Du Bois and Finland: “Your country”

by , under Enrique, Racism Review

I read an interesting blog entry on Racism Review about what W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), sociologist, historian and civil rights activist, wrote* about blacks in the United States. His words still ring out today in light of the hostility we see today towards immigrants and visible minorities in many parts of Europe and the United States.

Even if the number of immigrants and visible minorities has been small in countries like Finland, these people form today an integral part of our society and history.

That history is being made right now and at this moment. Every day that passes we shed more roots in this country. Our home in Finland begins to sound like Woody Guthrie’s famous song, This land is your land.

Take a look at what Du Bois wrote over a century ago and try to picture Finland and our every-growing cultural diversity. Board a time machine and travel 30 years in the future and imagine Du Bois’ words in a Finnish context today:

Your country? How came its yours? Before the Pilgrims landed we were here. Here we have brought our three gifts and mingled them with yours: a gift of story and song—soft, stirring melody in an ill-harmonized and unmelodious land; the gift of sweat and brawn to beat back the wilderness, conquer the soil, and lay the foundations of this vast economic empire two hundred years earlier than your weak hands could have done it; the third, a gift of the Spirit.

Around us the history of the land has centered for thrice a hundred years; out of the nation’s heart we have called all that was best to throttle and subdue all that was worst; fire and blood, prayer and sacrifice, have billowed over this people, and they have found peace only in the altars of the God of Right.

Nor has our gift of the Spirit been merely passive. Actively we have woven ourselves with the very warp and woof of this nation,—we fought their battles, shared their sorrow, mingled our blood with theirs, and generation after generation have pleaded with a headstrong, careless people to despise not Justice, Mercy, and Truth, lest the nation be smitten with a curse. Our song, our toil, our cheer, and warning have been given to this nation in blood-brotherhood. Are not these gifts worth the giving? Is not this work and striving?

Would America have been America without her Negro people? Even so is the hope that sang in the songs of my fathers well sung. If somewhere in this whirl and chaos of things there dwells Eternal Good, pitiful yet masterful, than anon in His good time America shall rend the Veil and the prisoned shall go free. Free, free as the sunshine trickling down the morning into these high windows of mine, free as yonder fresh young voices welling up to me from the caverns of brick and mortar below—swelling with song, instinct with life, tremulous treble and darkening bass. My children, my little children, are singing to the sunshine, and thus they sing: Let us cheer the weary traveller, Cheer the weary traveller, Let us cheer the weary traveller Along the heavenly way. And the traveler girds himself, and sets his face toward the Morning, and goes his way.

*Reference: W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (pp. 125-126). Public Domain Books. Kindle. (Free version here)

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