsloMet – Metropolitan University shows that half of all children adopted from abroad to Norway experience discrimination and racism, media VG reports.

One of them is 29-year-old Kjersti Binh Hegna who was born in Vietnam but grew up with her adoptive parents in Vadsø, Norway. To VG she says that when she was younger she experienced many thoughtless questions, such as where she was actually from and why she did not look like her parents.

In school, she was bullied for being shorter and thinner than the others. “It was hurtful and strange when the health nurse suggested that maybe it was because I only ate rice at home. That says a bit about the attitudes and knowledge,” Kjersti says.

After she moved to Oslo, she experienced more direct racism. She worked at the fresh food counter in a grocery store, where one of her colleagues was from Sri Lanka. “There were some customers who refused to be served by me, customers who wanted a “Norwegian” instead. But my colleague who had darker skin than me experienced it even more often,” Kjersti says.

Chinese-born Jenny Huse has also experienced discrimination. “When I enter a store, they follow me closely, and check, for example, whether the banknotes I pay with are genuine,” she explains.

Jenny was two years old when she was adopted from China, and says she feels more Chinese than Norwegian. “It’s mostly about looks. Many foreign adoptees say in the report that they feel Norwegian, are Norwegian, but that they are still not accepted because they do not look Norwegian. I’m not Norwegian enough to be Norwegian, not Chinese enough to be Chinese. Feels like nothing. It’s hard not to belong anywhere,” Jenny Huse says.

The new report is the first of its kind as never before has such a large-scale survey of discrimination and differential treatment of foreign adoptees in Norway been carried out. The report sheds light on the nature and extent of racism, discrimination, differential treatment among foreign adoptees, and looks at strategies for dealing with such experiences. 

According to Mariann Stærkebye Leirvik, a researcher at OsloMet, the fact that foreign adoptees experience discrimination to the same extent as immigrants and children of immigrants, shows that Norwegians judge people by their appearance. 

Minister of Culture and Gender Equality Anette Trettebergstuen says, “It is completely unacceptable that almost 40 percent of the respondents answer that they have experienced being suspected, overlooked, or excluded due to their adoptive background or appearance. I think it is discouraging that we have not come further in Norway in 2021.”

She says the government will put racism and ethnic discrimination high on the agenda.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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