Laila Soliman on Historical Taboos

What’s your national taboo? Or, if you prefer, what’s the most striking European taboo?

The current taboo I think in Europe today is racism.

It is discussed as a thing of the far past and not of today.

It is the absent present in most European cities, which you experience as a non-white. Sometimes you can recognize it in an unmistakeable way in form of verbal abuse, sometimes in less of a clear way of a look, and mostly in an intangible way , that forces you to question your own perception, and wonder about possible motivations of that person which might have nothing to do with you or ask yourself: “Have I become paranoid?” And it is this state and cycle of self-questioning that I find the most exhausting of them all for an outsider in a society.

It is as subtle as neo-colonialism compared to the outspoken clearly regulated colonialism of the not so far away past.

How can this taboo be overcome?

Maybe a possible solution could be to raise awareness by situations where people are forced to take decisions and express themselves openly. To go a step back, as now I think some try to express themselves in a “politically correct” way while their thinking and behaviour is far less politically correct.

I think questioning current cultural policies in Europe is also a very good place to start.

What would change?

The silence would change, the subtly, the intangibility, in case people finally talk more openly about everyday forms of racism on a street or state governmental level. But I think rethinking global hierarchy is the distant dream.

What was Europe’s biggest learning moment? What should we do with what was learned?

It is very difficult for me to answer any question with a superlative in it.

I cannot also say what “you”, Europeans, “should do” with what you supposedly “learnt”.

Nevertheless I can think of many “learning moments”, but I can also question the lessons learnt.