Danish party leader uses ethnic slur in TV documentary

Danish party leader uses ethnic slur in TV documentary
Pernille Vermund in parliament. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix
Pernille Vermund, leader of the right-wing Nye Borgelige (New Right) party, has been criticized for using a loaded racial term in a television documentary.

During a programme televised by public service broadcaster DR, Vermund used the word perker, a pejorative term used to refer to Danish ethnic minorities.

‘Perker’ falls short of the use of the N-word in English in terms of its oppressiveness, but it is arguably the most offensive ethnic slur in the Danish language.

In the documentary programme, Vermund calls a person in a passing car perker, before a bystander corrects her and uses the word udlænding (foreigner).

The latter term is, in most contexts, accepted in Denmark as a way to refer to minority ethnic people – even though they may not be foreigners at all.

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Approached by newspaper Ekstra Bladet over her use of the term, Vermund decided to double down on the remark.

“I’m fine with it being shown. I’m not very politically correct, most people have probably noticed that,” she said.

“I don’t regret it. Let’s call things what they are. If you’re a negro, you’re a negro; if you’re a perker, you’re a perker, if you’re an immigrant, you’re an immigrant,” she told the newspaper.

A couple of caveats must be attached to the translation of the quote above: Vermund used the word neger, an approximate equivalent to ‘negro’ in English but which can also be used as a harder slur.

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Secondly, ‘immigrant’ (indvandrer in Danish) is, like ‘foreigner’ (udlænding), often used to refer to minority ethnic people who have lived in Denmark for their entire lives.

“Nye Borgerlige are trying to repackage xenophobia and make it mainstream. Now it turns out that, when they think the cameras are off, the xenophobic and racist remarks come out,” Sikandar Siddique, immigration spokesperson with the environmentalist Alternative party, told Ekstra Bladet.

Vermund dismissed the criticism by telling the newspaper that the word is “something many people with Middle Eastern backgrounds call themselves.”

While that may be true, the word remains discriminative when used in a pejorative context.

Formed in 2016, Nye Borgerlige entered parliament for the first time at this year's general election after running on a hardline anti-immigration and libertarian economic platform. 

 


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