Dear Migrant Tales,
Being the only black person at work can be challenging but what about if the workplace becomes openly hostile to you? By hostile I mean being constantly watched by your coworkers, if you make a mistake it’s always a bigger deal than if a white coworker did it, if you’re speaking on the phone, your work mates are the first ones to tell you that you’re not on a break.
I got fired from my last job after working there for about four months. I’ve had many jobs but the last one was the worst. The work atmosphere there was terrible.
I confided in a worker, an older man, at my former job. I spoke openly to him about myself and some of my problems. I found out from another coworker that he was talking behind my back and exaggerating what I had told him.
One day while I was on a break, the person I confided in started to raise his voice at me. He told me that Somalis shouldn’t live in Finland and why don’t I return back to where I came from. I couldn’t take it anymore and raised my voice back at him.
The older man went immediately to our boss and told him that I had raised my voice at him. The boss spoke to us and then told me that he didn’t believe anything I said. He said he believed the white worker because he had worked at the company much longer than I.
I ended up getting fired.
White Finns have effective ways of excluding you at work. At the job I got fired, your opinion didn’t matter because nobody cared what you thought. It’s such a stressful situation! Some of my coworkers even asked me to do their job because they thought I was dumb. I’m not dumb.
I’m extra careful at my new job. I don’t want to get fired again and I’ve learned an important lesson: Not to mix with my coworkers and just mind my own business.
I’d appreciate any good advice on how a black person can survive at a Finnish company.
Abdulah, who speaks to us under condition of anonymity, has appeared on Migrant Tales a number of times.