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Gjesteblogger – Eva Harris

Jeg har begynt med gjestebloggere på den engelske bloggen min. Kona mi er den andre bloggeren jeg har publisert nylig, og siden de fleste leser bra engelsk publiserer jeg den engelske teksten her også. Denne teksten skapte noe kontrovers i familien, selv om de alvorligste anklagene ikke var rettet mot dem.

My/His/Our Personal Place Of Despair

Warning: If you don’t like hearing about other people’s problems, don’t bother reading this.

Let’s see, where to start. Right now I’m in a very dark, very scary place. My husband is sick and out of work, I am sick and out of work, we both have disabilities and we’re rearing a child with an autism spectrum disorder, and some other challenges. We have her and ourselves on a gluten free, casein free, soy free, MSG free, processed sugar greatly reduced diet that includes vitamin supplements in hopes that it will lessen her symptoms and ours. It’s working for her and it was working for us, too, until recently. I don’t know what’s gone wrong, and I don’t know how to fix it. And even if I could figure out how to fix it, how would I manage it on our present income? We’re running to the edge of our money every month as it is. Eating this way is VERY expensive. We need to move to a cheaper apartment, but we’ll have to take ourselves off the supplements for at least two months to afford it. If we stay where we are, we’ll never be able to save any money to buy a house for our only child to inherit when we die. A child, who, as I said has multiple disabilities and needs a special expensive diet. This is only the tip of the iceberg for us.

I, because I am black, and disabled and my husband because he is black by association and disabled, have been subjected to a lot of racism/disability discrimination here in Norway instigated, for the most part by white women. I have no reason to think it will be different for our daughter since she also disabled and has more visible African ancestry than I do. We, my husband and I, have been accused of neglecting our daughter and reported to the barnevern (Child Protective Services) twice (BOTH reports were determined to be unfounded, btw) by these nice, helpful white women, who ‘only want what’s best for us’.

family at beach

We have tried our best to give our daughter a good childhood. Going to the beach was one of her favourite spring/summer-activities in Nordland. This picture from Meløy mirrors the sunlight and shadows of our life in Norway.

In one of these situations, a nurse even convinced a doctor, in the municipality we were living in at the time, to delay recommending our daughter be evaluated at BUP Nordland (The Child and Adolescent Neuropsychology Clinic at the hospital) and so delayed her access to medical care because she and he both decided my daughter’s delays were because I was hindering her development (which led to one of those CPS reports)-and everyone in the municipality from the doctor himself, to the director of health and child welfare services supported her, even after our daughter had been diagnosed! We changed our daughter’s diet, fought to get her evaluated at BUP, put her in whatever activities were available wherever we lived, but still we’re accused of somehow neglecting her. And the worst of it is, that most of the people we spoke to or complained to about these women felt they were perfectly justified in treating us, or more specifically me, as though they thought I was lying/exagerating, and/or incompetent, and/or just plain crazy. Think about how you’d feel if you knew most people felt everything about you was suspect just because you weren’t white? I think about how you’d feel if you knew your child was going to suffer the same abusive treatment?

Even my husband’s family is guilty of some of this kind of thinking. They helped us move after all that nonsense up in Nordland, so I don’t want to be too hard on them. They are kind people who, unlike some of those other folks, do mean well most of the time. They however have real problem facing reality. In our case, it takes the form of wanting, almost demanding, that we paste a smile on and pretend everything’s all right now, so they don’t have to deal with the fact that Norwegian society has one set of rules for them and a different set for us. We don’t insist that they hear what they don’t want to, we just don’t spend a lot of time around them. We decided we will not participate in their “We are the people having a party in the living room, while ignoring the house fire in the kitchen, because house fires are too scary to think about’ mentality. So having almost no support here, not even anyone we can talk to without being patronized or risking further reports to the barnevern, we are seriously considering moving back to the U.S. in one or two years to be closer to my family and friends. They are people who have experienced racism and disability discrimination and therefore are willing to listen and support us in ways that John’s family can’t or won’t do. As scared and despairing as, in truth, we both are, we’re going face this and try to figure out what to do so we don’t leave our child unprotected in a mean, and two-faced world.


About John Olav Ytreland

Jeg skriver hovedsakelig om nonverbale lærevansker (NLD) og autismespektertilstander.

4 responses »

  1. Eva,
    I am so glad that you are writing again, but I am sad as to the subject matter. I wish it wasn’t like that way for you guys, and I know how hard you have both tried to make it better. It is hard for me at times to wrap my mind around the idea of a country where it seems that most people are so seemingly oblivious to the hardships of others. As I have listened to you tell me over the years about the attitudes you have faced in Norway, it is just dumbfounding to me that so many of these people pretend like no one is ever treated unjustly (for any reason), that the experts and authority figures can do no wrong, and that if anything bad happens to you that it must be your fault. It is crazy to me that an entire culture exists that pretends like no one every falsely accuses anyone, no one ever stabs anyone in the back, no one is petty or mean or jealous.

    In a recent post your husband made and subsequent comments, there was a discussion about “myth creation.” It appears that the Norwegian myth includes the idea that everyone is always nice, kind, always tells the truth, authority figures are all knowing and always do the right things, no one is every poor (unless it is their own fault). Essentially, it seems that Norwegians believe that they and everyone in their country live in a perfect, fairy-tale world where nothing ever goes wrong. That would be great, of course, if that were true. But there is no such place on earth…but I guess that is a form of “Norwegian Exceptionalism.” Perhaps that is why so many Norwegians are unwilling to get know you and John well or become close to you, because then, if they are honest with themselves, and really care about you as a friend or family member, then their precious illusion is shattered.
    Perhaps it is possible for a nation to be “too safe,” “too affluent,”

    Of course, the U.S. has its own set of myths, which I know you are well aware of. I just find Norway’s myths so, well, strange. Of course, I have encountered some people here with similar attitudes, but mostly, most Americans have experienced for themselves, or seen someone close to them go through such experiences. And in the time that you have been in Norway, far more Americans have been experiencing tough times. Hardship is becoming more and more familiar to more and more of us.
    With regards to you considering moving back to the U.S. I know you are a realist about what you will face here, but you are correct, that you WILL have support, and though I know people are far more helpful to me as a white woman than they would be to black woman, I know you will still find decent people of any color who can relate to the challenges and the hardships, the adversity and the injustice, and may do whatever their position allows them to do to help you and your family.
    It is my hope and prayer that God will guide you and John in the direction He would have you to go, whether it is to stay or go, and am trusting that either way, He will make a way.
    But you know that whatever you decide to do, I will be here, and I support you however I can no matter what happens.
    (And hey, though you might starve here, you won’t starve alone!) 🙂
    Ok….sorry for the morbid joke. Probably not that funny, but I couldn’t resist. You know how they say misery loves company! 🙂

    • Thank you for the support at a time when it is greatly needed. For many years we have felt as if we were all alone a facing hostile and/or indifferent world. Even at church we have not yet been able to connect with many people. After haveing spent so many years battling hostility (usually in a passive-agressive form) it’s been difficult to trust people enough to reach out to them. We are working to overcome that in the hope that we can find some people at church with whom we can be friends. Again, it really helps to know that people care that we’re hurting.
      S. E. Hinton said in the OUTSIDERS, “Tell Dally there’s lots of good in the world, I don’t think he knows that.” Your support reminds me of that fact.

  2. I am upset to read how your family has been treated by the CPS and the health care – people you’d expect to be helpful. I believe the smaller the place, the easier you face this kind of problems. Unfortunately, there are a lot of small places and narrowminded people in this country.

    • Terje,

      Hearing from you and therefore knowing that there must be some Norwegians out there
      who do not feel that this sort of thing is alright helps more that you can imagine. The things we deal with are bad enough of themselves, but everything just feels that much harder to bear when you have to deal with it completely alone.


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