Challenging urban tales about migrants and ourselves should be our first and foremost priority

by , under Enrique Tessieri

After contributing regularly for Migrant Tales and reading and answering some of the over 30,000 comments we have received in the past seven years, a bigger picture emerges. This has been reinforced by my work at a folk high school, where the majority of the students on campus aren’t white Finns.

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As Don Flynn of Migrants’ Right Network wrote, it’s crucial especially today that migrant community groups start working together to challenge the urban tales spread by opportunistic politicians in order to make a positive case for migration.

One such campaign he mentions is #MigrantsContribute!

He writes: ”[The group is] a social media-style name for a campaign that aims to bust into the mainstream with its core message that, far from being the unwelcome border crossers looking for a free ride so often presented by unscrupulous politicians and headline writers, migrants come to the UK full of hope and expectation that they will have the opportunity to contribute fully as fully rounded people in British society, and not merely exist as dehumanized factors of economic production.”

In order to get into the mindset of the far-right populist and those that spread anti-immigration rhetoric, it’s important to spot the red herring(s).

Since some politicians of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* of Finland, an anti-EU, anti-immigration, homophobic and especially anti-Islam party, built their political careers on a message of intolerance, it’s clear that they seek today to find some kind of legitimacy.

An effective way of doing this is by giving a more mainstream image of the party and of oneself.

While such political parties and politicians may want to forge a new image of themselves, the context hasn’t changed at all.

They use underhanded and cheap-trick arguments to achieve a mainstream facelift. These arguments change constantly because they are based mostly on hearsay. If they stayed put, they’d be exposed as lies in many cases.

One typical argument used today by anti-immigration politicians is the following: We aren’t against immigration.”

The problem with this odd affirmation is that they are against immigration. It’s like the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. A white migrant Prince Charming appears, kisses the native Sleeping Beauty, she awakens and they live happily ever after in their white society.

If we dig a bit deeper into this claim by some anti-immigration parties and politicians, we’ll find another layer that is highly revealing. By wanting only white, or the right migrants, our real aim is to keep our society white. Thus anti-immigration groups are against non-white migrants because they loathe cultural diversity.

Another important matter that Migrant Tales has taught me is to be especially careful with those that offer simplistic answer to complex questions like integration.

One of the most common simplistic arguments used in Finland – in my opinion – is learn Finnish or Swedish and problem solved: You’re integrated!

Learning the local language is crucial and plays an important part in the migrants adaption to his or her new homeland, but it isn’t, however, a panacea to integration.

By giving into simplistic arguments like “just learn the language,” we forget other equally important issues like why integration should be the rule but too often everyone expects you to assimilate. There are many other factors we lose sight of as well: acceptance, inclusion, respect for cultural diversity, identifying pitfalls like poor performance of third-culture children at school, ethnic profiling, high migrant unemployment, poverty, health and social exclusion.

 

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. 

 

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