Instead of debating whether racism and prejudice are serious problems or not in Finland, why not look at the factors that permit their existence in our society? A good starting point could be asking oneself the following question: Is our reaction to such social ills a reaction?
Inaction, be it in the form of lip service or silence, is one of the main causes why racism exists in any society. If racism were a poisonous plant, complacency would be the water and fertilizer we’d use to feed it.
Here is an example of the latter. Your friend and/or peers agree that what happened to you is racist but the only thing they will do is agree with you. Life continues the same way as before. Nothing has changed because nothing has been challenged or questioned.
Just like when doing a good interview, it’s what the interviewee doesn’t say that is the most revealing.
If over 1.2 million Finns emigrated from this country between 1860 and 1999, why is so little mentioned about them at school? What values, myths and social constructs does it help to maintain in Finland?
The debate on immigration, immigrants and cultural diversity is lined as well by a generous amount of complacent statements followed by the word but…
Here’s a classic example: I’m not a racist but…
Another classic strategy by those who don’t want to question racism in this country is that they neutralize such a social ill with the following affirmation: If there is racism in Holland it’s ok to have racism in Finland.
Another example of the latter is the reverse-racism argument or claiming that immigrants are more racist than white Finns.
Both above-mentioned affirmations aim to make racism justifiable in our society.
Here is a universal red herring used by anti-immigration groups. No matter where they are from, what their ideology is, it’s always the following point behind their intolerance: “They are so different from us that they can never adapt to our society. Our intolerance is therefore as a result justified.”
Many more examples could be citied. For me, however, one of the most worrying is the close relationship our inaction has with institutional racism. Our oppressive and discriminatory behavior against other groups is sealed and approved thanks to our silence and inaction.
Since racism is learned we can unlearn it.
Writes Julian Abagond in a recent blog entry: “Racism is something you have to unlearn on purpose. Not by trying to not see color but, as a first step, by understanding how racism works and how it has affected you.”