By Enrique Tessieri
One of the big issues concerning the ongoing debate on Finland’s ever-growing cultural diversity is that rarely are we asked our opinion. A good example was Friday’s Helsingin Sanomat, which asked only white Finns whether our country understand the threat that racism poses and if such a threat is taken seriously.
The question that we should possibly ask is why does Helsingin Sanomat and the media in general rarely take into account what the victims of racism and social exclusion think about this social ill? Is it a cultural thing (this is our country and our discussion – stay out)? Or is it patronizing behavior by the majority to a largely silent “Other” Finland?
One of the positive matters about the Helsigin Sanomat survey, however, is that 74% felt that racism isn’t taken seriously enough in Finland. Thirteen percent felt that it was while 13% had no opinion.
One of our most persistent stands on Migrant Tales has been that racism is not taken seriously enough in Finland. Politicians, the media and the general public have preferred instead to watch from the sidelines while this shameful behavior takes place in the form of institutional and colorblind racism.
Writer Kaari Utrio said on the survey: “The only way to deal with the matter is to have zero tolerance for racism. Our past reminds us the terrible consequences happen when we accept racism. If we tolerate racism, it will soon be accepted and become the way of [our everyday] thinking. Thereafter we’ll start building concentration camps and gas chambers.”
Who is to say that racism isn’t already a part of our everyday thinking? Why is it when some of us speak about this social ill, we usually end up using the conditional or future tenses? Racism is something that could impact us in the future but is not a problem today.
Excluding Finnish- and Swedish-speakers, a total of 226,220 people speak another language as their mother tongue in Finland, according to the Population Register Center. For the sake of comparison, there were 291,153 Swedish speakers in Finland (5,42%) in 2010-11.
If we added to the former figure the children of immigrants who are bilingual but speak Finnish as their mother tongue, the number of “Other” Finns is quite significant.
Could we speak of disenfranchised groups? Certainly.
The attitude of leading dailies like Helsingin Sanomat, which did not even bother to ask immigrants never mind a Finn with international backgrounds their opinion about such an important matter, is a classic case of how Finland deals and challenges such a social ill.
If we sit around waiting for our point of view to be heard, we might as well wait forever. The solution? Get active and say it loudly!