Community Village blog: What makes us what we are

by , under All categories, Enrique

Comment: I was kind of shocked to hear last week the views on immigration of a prominent member of the community and a member of a large political party: “Finland must close its borders to immigrants,” he said. What surprised me most about his argument was that he considered Finns as some endangered human group in Europe that once hunted mammoths. The “colonizers” were modern-day immigrants who would wipe out the Finns as Christopher Columbus did with the Amerindians when he landed on the island of Hispanola in 1492.

One matter to keep in mind when hearing these types of arguments is that whenever a person speaks of Finns as a tribe he or she is flirting with racism. If there is one matter that awakens the racist spirit in Finns it is classifying ourselves as a tribe or, worse, as an endangered group of people.

Actor Edward James Olmos in the youtube clip below puts the whole perspective of race and/or ethnicity in perspective. In the US people like to use the term “race” whereas in Europe we use “ethnicity” to mean the same thing. Even so, the US used to classify blacks and Asians as a race but European immigrants as ethnic groups. 

According to Olmos, it is incredible that we use race as a cultural determinant. “To this date you should never invited me here,” he told a group at the UN. “Because I detest what we have done to ourselves. Out of a need to make ourselves different from one another we made the term race a way of expressing culture…There is only one race and that is the human race.”

Why are some Finns obsessed about ethnicity? Is it because it is an effective way of controlling and excluding others from society and its resources?

What do you think?

Thank you @getgln for the heads up!

__________

Ethnicity is amorphous, and only a small fraction of what makes us who we are. “There are no races, there are only clines,”  according to antrhopologist Frank Livingstone.

  1. Tarja Arpalahti

    Just one race, no matter what colour you are and where you are from. Finland needs more foreigners, we are a country with too few people! Racism is sick!

  2. Niko

    “One race” sounds very weird. Human are also animals, as much as dogs and cats are. There are many different dog races and you are able to see the physical differences. They are all still dogs and can breed with each others. So, why shouldn’t we say that there are also human races?

    • Enrique

      Niko, why is it important for you to know where another person is from and why is it important for your to stress such differences. If you think that is ok then that is your right. But I think that many of the world’s misery, wars and inequality hinges on those differences.

  3. gunilla

    Who am I? My grandmother was Norwegian, In my mothers family a skilled artisan with german-balt background origin came to then Gran Dutchy of Finland from St Petersburg, in fathers family family land was givenby the swedish king in “Östra rikshalvan” now Finland etc etc. Travelling out in the world I am proud to be a Finn and a swedish speaking one. Who is to determine the purity of your race, who is a pure Finn. This question is an unpleasent echo from the Third Reich.. History can rewritten but thruth not denied. We have many mixed breed people and hopefully more to come.

    • Enrique

      Hi gunilla, and welcome to our blog, Migrant Tales. Thank you very much for reinforcing something that has been avoided so much: we are all mixed and continue to be that way. Genes do not make up your culture — the environment does it.

  4. Elisa

    Consider this about dog breeds. There are two reasons we breed dogs.

    EITHER

    1. because a certain breed can serve a special purpose (perhaps a particular breed are good hunters, or good companions, or smart, or good at sniffing drugs, or low-allergy, or good for helping blind people)

    OR

    2. because we like how they look. Cure and tiny, or furry and wrinkly, or tall and grey and slim.

    WE DO NOT BREED HUMANS FOR ANY OF THESE REASONS. Modern society thinks it is WRONG to treat anyone differently for these reasons. Modern society believes that ANY person has the intelligence become a scientist, or the right to choose being a florist, or simply a parent, or perhaps a rocket engineer.

    We do not arrange marriages between the prettiest people to create pretty offspring.
    We do not make the fastest runners and the best gymnasts breed together to make athletic children.
    We do not keep the computer scientists together with the mathemtics geniuses so that new babies are born with IQ of over 150.
    Those would be disgusting ideas.

    Humans are not like dogs. Different ethnicities are not born ten times as tall as the others, like chihuahuas and great danes. Different ethnicities are not born with better sense of smell, or more intelligence, or the ability to sniff drugs, or loyalty to assist a blind person. Dog breeds are very diverse; humans are not – humans only have colours and face shapes to make the differences. On the inside we’re all the same.

    And this is why you can’t compare human beings to breeding dogs.

    Most of us would be outraged if a dog were treated badly, or left injured by the side of the road. So why is it ok to reject a human being? To tell them they are not good enough for Finland? Or that we prefer they remain poor and hungry? Why can’t they have the opportunity that Finnish children have? Are Finnish children better? WHY, since we are only one breed and humans are supposed to be equal?

    Some people should be ashamed.

    • Enrique

      Hi Elisa, and welcome to Migrant Tales. I could not agree more to you and off you kudos for your thoughts. People like you are the hope of this country.

  5. Klay_Immigrant

    ‘Dog breeds are very diverse; humans are not – humans only have colours and face shapes to make the differences. On the inside we’re all the same.’

    Nice try but this just isn’t true and just shows your naivety and ignorance. One example of many of how human races are internally and not just externally different from one another is that a black person cannot donate a kidney to a white person on any grounds and vice versa due to biological reasons. Another example is how certain races are more prone to illnesses such as diabetes even if live in the same country and have the same lifestyle. But ofcourse everyone is equal, pure nonsense, wake up.

  6. Klay_Immigrant

    ‘Most of us would be outraged if a dog were treated badly, or left injured by the side of the road. So why is it ok to reject a human being? To tell them they are not good enough for Finland? Or that we prefer they remain poor and hungry? Why can’t they have the opportunity that Finnish children have? Are Finnish children better? WHY, since we are only one breed and humans are supposed to be equal?’

    In an ideal world we wouldn’t have these problems but it will always remain a fantasy. No one wants to see people starving and dying from easily curable diseases but you have to be realistic and it’s impossible on economic grounds to make a difference especially for a small country such as Finland. Put it in this context, would you take in lots of homeless people into your house to live but then as a consequence couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage and lose your house? Thought not, the same applies to countries on a larger scale. If Finland takes in huge numbers of refugees you can kiss goodbye to the social welfare system as we know it now and the quality of life would decrease due to congestion of the infrastructure (schools, hospitals, transport). Elisa you are just as other liberal politicans a ‘professional heart bleeder’ where all logic and rational is thrown out of the window. Just like a woman who keeps going out with ‘bad boys’ even though numerous previous ‘bad boys’ she’s been with have cheated on her and she still doesn’t know why she picks the wrong men.

    • Enrique

      –If Finland takes in huge numbers of refugees you can kiss goodbye to the social welfare system as we know it now and the quality of life would decrease due to congestion of the infrastructure (schools, hospitals, transport).

      Who says that Finland is taking HUGE Number of immigrants? Be careful, Klay, those kinds of adjectives like others (uncontrolled, imcompatible, don’t want to integrate) are all the langauge of the far right or anti-immigration right. When I see them used they show me the true political color of that person. I think you still don’t get it but I have trust that one day you will when you accept who you are.

  7. Niko

    Eh, I still don’t understand what wrong is there if there are different human races? It makes the world more interesting and if wanted, also gives the possibility to mix the races together. Some how people are scared of the term “race”, but human are an animal after all. Still nobody complains that non-human animals are spread to different race groups.

    And Enrique, it is always funny that you put words to my mouth. I haven’t said anything what you are implying in your message.

    • Enrique

      Niko, I think the point is that there are no such things as “races” (US term) or ethnicities (European term). We went through all this baloney back in the days of eugenics. See Eugen Fischer and Rolf Nordenstreng.

      I own one of Nodernstreng’s books published in 1929 titled, “Euroopan ihmisrodut ja kansat.” Did you know that there were at least two “races” in Finland? Here is an exerpt form page 13 of the book: “Monessa maassa on kuitenkin alkanut kuulua ääniä, jotka vaativat rodut ja kansan pudasviljelystä, s.o. vaativat, että kuinkin kansa estäisi vieraita, häiritseviä’. vähemmän toitottavia, ala-arvoisia aineksia tunkeutumasta alueelleen ja siinä lisääntymästä, ja sensijaan auttaisi kansallisesti tyypillisiä, ruumiillisesti ja henkisesti täysiarvoisia yksilöitä sellaisiin elinehtoihin, että he voisivat hankkia ja elättää runsaasti jälkeläisiä.”

      On page 48 Nordenstreng claims: ”Mustalaisen hevosvarkaan ja heikkomielisen neekerivaimon lapsista ei voi odottaa juuri erinomaisia; mutta olen kuullut sanottavan, että ranskalaiset turkismetsästäjät, jotka olivat oivia poikia ja ottivat vaimoikseen intiaanipäälliköiden tyttäriä, saivat mainioita jälkeläisiä…”

      Now think for a moment. Nordenstreng was a professor teaching this baloney and taken seriously. I am certain that the writings of Jussi Halla-aho will look like the stuff that Nordenstreng wrote over eighty years ago. I wonder what future Multicultural Finns will think of people like Timo Soini, Teuvo Hakkarainen, James Hirvisaari and organizations like Suomen Sisu. I suspect they will look pretty bad. Some other person will point out their writings in the same way as I am now doing of Nordenstreng’s.

  8. antonio

    Klay, I thought we were made from the same clay… Yes, organ transplant between different ethnic groups is more risky but certainly not impossible and not unheard of. Apparently there is some lack of studies on that subject. It is risky too between the same ethnic group if there isn’t enough compatibility. Now, how can that be made into an argument to explain racism? Aren’t we moving away from the real topic?
    Ideal worlds don’t exist, true. But you don’t have to go too far back in history to see that many things that used to be impossible are the norm today.
    The idea, just 100 years ago was that women were unable to perform many tasks that only men could.
    Is it correct to perceive immigration in terms of all or nothing? Maybe Finland will need immigration, and maybe some finns will feel the urge to immigrate themselves. Actually they did so in the past in great numbers.
    I live in a place with many immigrants. This is my hometown. I don’t perceive it as being a problem and people struck a good level of harmony here. It doens’t disturb me to work with josé, igor, steve or klaus. I also don’t see foreign people as lesser beings. Individual personality traits are more important than origin and culture in my opinion. I don’t feel that my values and ideals are being corrupted by immigrants and it isn’t really the case.
    In Finland I was told to learn about local culture. This was stressed so much that I thought that there were really huge differences. I lived in other countries and never had to change my simple ways in order to make myself suitable to live there. The only thing I came to realise is that in order to live in Finland as a foreigner I had to learn how to cope with a high dosage of discrimination against the likes of me.
    Maybe some living on kela are afraid of the pressure the welfare system would be under if more immigrants come to the country. Especially knowing the chances are that a great number of those immigrants would find it too hard to integrate in the labour market and instead of contribute they would have to depend on kela to live.
    Finland has so few immigrants relatively to other european countries and makes such a fuss about it. A country almost ready to embrace ultra nationalistic policies to defend itself from a problem that could and should be tackled very differently, without throwing away human values.

  9. Klay_Immigrant

    ‘I think you still don’t get it but I have trust that one day you will when you accept who you are.’

    Enrique unfortunately it’s you that thinks with your heart instead of your head where rational is non existent. I’m certainly not anti-immigrant, after all I’m an immigrant myself as were my parents most of their working lives. It’s the type of immigration I’m concerned about. Have you ever wondered why no one ever complains about immigration from EU where there are no travel restrictions? Your problem is that you cannot see the difference between immigrants themselves and the impact they make on their host country. An uneducated African who can only speak his own language is the same as an English speaking university graduate from Europe as they are both immigrants in your eyes not taking into consideration their economic, social and cultural needs and interests.

  10. Klay_Immigrant

    -‘The idea, just 100 years ago was that women were unable to perform many tasks that only men could.’

    Antonio this wasn’t an idea, it was the truth not because women weren’t able but because they weren’t given the opportunity. At that time a lot of universities didn’t even accept women. But to compare women to immigrants is ludacris as much as it is laughable. For a start there wouldn’t be any language, cultural, or religious concerns to even contemplate.

    You fall into the same trap as Enrique justifying immigration to Finland now because Finns themselves emigrated to the Americas over a century ago. First of all the country of destination was part of the New World with the natives already being outnumbered by immigrants. All new immigrants had to pay to travel there (which would have been very expensive in those days), build their own homes and find work without the safety net of welfare. Do these same measures apply to immigrants coming to Finland? This is where that kind of argument completely breaks down.

    -‘I live in a place with many immigrants. This is my hometown. I don’t perceive it as being a problem and people struck a good level of harmony here. It doens’t disturb me to work with josé, igor, steve or klaus. I also don’t see foreign people as lesser beings.’

    Good for you, and that’s your opinion which is purely subjective. I realise even though I don’t agree with it that some people find homogenious countries boring and dull. I respect their views. What I despise is people from the media and politicans who are on a personal crusade to turn every developed country into downtown LA or London unnaturally. They say diversity is good, but if they achieve their goals there will be no such thing between countries as multiculturalism would have sent the native culture to the margins. If Finland hardly has any immigrants let it be, your spoilt for choice to find other developed countries which have significant number of immigrants.

    -‘Finland has so few immigrants relatively to other european countries and makes such a fuss about it. A country almost ready to embrace ultra nationalistic policies to defend itself from a problem that could and should be tackled very differently, without throwing away human values.’

    I disagree. Finland is proving to be very clever. Remember it’s easier and cheaper to prevent a problem then cure a problem that exists.

  11. Klay_Immigrant

    -‘Actor Edward James Olmos in the youtube clip below puts the whole perspective of race and/or ethnicity in perspective’

    Also Enrique since when have actors become the spoken authority on matters of race and genetics? You don’t take seriously scientists who have PhDs on that subject but then actors who agree with you must be correct. Explain please.

  12. antonio

    “-’The idea, just 100 years ago was that women were unable to perform many tasks that only men could.’
    Antonio this wasn’t an idea, it was the truth not because women weren’t able but because they weren’t given the opportunity.”

    Klay, my little brain went into an infinite loop trying to make sense out of that statement of yours. Good thing that some of those women created those opportunities and that makes the case for them.

    “But to compare women to immigrants is ludacris as much as it is laughable”.
    I wasn’t comparing, if you read what I wrote you may, or not, understand that. I was just trying to say that what you think is wrong but seems impossible to change now, because we don’t live in an ideal world, can be changed. Many injustices of the past have been corrected (although there are some people who still offer resistance to that). I am not an advocate of
    the feminist cause and now let me try to think why I picked up that easy example… right, it was because of this stuff you wrote:

    ” Elisa you are just as other liberal politicans a ‘professional heart bleeder’ where all logic and rational is thrown out of the window. Just like a woman who keeps going out with ‘bad boys’ even though numerous previous ‘bad boys’ she’s been with have cheated on her and she still doesn’t know why she picks the wrong men.”

    that’s why. Anyway I do not think that it is that ludicrous to compare the sexual discrimination women were victims of with other types of discrimination immigrants are the target, when the context is discrimination. But that’s me. You were born with no willy, you’re screwed, you were born with the wrong “race” you’re screwed.

    “What I despise is people from the media and politicans who are on a personal crusade to turn every developed country into downtown LA or London unnaturally.”

    I don’t know anybody from from the media or any politicians who are trying to do that. Can you name any? I can think of a few who worked hard to make things better and fairer, and also some who did the opposite.

    ” If Finland hardly has any immigrants let it be, your spoilt for choice to find other developed countries which have significant number of immigrants.”

    What I care about is how racist and xenophobe the country still is even at an institutional level and I am concerned to see that the trend is for this problem to get worse and not better. I have personal ties and grievances with Finland that just don’t allow me to let it be. I really don’t understand very well what most people want to say with “multiculturalism” and exactly what real threat it represents. What I know is that it is wrong to discriminate against people because of their origin. In Finland I felt that that discrimination is very strong, by far much stronger than in other places I have been to.

    “Finland is proving to be very clever. Remember it’s easier and cheaper to prevent a problem then cure a problem that exists.”

    I disagree. The problem is already there and it’s serious. It’s in the mind of those trying to prevent a fire with gasoline.

    “Also Enrique since when have actors become the spoken authority on matters of race and genetics? You don’t take seriously scientists who have PhDs on that subject but then actors who agree with you must be correct. Explain please.”

    You ask Enrique something that you can find an explanation to yourself. Do your research.

    Olmos is not just a great actor, he has the balls to speak out.

    Klay, I think that you are still a very young man and for your all these problems are still very theoretical. If you try to see beyond your personal conceptions you might learn something worth the while

  13. antonio

    Now thinking of it… what has sparked this anti-immigration hype in Finland?
    People just can’t go there and claim benefits… they have to be productive for quite a while until they are able to do so and for the right reasons too.

    Is it the asylum seekers? But Finland can change the quota and also so the laws that allow the family members of existing people who were granted asylum to be reunified with their families. The pressure that asylum seekers are putting in Finland isn’t even big.
    Is it necessary to mount such a stark response to this BIG problem?
    Why a political campaign based on xenophobia and anti-immigration was so successful in a country where immigrants aren’t even a problem? There is so few of them there comparatively.
    Is it because there is a lot of racism and xenophobia in Finland?

  14. antonio

    And I almost forgot… it’s not only about racism, it’s about being a foreigner too. I met people there people white enough to be difficult to distinguish from the real finns and they encountered lots and lots of problems and couldn’t find a way to integrate in Finland. People from other european countries. It might be a tad lighter for them, but by no means fair.

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