One of the matters that cultural diversity will bring to Finland is challenge the very myths and views of itself especially on the ethnic front.
Even though Finns have created a well-functioning society founded on social justice, these values have basically applied to Finns. Apart from its geographic remoteness form the rest of Europe, some Finns have emphasized in the previous century their cultural and linguistic uniqueness through the hush-hush acknowledgement of “racial hygiene.”
A good example of this is the professor of social policy Heikki Waris, who wrote in the 1950s: “When conditions in Finland are compared with those elsewhere, for instance in central and southern European countries with their many kinds of racial mixes and all the associated unmanageable social problems, the racial unity of our nation must be seen as a great source of strength.”
Contrary to other parts of the world, “race and language” were the driving forces of our independence as well. This fear, and in many cases hatred, of the Russians even unified the Whites and Reds from the Winter War (1939-40). In the post-war period, it gained further strength through Finland’s geopolitical isolation until its full political and economic integration with Western Europe came in 1995 through EU membership.
If one wants an explanation for the deep-rooted prejudice and racism that is still alive and kicking among some Finns, one does not have to go far to find the reasons behind this societal malice. Our history and near-consensus interpretation of it reveals why.
Matters on the so-called multicultural debate in Finland are still in such a diaper stage that even our political leadership takes special care not to step on the foot of those that make racism respectable instead of defending those that are the victims of their attacks.
The highly one-sided debate in Finland on immigrants is seen as a threat by some Finns because new members of our society bring different points of views. As Finland becomes more multicultural demographically, some of our future historians, sociologists, writers, poets, politicians and others will challenge the very myths that were created in the previous century.
Our new identity and the history we write of ourselves as a nation in this century (new myths?) will be based on totally new points of departure. I for one believe it will be a very rich and inspiring debate that will strengthen our country. Given enough time, it will challenge more forcefully than ever those myths that keep the ogre of racism alive in our society.
It will be the awakening of a new Finland that will fit its needs as a nation in the new century.