Would it be fair to say that the biggest challenge facing Finland during this century is accepting its cultural diversity and deconstructing our white national identity in order to make our society more inclusive? Will this happen easily?
The central issue being debated in Finland today about immigrants boils down to one question: How much cultural diversity are we willing to accept?
There aren’t any political parties in this country, except for the Perussuomalaiset (PS) and its extremist Suomen Sisu faction, which are openly against white Finns marrying people of different ethnicities. Even so, it’s clear that this attitude is quite widespread in our society.
If we’d like to see an even bigger picture of how this works in practice, we could take Cuba’s Fidel Castro example of how he got rid of his political dissidents by allowing them to flee en masse to neighboring Miami.
Less dissidents, more perceived unity.
Finland has seen over 1.2 million emigrants move mainly to the Americas and Sweden between 1860 and 1999. Just like Castro, Finland benefited in the same way. Apart from the socialists and communists that fled Finland after the Civil War of 1918, Finland was able to forge unchallenged a social construct like the “noble” white Finn.
It didn’t matter that hundreds of thousands of Finns had moved to other parts of the world and intermarried with other ethnicities. The way Finnish language evolved in Finnish immigrant communities, and how our view of our changing identity changed as a result, interested only a few.
Paradoxically, we wanted our Finnish expats to retain their Finnish culture and identity at all costs. Today, however, we want our immigrants and newcomers to do totally the opposite: Be like us (white Finnish) we tell them. Learn our culture, speak our language adopt our way of life.
The Finnish Lutheran Church has started to take a strong stand against racism like this story about multicultural families reveals about the discrimination their children face in our society. If there are people who are on the frontline of our ever-growing cultural diversity, they are these exemplary mothers.
Any person who thinks that immigrants don’t want to adapt and succeed in their new homeland know very little about immigration. An unsettling question arises: How can you integrate into a society that doesn’t accept you?
It’s clear that white Finland will not cede much of the high ground to cultural diversity. Expect then the following: lip service about two-way integration but what is really happening is one-way integration (assimilation) in most cases. Wherever two-way integration occurs, it usually happens on a short leash.
A good example of the latter is the following statement I heard from a politician in private. “There is room for immigrants in this country” but “building mosques is out of the question.”
Since it was easy to assimilate “foreigners” in the last century into Finns, it’s a bit more complicated in this century. It was easier in the previous century. All you needed was language, be white, adopt a Finnish surname and substitute your “foreign” background for ardent nationalism.
You’ll need much more than a surname change and a few nationalistic sound bites to be accepted as a Finn with equal rights in this century.