Just because you are a migrant doesn’t mean that you can’t be a racist jerk.
Our faithful reader and friend D4R called me up Thursday and told me about a racist incident with two Estonian men on the train. One of them asks D4R in a hostile tone where he purchased such good clothes and if he was living off social welfare.
“Social welfare pays you guys for everything,” one of the Estonian men continued. “Why don’t you move back to Africa?”
D4R couldn’t hold back his feelings and responded.
“This isn’t Estonia,” he said. “I have lived longer in this country than you, I work and pay taxes.”
One of men started to act aggressively and placed his face close to D4R’s.
“Fortunately his friend had more sense than him and they both left,” he said. “I called 112 to inform them that I felt threatened.”
D4R said he did not want to pick a fight with the person because, as has happened in the past, he felt he’d be arrested by the police for starting the fight.
There are many ways to measure how racism works on a day-by-day level and structurally in our society. Umayya Abu-Hanna wrote a while back how Finland’s middle class ensures that migrants and minorities can never compete economically, politically and culturally on an equal level with white Finns.
Instead of prime ministers and government officials stating how much they are against racism, why don’t they actually challenge this social ill in earnest?
The reason why they don’t may surprise some: They don’t consider racism a serious enough problem.
Racism in Finland starts from early childhood. Children are bullied at school because of their ethnic background, even some like Rebecka Holm are harassed in public by total strangers.
The Green League’s Vihreä Lanka writes that the hardline anti-immigration wing of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* comprises of eight MPs in MEP Jussi Halla-aho’s camp with four more sympathizing with the latter, according to the publication.
The number of anti-immigration PS politicians is quite significant if we consider that the party won 38 seats in April‘s parliamentary elections. Add to the latter the fact that one of these is a minister (Hanna Mäntylä), a speaker of parliament (Maria Lohela), and an MEP (Halla-aho) and the power that this group has grained since the 2011 election is no insignificant matter.
Six more PS MPs firmly in the Halla-aho camp include Sampo Terho, Olli Immonen, Ari Jalonen, Vesa-Matti Saarakkala, Laura Huhtasaari, Jari Ronkainen, and party secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo, who isn’t a lawmaker.
Read full story (in Finnish) here.
Apart from the eight PS politicians mentioned above, Vihreä Lanka cites as well four PS MPs that sympathize but do not belong to Halla-aho’s camp. These are MPs Teuvo Hakkarainen, Mika Niikko, Tom Packalén and Maria Tolppanen.
While the party’s anti-immigration wing is divided into two groups, two other PS MPs that could be added to the list are Jani Mäkelä and Simon Elo.
The total number of anti-immigration MPs in the PS is 14, or roughly one third of its total lawmakers.
While the PS is a populist right-wing radical party like the Danish People’s Party, Sweden Democrats and Progress Party of Norway, it’s clear that they cannot go on indefinitely attacking migrants and minorities in a hostile manner but their aim is to become a so-called normal mainstream party.
That is why some political observers see such populist parties as a passing phase.
Even so, we do not know how much harm such parties will inflict on the economy and to our society with their hostile rhetoric that needs a scapegoat to coverup for their own incompetence.
* The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English-language names 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.
Everything that puts Europe in harm’s way today is in some cases more challenging to Finland: geopolitical uncertainty in Russia ranks high on the list as does populism, anti-immigration sentiment, near-flat economic growth, high unemployment, rising poverty and nationalism.
It’s clear that when you have enough of the latter, people are going to get pretty edgy and angry. But since I’m an optimist that believes in Finland and the Finns, I’m hopeful that things won’t get too much out of hand politically and force us to commit the same mistakes of the past.
Time is still on our side.
When we speak of refugees, when does a trickle become a flood? Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Olli Immonen, the far right politician who warned us recently about the “nightmare of multiculturalism,” who uses and warns us of “an avalanche” of refugees since 1,000 more refugees came to the country in July versus the same period last year.
Some Finnish media, like MTV3, even ask President Sauli Niinstö about this “flood.” The Finnish head of state, who has usually been quite on the rise of xenophobia in Finland, claimed without giving any figures that we should get “ready that the number of refugees to Finland will rise significantly.
Here is a new story by MTV3 that speaks of the “flood” of immigrants. There are no clear numbers, only colorful terms that instill fear like “flood” nd “avalanche” are used to describe the situation. Read full story (in Finnish) here.
“We have already seen a record number of asylum seekers have soared this summer and we must must get ready ready that their numbers will grow significantly,” he was quoted as saying on MTV3.
While the human tragedy going on in war-torn countries like Syria are a cause for grave concern, is the situation made any better if we start to fear-monger in the same way as far right groups by using terms such as “flood” and “avalanche?”
A man sets fire to an Islamic center in Copenhagen, Denmark, when it was full of people but the police don’t consider what happened a terrorist act, according to the Copenhagen Post. Fortunately there were no victims.
Muslim leaders in Denmark like Bashy Quraishy are extremely concerned about what happened. They are also asking why the attack isn’t treated as a terrorist act.
“Is it not strange that any minor incident where a Muslim is involved is automatically described by the politicians and media as terrorism…” he wrote on Facebook. “But sabotage, violence and arson against an Islamic centre is just an act of a mentally disturbed man.”
That migrants are talked about in dehumanising language is intensely problematic. But common humanity isn’t enough to create lasting change in how we view migration.
One of the dominant features of the national discourse concerning the plight of the Calais migrants in recent weeks has been the dehumanising language applied to the men, women and children risking their lives in desperation to find lasting safety. This reached its peak with Prime Minister David Cameron referring to ‘swarms’ of migrants attempting to reach the UK and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond describing the ‘threat’ of ‘marauding’ African migrants.
Migration rights advocates have been right to call out this language and to reintroduce the quite obvious and seemingly non-problematic notion that migrants are human beings, just like ourselves, and that as such they deserve to be treated as human beings. But it is equally true that calling on a common humanity is unlikely to create lasting change in the treatment of migrants.
This is because our relationships with our fellow human beings are deeply shaped by a national model of citizenship which we layer on top of our common humanity to differentiate between those we can sympathise with, and those to whom we think social justice applies and who we think have a justified claim to membership of our political community. We live in a nationalistic social order which constantly reproduces the exclusions that compromise the basic human rights of migrants in places like Calais. This order allows us to judge that some human beings are more important than others.
George Kateb has characterised patriotism as a dangerous and violent ‘mistake’. We can extend this argument to the plight of migrants around the world, and to help explain why migration is constructed as a ‘crisis’, rather than simply a normal part of life. It is seen as a crisis because it challenges the exclusions that national systems of membership continuously reproduce, while all the time those same national systems rely on migrant labour to stimulate economic investment and to sustain their welfare states.
Jos halutaan vastustaa rasismia ja syrjintää ja yhteiskunnan luisumista fasismin tielle, on välttämätöntä pitää nollatoleranssi poliittiselle, järjestäytyneelle rasismille.
Siksi pitää myös olla tarkkana siinä, millaiseen keskusteluun lähtee mukaan. Jopa rasisminvastaisilla keskustelupalstoilla on usein kommentoijia, jotka yrittävät estää rasismin vastustamisen peräämällä ”dialogia”.
Natsi-Saksassa hirmutapahtumia jälkeenpäin arvioitaessa suurimpana tapahtuneen mahdollistajana on pidetty vaikenevaa, tavallista väkeä. Mahdollistajien joukkoon kuuluvat myös he, jotka mielessään kieltävät yhteiskunnassa vellovan rasismin, pitävät ymmärrettävänä valkoisen miehen pelkoa mustaa miestä tai muuta muukalaista kohtaan ja vaativat keskustelua vielä siinäkin vaiheessa, kun rasistisen toiminnan on sallittu johtaa väkivaltaisuuksiin. Joillakin on puolustettavana oman läheisen oikeus rasistiseen sananvapauteen.
Jos halutaan dialogia, on oltava tarkasti selvillä, mistä keskustellaan. Ei pidä koskaan suostua keskusteluun, jossa vastapuoli vaatii ihmisten eriarvoista kohtelua syntyperän, etnisyyden, kulttuurin, uskonnon, terveydentilan tai synnynnäisten ominaisuuksien vuoksi. Koulupihan Sebastianin kanssa voidaan keskustella siitä, miksi toisten poikien äidillä on erilainen mekko, mutta suomalaisen hallituspuolueen varapuheenjohtajan kanssa ei ole syytä käydä dialogia siitä, onko johtaja-Sebastianilla oikeus toistuvasti pelotella kansaa tähän tyyliin:
”Todellisuudessa muslimien valtavirta on ajattelultaan ääriainesta ja päästessään valtaan he toteuttaisivat omia periaatteitaan. Sekä koraani, että imaamit sisäänajavat muslimeihin ajattelumallia, jonka mukaan naiset ovat miesten omaisuutta ja palvelijoita, homot pitää tappaa ja vääräuskoiset tulee käännyttää – jopa jihadin keinoin.”