By Enrique Tessieri
Would it be correct to claim that if we put prejudice, discrimination, racism and social exclusion on the defensive in our society we’d become stronger? How would it impact homophobia, gender violence and violence in general?
There’s an interesting blog entry by Joe Gerstandt that sheds light on how a social ill like gender violence has not been challenged seriously enough in the United States. His conclusions offer us in Finland and Europe an opportunity to see why we aren’t doing enough on issues like racism, hate speech and social exclusion.
One of Gerstandt’s interesting conclusions, and one which we have made on Migrant Tales on many occasions, is the role of the bystander, or the person who decides to be silent in the face of social injustice.
Gerstandt uses a quote by Desmond Tutu to drive home his point: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Instead of griping about prejudice, racism, social exclusion and the rise of far-right ideology in Finland, we have to seek effective answers to challenge such threats to our society.
Writes Gerstsandt: “Bystanders might be good at not doing stuff that they are not supposed to be doing. Bystanders are not dropping hatecrimes on people, they are not running around spewing a bunch of vile stuff. The bystander problem is a problem of omission…it is the stuff that they are not doing that is the problem.”
Before last year’s parliamentary election in Finland, we got a taste of what can happen when there are too many bystanders and silent people in our society watching over a looming social problem like xenophobia, far-right and right-wing populism.
But since we are interested in solutions on Migrant Tales, we must seek ways that would encourage and even inspire more people to become leaders instead of bystanders.
If our traffic stats are anything to go by, they show that many immigrants, visible minorities and Finns from all backgrounds have got the message: We cannot stand and watch from the sidelines any longer as our society and institutions are being openly challenged by populists, modern fascists and political opportunists.