There is an interesting interview of Nura Farah, Finland’s first Somali-born writer, who speaks openly about growing up as a black person in this country from the 1990s, when even middle-school teachers took part in the racist bullying of non-white Finns.
Racist bullying and racism are white privilege weapons used by this society to destroy another person by wiping out his or her self-esteem.
Migrant Tales has published a number of stories about racist bullying at Finnish schools. While it’s clear that some Finnish teachers didn’t take part in this type of school vigilante behavior, those who did are a shame to our school system and society, especially those who remained silent.
One of the problems of the 1990s concerning racism and racist bullying was that it wasn’t even seen as a problem at schools. If it occurred, it was given low priority by the teacher, school and society.
A story by YLE (in Finnish) tells about how hostile this society was to some non-white Finns and migrants during the 1990s, when our migrant population started to grow rapidly.
Racist bullying doesn’t end after you leave the school but can continue in the town where the victim grew up. And why shouldn’t racist bullying continue to be a problem at our schools and society? Aren’t National Coalition Party MP Pia Kauma and Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Tom Packalén unfortunate recent examples of this type of behavior?
It should be made clear that racism and racist bullying at school are hostile acts that aim to destroy the victim’s self-esteem and shatter him or her into tiny pieces. You’re not supposed to ever pick up those pieces of your shattered self.
But you can be defiant and strong and do something bold like accepting yourself.
This is what Farah did when she was 20.
Read full story (in Finnish) here.
Farah’s family moved to the eastern Helsinki neighborhood of Kontula in the 1990s. She was 13 years old.
According to her, racism in the 1990s was terrible. Even some middle-school teachers took part in the bullying using the n-word freely and even asking in class why don’t Somalis go back to where they came from.
Somalia has been gripped by a terrible civil war since 1991, when then de facto President Siad Barre was toppled and fled the country.
Another very important message that Farah gives is that children born in Finland, irrespective if they come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, shouldn’t be made to feel like outsiders. She said that the most important matter for third-culture children is to learn the language well and to get involved.
One important step in the latter direction is, in my opinion, to stop using terms like ‘pupil with migrant background,’ or maahanmuuttajataustainen, to label non-white or third-culture students at school. In today’s strong anti-Otherness context, such labels have a tendency to remind the pupil that he or she is an outsider.
It’s clear that with writers like Farah we’re taking those first important steps in ensuring that our children and grandchildren don’t get treated in the same way as some of us did at school.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.