By Enrique Tessieri
When do immigrants and Finns with culturally diverse backgrounds become their worst enemy? Does it happen when we become blind or play down the existence of social ills such as racism and prejudice in our society?
Martin Luther King (1928-68), sheds some light to this question: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
In the same manner, we can highlight the “appalling silence” and denial of some immigrants.
It’s misleading — to put it very lightly — to think that just because a person is an immigrant he or she does not hold any prejudices. There are ample threads on Migrant Tales that reveal how some immigrants can be more racist and nationalistic than some Finns.
Where do you expect racism in the Americas came from? It did not spring from nowhere. Some immigrants brought it with them as part of their baggage to the New World from their former home countries.
The need to adapt in a new society may be so strong for some that it may encourage them to become more nationalistic and racist than some Finns. The other lamentable side of the coin is denial of the existence of any problems such as discrimination.
One person that comes to mind is Belgium-born naturalized Finn Freddy Van Wanterghem, a Perussuomalaiset party city councilman from Kotka who has pretty extremist ideas especially about Muslims and Africans.
I recently read an interview about with a black African on Mikkeli-based daily Länsi-Savo. The person denied that he had ever been mistreated in Finland.
“I have never faced racism in Finland,” he was quoted as saying. “There was more of that in Egypt, where people thought we were stealing their jobs…Young people may sometimes comment things (in public). It’s more teasing than racism. Usually they are surprised when I speak back to them in Finnish.”
If we are fair, it must be pretty depressing if you are black to be constantly asked the question “have you suffered racism in this country?” Even if this may be the case, denial isn’t the correct path.
Denial, ignorance and even racism of some immigrants are even greater challenges than the institutional racism we find in society.