Some Exceptional Finns with so-called immigrant backgrounds are Husein Muhammed, Nasima Razmyar, Arman Alizad, Tino Singh, Abdirahim Husu Hussein and Ali Jahangiri. All of them have one thing in common: They are exceptions to the stereotype but have immigrant backgrounds.
But how can you call a person who has lived most of his or her life in Finland “a person with immigrant background” if he speaks Finnish or Swedish as his main language or is near-perfectly bilingual? For how long must that person carry that extra label, immigrant background, before he or she is accepted?
You know that there is something fishy about the whole term, Exceptional Finns, since anti-immigration parties like the Perussuomalaiset, speak in favor of these types of immigrants and Finns.
Exceptional minorities permit racists to be racists. You are an exception and therefore you can get your shoes shined. Only exceptional people count from your ethnic group. Let’s not dwell on the problem: Why are people shining shoes and living in poverty in the first place? Answer: They are not exceptions. Source: Flickr.
The fact that these exceptional people are not considered full-fledged Finns (because they have that drop of immigrant background) not only reveals a lot about our racism but our views of cultural diversity.
Cultural diversity is not a social illness. It not colorblind as well. It is a lifestyle-identity choice that we make personally and which society should protect and encourage. Whether we want to hyphenated our identity or not is a personal choice. It is our choice.
The existence of the Exceptional Finn with immigrant background reveals how some want to eat their racist cake and have it at the same time. It permits them to feel like they are not racist even if they are. This line of thinking in a white Finnish world would work in the following way: Those who do not succeed at becoming exceptions are failures.
In many respects, and in a Finnish context, all these cases represent what Julian Abagond calls in the United States Exceptional Negroes.
“Exceptional Negroes are those who are ‘no like other blacks.’ They do not fit the stereotypes. Sometimes they achieve great things, rise to the top of their field,” writes Abagond. “They become sports heroes, film stars, tokens, black best friends, beloved servants and so on. Some even have white fans, lovers or admirers.”
Language plays an important role in Finland and is an important factor fueling discrimination. Finland’s large white Russian community is a case in point.