Greenland’s National Day marked by racism debate | Polarjournal
Greenland’s national holiday was deliberately set for June 21, the longest day and the summer solstice. On this day, the national and cultural heritage is to be celebrated under the sun of the Arctic. Photo: Visit Greenland

The national holiday in Greenland has been celebrated on June 21 since 1983 and is basically a day full of joy, celebration and togetherness. But this year, many things are different in Greenland, as well as in the rest of the world, and shows how strongly the island is now globally connected. After a mild COVID crisis on the largest island in the world thanks to strict measures, the debate on racism and the questioning of history, which is currently working in many countries, has reached Greenland as well. Unfortunately also with the negative sides in the shape of vandalism.

On the night of Saturday to Sunday, which marked the National holiday, the statue of Hans Egede in Nuuk, the Danish-Norwegian priest and missionary, was vandalized with red paint. Police are still investigating, according to the newspaper Sermitsiaq, and have already interviewed several people. The act of vandalism was noticed on Sunday and reported to local authorities before the National holiday celebrations began. The celebrations were held as planned and proceeded cheerfully and peacefully with parades, music and various events.

The Danish-Norwegian missionary Hans Egede worked in Greenland from 1721 and spread Christianity among the Inuit. He dealt with Greenlandic culture and language throughout his life, founded Nuuk and is also known as the Apostle of Greenland. But his work is also seen as the beginning of the end of Greenlandic independence. Photo: Wikipedia

The attack on the statue of the missionary and “apostle of Greenland” is not the first. In the past, the statue has been the target of color attacks several times. But in view of the current debates in many countries about historical figures and racism, this attack is gaining more momentum. Many Inuit and Greenlanders also face racist prejudice and exclusion in the Arctic regions, including Greenland, despite that the island has been granted far-reaching rights of self-government by Denmark. But deep are the scars of the recent past, when Denmark introduced itself as a colonial power and wanted to eradicate the traditional way of life of the inhabitants. These past violations and the idea that Denmark could regard the inhabitants of Greenland as “second-class citizens” have led to a negative attitude in some Greenlanders towards all things Danish. And in such nationalist minds, Hans Egede, who had dealt with Greenlandic culture and language for many years, is seen as the beginning of the end of Greenlandic self-determination.

Greenland has gained more and more political self-confidence in recent years. Internally, however, there is much debate about whether the island should seek complete independence or remain in union with Denmark. Opinions vary widely among the population. Image. Mats Pihl / Visit Greenland

The events surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, had triggered a global wave of protests and strongly promoted the debate about racism, exclusion and violence against non-white sections of the population. In the course of this, there were also attacks against statues of historical figures, which triggered a heated debate about their purpose. Demonstrations have been held in other regions of the Arctic about excessive police violence, arbitrariness and everyday racism that many of the Arctic peoples face. Greenland is also discussing these issues and it remains to be seen whether this will give rise to the movement for independence or whether the moderate forces that are in favour of remaining in the Union with Denmark will prevail. In any case, global events do not stop at the largest island in the world and its inhabitants.

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