Most people would consider female genital mutilation (FGM) to be a deeply harrowing issue, and that its victims should be treated with respect and sensitivity. In Sweden, though, it seems it's a laughing matter, and that racial slurs can be thrown in too.
Sweden's culture minister, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth celebrated the country's World Art Day by visiting an art installation created to highlight the FGM issue. But, shockingly the artist chose to do this by means of a cake depicting a stereotypical black woman connected to the artist's grotesquely blacked-up face. The exclusively white audience cheered as the minister laughingly cut the cake around the "clitoris", and fed it to the artist.
It is difficult to see how women who are victims of FGM, or black people for that matter, can benefit from this contribution to the degradation and humiliation of black women.
In her attempt to justify her participation in the event, Adelsohn Liljeroth said that art was meant to be provocative, and that the pictures of the event are misunderstood. This reveals her careless attitude towards this racist incident, but it is also a familiar manifestation of Swedish politics and how it views black people.
Clearly, Adelsohn Liljeroth participated and encouraged a crude racist act in her capacity as a government representative. What makes matters worse is that she subsequently expressed no regret, instead choosing to question the intelligence of all those who criticise her. If a top politician can resign for such things as buying nappies with government credit cards, as happened recently, then it goes without saying that Adelsohn Liljeroth must take responsibility for what happened and resign.
But more than that, why is it that Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art, a major state institution, organised a spectacle like this? This can only be understood by looking at the country as a whole. Racism and racist depictions against black people are common in Sweden.
In March last year a popular celebrity, Alexander Bard, declared on national television station SVT that there is nothing wrong with calling black people "niggers" – "If I can refer to myself as a faggot then I should be able to call black people niggers" – and when confronted on social media by an Afro-Swede, he insisted on using the word repeatedly to make his point.
Last April, at a student dinner gathering at the prestigious Lund University, students arrived with their faces blacked up, with nooses and shackles around their necks and arms, and led by a white "slave trader". During the course of the evening, a slave auction was enacted.
When I filed a complaint, I was subjected to a racist reprisal. Apart from threats against me and my family, a manipulated picture of me as a slave in shackles was made into posters bearing the words, in Swedish: "This is our runaway nigger slave and he answers to the name Jallow Momodou. If you should find him please call this number." These were put up in several different spots around my workplace, Malmö university. Rev Jesse Jackson himself condemned the harassment.
In October 2010, a white Swedish man went on a rampage in Malmö, shooting more than 20 people of colour and killing one. The killer was officially considered to be a lone wolf with psychological problems rather than a terrorist with racist motives, and he has still not been prosecuted.
At the start of last year, a sex education film caused outrage because it showed a black guy having sex with a white girl. More than half a million comments were posted on the internet, mainly commenting on how disgusted they were at this "betrayal" of the white race and corruption of the purity of the Swedish gene pool. The entire incident, though, was not even commented on by a single politician.
Despite all these incidents, however, Sweden has created an image for itself of paradise and harmony, which has been bought into by the rest of the world. It is a challenge for all of us to revise the Swedish self-image, starting in our schools, to understand how racism has taken hold in this country.
Sweden abolished the slave trade in 1847 well after nations like Britain; but few people know this part of its history.
The Swedish exceptionalism – the idea that Sweden is different from the rest of Europe, disconnected from slavery and colonialism – has made it very difficult to discuss the racist structures that black people face today.
Racism is about power, in which those who operate the levers believe it is OK to discriminate, dehumanise and denigrate without consequence. This is what the culture minister is relying on: a racist structure that ignores racial incidents and ultimately makes them part of the norm. This is what the true image of Swedish society looks like.
Jallow Momodou is a spokesman for the National Association for Afro-Swedes, and national co-ordinator for the European Network Against Racism in Sweden.