By Enrique Tessieri
I sometimes wonder where I get the strength and inspiration to write at least one blog entry a day on Migrant Tales. It’s not that I have the luxury of giving 100% of my time to this blog because I have a job and a life as well. Migrant Tales is a powerful voice because it is a hand-on-heart operation running on the fuel of passion for social justice and equality.
I am not the only one who has turned our blog into not-such-a-humble voice of our community. JusticeDemon, Mark, PeterofFinland, Eyeopener, D4R, Sasu, Jonas and many others have played a key role.
Contrary to what people think, I am a Finn with an international background. Finland is my home sweet home.
I personally never knew it then but when I was a child briefly growing up in Helsinki between the end-1950s and early 1960s, there was a lot of racism that would single you out irrespective of your age and sex.
In order for my neighborhood friends to accept me, I had to fight my way with my fists. If I hadn’t challenged their initial prejudice towards me I would have never been accepted.
Fighting my way to acceptance was possible if the kids were of my age. There were older children that I could not defend myself against them because they attacked me as a group and were stronger than I. From them I ran away if they physically and verbally started to harass me when I was playing on the swings by myself.
There were complete strangers as well that would ridicule me in a cinema because I looked different from them. Some children would laugh along while others would watch with their silence.
All my life I grew up with a clear unwritten message from this society: I am not from here but you can stay with us as long as you don’t claim to be from here. Classifying you as a Finn is too complicated and would upset the order of things.
You may ask why did I choose Finland out of my two other homelands, the United States and Argentina? Because Finland was the most challenging and the hardest of the three where I’d be accepted.
There were many noble exceptions, however, to that rule. In the early 1970s, when I was spending my summer holiday with my grandparents in Mikkeli, I took part in a regional high jump competition. I won but there was a problem: I wasn’t a Finn.
After meeting and discussing the problem, they made a decision: I had won the competition and was recognized as the regional high jump champion.
My life in Finland has been a constant battle between acceptance and exclusion. Sometimes I have excluded myself with the full approval of society.
When the economic chips are down, it’s clear that you will get the short end of the stick because you have no claim to historicty.
In the early 1990s, when Finland was suffering from its worst recession in a century, I had written, among other topics, a lot about racism and refugee issues from countries like the former Soviet Union. I was seen by some foreign ministry officials as a threat to this country’s international image. Some officials even complained directly to the publication.
Will I suffer the same type of persecution I did back in the early 1990s for what I wrote and defended? Not as long as Migrant Tales and we exist.
We are a blog where I and many others have found strength to battle a social ill that raised its head in the April election. Even so, we are confident that our efforts and arguments will expose the ugliness of racism and social exclusion in our society.
Our blog has grown thanks to you because we have finally accepted who we are where we are.