An effective weapon that racists use is to convince you that you don’t count.
One of the overriding matters that I’ve learned time and again is that silence is the worst decision you can make when challenging intolerance. There are many effective ways to challenge racism like a simple question: I disagree with you. Can we talk about this?
Sometimes debating racism with a racist is a waste of time. Since people with low self-esteem tend to show more signs of prejudice than those that are more sure of themselves, ignoring racists is one effective way of not giving them their daily shot of attention at your expense.
Since racists aim to provoke you and attract media and social media attention to themselves and their mistaken causes, silence is generally a poor way to challenge such intolerance.
Mäntyharju Perussuomalaiset (PS)* concilwoman Tanja Hartonen-Pulkka is a good example of how a politician can burn her fingers when spreading ant-immigration rhetoric.
What the councilwoman of the eastern Finnish town of Mäntyharju wrote was challenged on social media forums and finally her original blog posting on Uusi Suomi was taken down.
In the 2011 parliamentary elections there were some candidates in the South Savo region who openly were in favor of tightening immigration policy and scaling back funding for immigrant associations and activities.
Kansainvälinen Mikkel, a registered association founded in 2010 and based in Mikkeli, sent an email to each of these candidates and asked them how tightening immigration policy and scaling back funding to immigrant groups would affect migrants living in this region of Finland.
The responses that the association got from the candidates were surprising. They weren’t defiant but almost apologetic trying to state that they weren’t against immigrants. One MP from Pertunmaa, Jari Leppä, said he had mistakenly ticked the wrong box.
Center Party MP Jari Leppä’s email response above to Kansainvälinen Mikkeli. He admits ticking the wrong box. He said, however, that Finland should take a strong stand against undocumented migrants and should deport convicted migrants.
Since parliamentary elections will take place in April 2015, we should not only be vigilant but engage politicians from all parties who are trying to lure voters by spreading intolerance and suspicion against migrants and minorities.
The most important matter to keep in mind is to keep your cool and state as clearly as possible: I disagree with your point of view. Can we discuss this?
You should do a lot of reading when engaging others in a debate on immigration and cultural diversity. Your best shield is information. The more you know, the stronger your argument will be.
By engaging anti-immigration politicians in a debate, we send an important message to them: We disagree with what you say and challenge your arguments.
As with the case of Hartonen-Pulkka proves, anti-immigration politicians will be forced to think twice before they spew their hate rhetoric again.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.