Some immigrants and visible minorities fight against intolerance their own way. Others, however, shy away from such a challenge by preferring to live in denial. Is the way you fight against intolerance dependent on what you learned at home and in your home country?
If a white Russian learned to hate blacks and Muslims in his society, why would he start defending this group in Finland? What about those immigrants that come from countries where questioning authority is a no-no?
What about if you lived in a society where your ethnic group had privileged status but now you’ve lost that status? What about if you make a deal to accept that you’re a second-class citizen in your new home country as long as you are not relegated to third- or fourth-class status?
Just because a person is an immigrant doesn’t mean that he or she understands never mind is against racism. Those prejudices that you learned could be reinforced by the new home country.
While some white Finns try to justify their racism by claiming that some immigrants are racists, one can never compare the two.
Writes Migrant Tales in January:
“The fact that white Finns are the standard of everything in Finland is enough proof that they wield real power. White Finns don’t have to understand racism because they simply don’t have to. It’s not an issue because they are the standard of this society, the norm. Everyone else has a prefix attached to them like immigrant, immigrant descendant, black, Roma etc.”
One of the great figures to emerge from the Civil Rights Movement was Martin Luther King Jr. He said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
The most important matter that the Civil Rights Movement taught me was that you can challenge a social ill like racism and beat it at its own game even if such a social ill believes that it is all-powerful and unbeatable.
If I use myself as an example, it’s clear that the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the United States (1955-68) had a lasting impact on my life. It not only taught me how important it is to challenge a social ill like racism, but fight for change in a non-violent manner.
Images and my direct experience with that period lives on so strongly that I bring them up in talks in Finland.
Malcolm X is another exemplary fighter of the Civil Rights Movement. He said: “Racism is like a Cadillac, they bring out a new model every year.”
Racism leaves deep scars in some people. It has left such wounds in me.
One open scar was left by our elementary school’s first black pupil in the mid-1960s. He was bullied to such an extent by his classmates that the black child lasted about two weeks at our Hollywood, California, school.
I don’t remember his first name, but his last name was Brown. How can I remember such a fact about a classmate I knew briefly such a long time ago? One of the jokes that was made by one student went as follows: “What’s the color of shit? Brown!”
Imagine the power or racism to destroy another person’s self-esteem. My classmates were all children who came from so-called middle-class homes. Together they acted like a school of ferocious pirhanas attacking their prey.
Even if the principle of the school spoke to all of us about how we should treat the new black student with respect, he never spoke to us about our behavior.
How is racism perpetuated and reinforced in Finland? By denial and in so-called normal Finnish homes.
The Perussuomalaiset (PS) and its leader, Timo Soini, are good examples of the bullying and victimizing of immigrants and visible minorities in this country. As everyone knows, Soini is the so-called good cop of the anti-immigration party.
One of the PS’ biggest loose canons and racists, MP James Hirvisaari, was expelled from the party after he invited a friend to parliament, whom he took a picture of making a Nazi salute.
If it weren’t for the PS, and specifically because of Soini, it is doubtful that Hirvisaari would have ever been elected. As a member of the far-right Muutos 2011 party today, nobody is any longer interested what Hirvisaari thinks.
So yes, Soini and the PS are responsible for making racism and intolerance more acceptable in Finland. Letting him off the hook is a mistake. He is the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
We must remember, however, that it’s not only the PS that has issues with racism but every party in this country. The PS would have never obtained so much power without the complacency and cowardice of other mainstream parties.