Demand your right to be a Finn on your own cultural and ethnic terms

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

One of my biggest problems I had in challenging institutional racism in Finland was that I accepted being a member of such an order of things. Even if I had every right to claim Finnish identity from my mother’s side, I did not do so because I reinforced with my silence the stereotypical and even racist views that some Finns held about people like me.  

Many of us Finns with international backgrounds are a Perussuomalaiset (PS) party’s worst nightmare. Everything about us defies their bigoted and even racist view of the outside world and, importantly, who has the right to be accepted as a Finn.

You will find amongst us tens of thousands of people from all walks of life and backgrounds: blacks, whites, Orientals, Amerindians, Southern Europeans, Middle Easterners, young, old, blondes, people with dark hair, bald people, short, tall, thin, obese, gays, lesbians, Jews, Catholics, Lutherans, Muslims and atheists.

Despite our different backgrounds, there is one matter that unites us as a community: Finland.

Even if my journey to discover my Finnishness on my own terms took many decades of searching, I sincerely hope that your journey to discover your Finnish identity will be much shorter than mine. Don’t give in to those who loathe you by excluding you with their spiteful arguments or those who try to rob you of one of your most precious matters: your identity.

Even if it sounds inconceivable, there are people in this country who still believe in 2012 that everything must be done to keep Finland an only white society. We must not allow them to carry out their treachery.

History is another culprit that reinforces institutional racism and reinforces our strong sense of “us” and “them.” It seems that we are constantly praising those who are dead and wars that ended many decades ago. We speak of these heros and wars as if they are the only great accomplishments that this country ever made.

Every time we travel back in time to former wars and glorify late marshals and generals, we end up emphasizing our suspicion of those people and countries that wanted to put us in harm’s way.

Even if I respect the people who fought in those wars, we must learn move on and look to the future.

The sooner we do this the better.

    • Migrant Tales

      –So do you know change your answer to what i asked you ages age. Should i be accepted as sami?

      I don’t understand your question. Are you a Saami? If so, which group do you belong to? Are you a Skolt? My first field work a long, long time ago was on the Saami of Ohcejohka. Which part of Lapland are you from?

  1. Veera

    Thank you for a very good comment! I have a child who’s “half-and-half” (or twice as much, because she gets two cultures instead of one!:) and at my job as a teacher I also come in contact with many similar children. For me -and also luckily, for their surroundings -they’re definitely Finns, no matter their physical aspects. Anyone daring to question their identity would definitely be argued against. It’s about time we’ll change the our long-lived Finnish ethnic stereotypes once and for all: it’s not how you look like that makes you citizen of a country but how you feel yourself. I’m glad that you’ve written here, we need people like you in Finland. Stay strong, you’re not alone!

    • Migrant Tales

      Hi Veera and welcome to Migrant Tales. I am very happy that you have found our blog and, as you pointed out, pointed out that there are many Finns with international backgrounds. We are certainly not alone and what is important we are an ever-growing group in this country!

      It’s unfortunate that some Finns still have a very narrow definition of who is a Finn. The definition is shrouded in myths that we reinforce with our history. Those who think Finland is “homogenous” or “monocultural” (what ever that means) should think twice and look at those 1.2 million Finns that left this country between 1860 and 1999.

      Your daughter is a very fortunate person. 🙂

    • Migrant Tales

      –Am i sami if i say i am?

      Are we going into one of these debates, Hannu, where you are stretching things to breaking point? Or do you want to seriously debate your identity like some do on Migrant Tales?

    • Migrant Tales

      –And for background, my family has lived in lapland atleast 380 years and my grandparents did have reindeers.

      Good for you, Hannu. The reason why I asked you is because I did some field work on the Saami and I’d be interested in knowing about your background if you want to share it with us.

  2. Hannu

    So you are again saying that i cant be Sami but in same time you are saying that everyone can be a Finn. Remember that finn isnt only nationality.

    • Migrant Tales

      –So you are again saying that i cant be Sami but in same time you are saying that everyone can be a Finn.

      Did I say that? No. If you see yourself as a Saami, all power to you.

  3. Depressed 4 Reason

    i always wonder why there is racim, and why some people hate other whom they don’t know personally. My own conclusion to some finns racism is, they think that these new comers, are coming to take over their country or they will harm them etc etc. When really these new comers are just human like them. People are people no matter what ethnic background, there are good people and there bad people in them. Makes no sense to put a group of people as one and label them to something they arent, in your mind.

  4. Mark

    Hannu

    If I said I was a Mongolian and had absolutely no contact with Mongolia, no Mongolian ancestry, not language skills, etc., then I expect most people would say I’m nuts.

    Why do you choose to present an argument that everyone is not going to argue is quite nuts?

    No, not everyone can call themselves a Finn. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee you that if the person is sane, then they will only want to call themselves a Finn or think of themselves in some way as being a Finn if they have a strong tie to the country. I mean, there are very many American, Australian, Canadian people who are descendents of Finns and they identify strongly with ‘being Finnish’ and the characteristics they think go with that. Personally, I think that national identities and stereotypes are somewhat overplayed, but I can still understand and their fascination with ‘being Finnish’. It explains something to them, but it’s clearly subjective. Do you deny them that right, even though their parents or grandparents are Finnish?

    At the end of the day, I really don’t care who you ‘let into your family’ of Finnishness. While there are people who will reject on all sorts of pretenses, there are plenty of people in Finland that are quite welcoming of foreigners into the ‘Finnish family’ and eager to hear what kind of experience that brings.

    But, you are perhaps too busy telling people what they are to find out what they think they are?

  5. Mark

    Hannu, there are several very important questions that you left unanswered about the ‘racism’ incident you gave. Please go back and address those questions, in the same way we are polite enough to address your questions on this blog.

  6. Hannu

    Mark i as one dont really care where one is from and i do address and behave like one is finn, thats racism….
    I do wait and want that everyone despite their background can behave but thats racism….

    Now i want enrigue to tell me that i can be sami, if i want to, with full rights because he says anyone can be a finn so that means anyone can be sami too.

    And can you give link to your question, too much to see all.

    • Migrant Tales

      –Now i want enrigue to tell me that i can be sami, if i want to, with full rights because he says anyone can be a finn so that means anyone can be sami too.

      So what’s on your agenda, Hannu? Trying to stretch things to suit your own ideology. I told you a long time ago and I will tell you again: Stay off Hommaforum and Scripta. They are bad for you.

      I suspect your question isn’t a sincere one. You only make it to back those forums that I told you should get off cold turkey.

  7. Mary Mekko

    Enrique, please clarify your statement: “there are people in this country who will do everything in their power to keep this country white.”

    It’s one thing to be wishing for Finnishness, the other issue is skin color. If a Swede, Russian, Irish, etc. comes to Finland, he or she is accepted by these “treacherous” people, whereas a slight tinge of Olive, as Southern Italians have (you, for example) is NOT a “White” and therefore “not a Finn”?

    I say, if a person is very intolerant in any nation, he or she does NOT accept outsiders of any skin color, period. This one finds all over North and South America throughout tribal history, with massacres of neighboring tribes pretty routine. Warfare in Africa is full of tribal groups protecting their territory or pride, and it’s been documented by the Europeans since their colonization there.

    You must clarify your use of “finnish” and “white”, since the latter is quite different and at least by US Standards, a huge ragbag category of many, many skin colors, including the Semitic groups of dark complexion. Similarly, the word “black” by US standards is too broad, since any drop of Negro blood qualifies a person as “black”, no matter how light-skinned he is.

    Treacherous is a strong word. If a Finn is out there fighting his fellow whites, the Russians, was that TREACHERY or was it defending his homeland from invasion and occupation? Why not be open, embrace mobs of foreigners? Finland is rich, embrace them all, the darker the better! Open up that genepool!

    Enrique, why DID your family leave Sicily OR Argentina? Trouble, hankypanky???

  8. Hannu

    My question is simple. I (my family) have been here atleast 380 years. Am i sami or am i not, if not then why not and if yes why?. You claim that living in finland makes you a finn so you also claim that im sami.
    Tell me and add explanation.

    • Migrant Tales

      –My question is simple. I (my family) have been here atleast 380 years. Am i sami or am i not, if not then why not and if yes why?

      That all depends on you. Do you identify with the Saami? What do you do to feel Saami? Do you speak Saami? This is all unclear. I don’t understand why you are asking this question.

  9. Depressed 4 Reason

    Hannu: My question is simple. I (my family) have been here atleast 380 years. Am i sami or am i not, if not then why not and if yes why?. You claim that living in finland makes you a finn so you also claim that im sami.
    Tell me and add explanation.

    Hannu, i came here 22 years ago, went to schools with finns, grew up with them, spent all my life in finland, so yeah i consider myself as a finn. You and the rest finns, cannot tell me that im not a finn, and yes anybody can be a finn despite their background.

  10. Depressed 4 Reason

    Hannu: Enrique what you mean “are i”, you are claiming that everyone is everything one wants to be.
    Am i sami if i say i am?

    No but, if one comes here as a child, grows up in here with finns, knows nothing but this country and it’s custom, language, then i think he or she has built an identity of a finn, so no one can take it from him or her period. I see alot of mixed finns nowadays, but Hannu, someone like you doesnt consider them as a finn and a part of this society, and it’s really a sad case really.Times change, people change, fwe’re not in 70’s or 60’s where all you see is white everywhere. People are mixing these days, so Hannu i think you need to come out of your cave and accept reality as it’s.

    • Migrant Tales

      Depressed 4 Reason, your identity is placed by yourself, it’s a personal thing. I have always said that I am a Finn as I am a Californian, Argentinean, European, Latin American, USAmerican etc… If somebody has a problem with these identities, then it is definitely THEIR problem, not mine.

      People who think that only white Finns are the real Finns are, in my opinion, pretty racist. It is a modern segregated view of society. The “Only Whites” sign isn’t on the door but constantly posted in their minds.

  11. Depressed 4 reason

    Migrant tales: Depressed 4 Reason, your identity is placed by yourself, it’s a personal thing. I have always said that I am a Finn as I am a Californian, Argentinean, European, Latin American, USAmerican etc… If somebody has a problem with these identities, then it is definitely THEIR problem, not mine.

    People who think that only white Finns are the real Finns are, in my opinion, pretty racist. It is a modern segregated view of society. The “Only Whites” sign isn’t on the door but constantly posted in their minds.

    You said it as it’s.

  12. Mark

    D4R

    No but, if one comes here as a child, grows up in here with finns, knows nothing but this country and it’s custom, language, then i think he or she has built an identity of a finn, so no one can take it from him or her period. I see alot of mixed finns nowadays, but Hannu, someone like you doesnt consider them as a finn and a part of this society, and it’s really a sad case really.Times change, people change, fwe’re not in 70′s or 60′s where all you see is white everywhere. People are mixing these days, so Hannu i think you need to come out of your cave and accept reality as it’s.

    Spot on, mate!!

  13. Mark

    Hannu – the link to the previous questions on that racist incident you cited is here:

    h t t p ://nemoo.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/harassment-and-abuse-of-somalis-in-finland-picked-up-after-the-election/#comment-22461

  14. Peter

    Hannu: If you can trace family history to one of the Sámi ‘groups’ in Sápmi (the Sámi homeland), then there is no reason why you may not be granted the political rights you refer to. However, I believe that the Sámi parliament has imposed certain limits or eligibility criteria that you should meet. If I remember correctly, these are:
    1. That one of your parents/grandparents spoke/speaks a Sámi language as his or her mother tongue.
    2. One of your parents is/was eligible to vote in the Sámi parliament.
    3. You are a descendent of one a person registered in the Sámi register.

    First of all you need to ask yourself if having the official recognition as a member of the Sámi is truly important to you? If so, proceed further. If not, I’d suggest contacting some of the Sámi cultural groups and including yourself more informally in this way. If the organizers are not narrow minded/discriminatory, I hope that they wouldn’t mind what an individuals papers say. The same goes for members of the ‘groups’.

    If you cannot give evidence that meets the above criteria and you do feel a particularly strong identification–i.e., you feel the need to be recognized by the State as a member of the Sámi–, I’d suggest that you contact the Sámi parliament and state your case. Here’s a link to the website of the Sámi parliament. I’d hate to see you discriminated against due to paperwork and historical record that is not entirely objective.

    I wish you the best of luck. The number of people identifying with the Sámi ways of living has continued to dwindle. If you want to put your effort into preserving the wonderfully diverse beliefs, traditions and dress of the Sámi peoples, then great! As Enrique says, more power to you!

  15. Hannu

    Peter, sorry but i know for sure that im not sami, i just live in lapland. I probably have some sami blood and my family for sure have some jewish blood when you look inherited noses.
    I just wanted that enrigue says that “of course you can be a sami if you want to” because he says everyone can be a finn. I see double standards in there.

    • Migrant Tales

      So, Hannu, what is the point of your argument? I’m still in the dark.

  16. Hannu

    Justicedemon i dont know how you see that scetch but i have always seen it as about people in lapland and laughed at it. And yes people in lapland includes finns too.

  17. justicedemon

    Hannu

    You just answered your own question

    Should i be accepted as sami?

    and let’s hope that you also learned a valuable lesson about not trivialising questions of identity.

    The Pulttibois nunnukamiehet sketch is self-evidently racist (and it soon got you to drop this “wannabeeasaaaamee” nonsense, didn’t it? – Funny that!). It’s roughly equivalent to portraying the Finnish government as a bunch of drunken arse-scratching slobs trying to fill out Lotto coupons in a smoke sauna to the music of Sibelius performed on the bogpaper and comb. I wonder if anyone in Finland would find such a thing remotely funny if it was broadcast on Greek television as part of a “humorous” commentary on Finland’s bailout policy? Would you?

    [and once again Hannu skulks off back to his fascist cronies on Hommaforum with a face full of egg custard]

  18. Hannu

    I have watched that with sami people, well they had voting slips for sami parliament, and their reception was same as mine. It isnt about sami but lapps in general.
    And i never claimed that im sami, i just asked that if i want to be one then what, does same rules apply “everyone can be what they want to” or not and apparently not.

    What you think about this?

    There is also popular comedy in norway where finn is on main part and apparently hes always drunk, never seen but heard from norvegian friends.
    I laught with them to us.

    • Migrant Tales

      –Enrique you claim that anyone can be a finn so of course anyone can be sami too, or cherokee or whatever.

      Is this what you learned on Hommaforum and Scripta? I told you many times: Those hate sites are like a drug. They are bad for your mind and your view of the world.

    • Migrant Tales

      –Finn is not only nationality, its ethnicity.

      OK, whatever. Now explain to me who is a Finn and, if he is an immigrant, how long must they live here in order to be accepted as a “Finn.”

  19. Peter

    Hannu:

    “Sorry but i know for sure that im not sami, i just live in lapland. I probably have some sami blood and my family for sure have some jewish blood when you look inherited noses.
    I just wanted that enrigue says that “of course you can be a sami if you want to” because he says everyone can be a finn. I see double standards in there.”

    Hannu: I am glad to see that you wish to celebrate your ancestry. As I suggested to you earlier, not everything is about granting political rights. You note that you do not qualify for the political status as Sámi according to the rules of the Sámi parliament. This does not deny you the right to celebrate the Sámi and their beliefs. I hope that if you every choose to engage with Sámi folk traditions et cetera that the members or such an organization are open to your involvement. If they seek to exclude you and discriminate against you, I would find this utterly abhorrent!

    No human being should ever be treated as inferior or excluded from social life for arbitrary ‘reasons’.

    Enrique has never to my knowledge suggested giving every newcomer political rights because they claim a belonging to our society. Rather, I understand that Enrique argues in favor of allowing all who want to contribute the cultural enrichment of our society the right to claim such membership on their own terms. (Enrique please correct me if I am wrong!)

    Political and cultural/social citizenship are not mutually exclusive!

    One may make a claim to a Finnish identity based upon their residence in Finland and by virtue their everyday mundane contributions to this society. This does not mean that such as person has the legal entitlements of a full citizen. If he or she fulfills the criteria set out by the state and wants to become Finnish citizen with all of the extra entitlements this gives (i.e., the right to a Finnish passport, the right to vote in presidential elections, and the right to vote in parliamentary elections/referenda) great. Good for them!

    Should you seek to exclude those who do not possess legal citizenship from inclusion in our society (this includes the right to see oneself as an integral part), you are telling newcomers that the have no right to be here. This is a fiction we in fact need more people to contribute to our society, to secure that we can maintain the welfare state we have built.

    We all want services (healthcare, education, etc.) and to end our working lives with a livable pension. If newcomers want to include them selves as belonging to a ‘group’ called the “Finns” and want to contribute to the social good what is the harm?

    Let us for a moment suppose two hypothetical persons: One is the child of an emigrant Finnish citizen (let’s say to the USA) who makes vehement claims to his or her “Finnish” origins but has never visited this country or (god forbid) contributed a cent in taxes and the other is a newcomer who wishes to make a life here, paying taxes and making a contribution to the social good. Which would you rather call a Finn?

  20. Landor

    Nope, you can’t be a FInn unless you assimilate into the Finnish society. If you hold on to you olde cultural, national and religious views then you stay a foreigner and are alien to the Finnish society.
    Becoming a true citizen isn’t something that is given to you, it’s not your birthright, you have to earn it.

    The reason why we have so many finnish children bullied and beaten by immigrants, why immigrants are so overrepresented when it comes to rape and violent crimes against the natives of Europe is because they don’t respect us, and this is due to them not wanting to be part of us.

    It’s not the fault of Finns or other Europeans who have opened their doors to masses of immigrants that rapidly change the face of society, that immigrants fail. They fail because they are in the bottom line ungrateful and hate us.
    If one doesn’t like living in Finland among Finns then there are quite a number of other nations to choose from rather than walking around like a hateful individual spewing around “victim attitude”.

    You and this blog represent the very worst of Finnish society, and had this country been filled with people like you then we would never have exited the Stone Age.

  21. justicedemon

    Landor

    Back to the old statistical distortions and lies, eh? The same methodology that shows the only good bank manager in Finland is a foreigner, because 100 per cent of serious economic crime in Finland is committed by Finnish citizens. Oh yes, and then there are the statistics of the Royal Thai Police concerning Finnish kiddie fiddlers…

    It’s all been done before, of course.

    So you are back again, with an interesting choice of user name this time. Are we going to get more threats of violence?

    The next 200 column inches are yours.

  22. Mark

    Landor

    What is their brainwashing you are spouting?

    Nope, you can’t be a FInn unless you assimilate into the Finnish society. If you hold on to you olde cultural, national and religious views then you stay a foreigner and are alien to the Finnish society.

    Says who? You? So not only do you think that foreigners should give up their culture, but also their religion and national identity?

    Do you really think that this bigotry of yours represents ‘Finnish’ culture? You are mistaken. Have you ever read the Finnish Constitution, Landor? You know, that important document that enshrines the political and social values of the Finnish people?

    Chapter 2, Basic Rights and liberties: Section 11 Freedom of religion and conscience

    Everyone has the freedom of religion and conscience. Freedom of religion and conscience entails the right to profess and practice a religion, the right to express one’s convictions and the right to be a member of or decline to be a member of a religious community. No one is under the obligation, against his or her conscience, to participate in the practice of a religion.

    So, your first comment are already breaks with one of the fundamental principles of freedom that goes a long way to making Finland a member of the ‘free world’. But that’s not all….

    Becoming a true citizen isn’t something that is given to you, it’s not your birthright, you have to earn it.

    Plainly false. Citizenship by application sets out no cultural criteria other than length of residence and ability to speak Finnish. No mention of having to give up religion, nationality, or culture:

    A foreigner may be granted Finnish citizenship upon meeting certain requirements, including:

    five years continuous residence; or
    a total of seven years residence since age 15, with the last two years residence continuous; and knowledge of at least one of Finnish, Swedish or Finnish sign language.

    Of course, ‘true citizen’ refers to membership of your fascist club, no doubt, in which case I’m sure the criteria are ‘white skin’, ‘and unshakeable belief in the superiority of the Western races’.

    The reason why we have so many finnish children bullied and beaten by immigrants, why immigrants are so overrepresented when it comes to rape and violent crimes against the natives of Europe is because they don’t respect us, and this is due to them not wanting to be part of us.

    Maybe you should read the third Finnish ECRI report on racism and intolerance in Finland, where it states:

    As mentioned in other parts of this report30, racist bullying and harassment in schools are reported to be not uncommon in Finnish schools.

    It’s not the fault of Finns or other Europeans who have opened their doors to masses of immigrants that rapidly change the face of society, that immigrants fail. They fail because they are in the bottom line ungrateful and hate us.

    Landor, have you any idea how paranoid that makes you sound?

    If one doesn’t like living in Finland among Finns then there are quite a number of other nations to choose from rather than walking around like a hateful individual spewing around “victim attitude”.

    In your rush to show immigrants ‘the door’, you fail to understand even the very first notion of what your country represents. People are not shown the door for being ‘victims’, much less told that they must change or that what happens to them is because ‘you hate us’ (vis a vis: we are allowed to hate you).

    You and this blog represent the very worst of Finnish society, and had this country been filled with people like you then we would never have exited the Stone Age.

    And never written the constitution or signed up to things like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Landor, you do not understand the first thing about the country in which you were born. Get yourself an education, understand what your fellow Finns have done to make Finland into a modern democracy and then, perhaps, you will be in a better position to tell the immigrants what Finland is all about.

    You know of course that being Finnish is not an antidote to being a complete and utter raving lunatic? Just thought I’d mention it.

  23. khr

    All groupings of people are somewhat exclusive (short of “humans”). I think I have right to define myself, but I don’t think I have the right to demand everyone else to accept my definition; that would start to interfere with their right to define themselves. (That said, my definition of a finn is fairly inclusive – considering oneself a finn being the most important factor. All in all groups tend to be somewhat recursively defined: a person is a member if he considers herself one, and the other members consider her a member)

  24. Hannu

    Mark dont talk about freedom when you dont want it, you didnt want freedom for “ethnicity” woman and condemned when finns protected her basic freedom, freedom to be what she wants.

Leave a Reply