Promoting tolerance now and tomorrow

by , under Enrique

In Migrant Tales’ Finland & Cultural Diversity 2012 review, it’s clear that a lot more work needs to be done to promote tolerance. Thanks to Umayya Abu-Hanna’s column on Sunday’s Helsingin Sanomat,* our collective complacency was once again shamefully revealed.

Racism, or the lack of acceptance of other ethnic groups as equals in our society, is a social illness that spreads unabated in Europe and in countries like Finland. It is empowered by our silence, fear, cultural myths, low self-esteem and mocks every day at our apathy.

How do you explain the historic rise of a party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS), which is hostile to immigrants and cultural diversity, in last year’s parliamentary elections?

What is even more shameful is the acceptance by the media and too many politicians that PS chairman, Timo Soini, is the good guy that is keeping openly hostile and racist party members in line.

Hate crimes rose in Finland by 7% in 2011 compared with the previous year, according to the Police College of Finland. Irrespective of the rise, few if any politicians raised the issue.

Mark wrote about how the police perpetuate hate crimes in Finland in one of the most commented and widely read blog entries of December.

He writes: “One effect of hate crime statistics being published in Finland is that it brings up once again the unwelcome question of whether Finns are more racist than other nations. This isn’t my question, by the way, but it is one that Finns tend to dwell on, as if there were an acceptable level of racism that a country is allowed to have!”

Are the police, like the rest of society, serious about hate crimes and racism?

Considering that the majority of hate crimes go unreported, it’s clear that these types of crimes reported to the police are only the tip of the iceberg.

The fact that one policeman in Mikkeli suggested to immigrant students that they should not report racist harassment cases to them shows that there is no common policy.

The Mikkeli policeman equated racist harassment to when he gets hassled in his hometown by the locals, who remind him that he is a policeman. “Just ignore them [if they harass you in a racist fashion],” he said.

If its evident that the police are part of the problem, part of the blame must go to the victim. It will be very difficult to challenge hate crimes in our society as long as immigrants and visible minorities don’t report such cases.

Ignorance of one’s rights, language barriers, fear of reprisals and lack of trust are some reasons why black and visible minorities don’t report racist harassment to the police, according to a Race Council Cymru study reported by Migrant Tales.

There’s a very good piece on ekathimerini.com on how hate crimes threaten our society.

Kuvankaappaus 2012-12-31 kello 8.43.46
Read whole story here.

Morten Kjaerum and Janez Lenarcic write: ”Hate crime offenders send a clear message that some of us are lesser human beings, lesser citizens who can be harmed with impunity. Their actions are, therefore, serious affronts to the fundamental right to human dignity and equal treatment.”

The key argument made by the authors, that our fundamental right to human dignity and equal treatment are breached, is the issue. When we permit such an injustice to happen, we undermine our civil rights. If it can happen to “them” it can happen to “us.”

Barbara Spectre, founding director of Paideia of Sweden, believes that the ongoing transformation of European societies from being “monolithic to multicultural” is at the heart of European anti-Semitism.

“I think there’s a resurgence of anti-Semitism because this point in time Europe has not yet learned to be multicultural…” she said. “It’s a huge transformation for Europe to make. They are now going into a multicultural mode. ”

While I disagree with Spectre that the issue is simply moving from being “monolithic to multicultural,” the issue goes much deeper. Anti-Semitism should not be seen as a threat to Jews but to all minorities living in Europe.

The foundations of Europe’s racism, which has brought terrible wars and enabled colonialism to spread globally, is at the heart of the problem.

Europe has always been culturally diverse. The problem is that we have used racism to hide our diversity through social exclusion. We only see ourselves in a racist society.

Finnish racism isn’t any different. Since we want to see only ourselves in this society, it explains why there’s so much opposition to cultural diversity.

Less social exclusion would make us acknowledge that there are other groups living amongst us.

_______________

*Erkki Perälä, a Green Party Helsinki city councilman, wrote a so-called sarcastic piece about Abu-Hanna’s column. I considered the use of the Musta Pekka Golliwog as offensive.

Why is it that I never get “great” ideas like Perälä when writing about a social ill like racism?

If I’m not the victim due to my ethnicity, I don’t try to write about it with sarcasm since I’d only be asking for trouble.

What do you think?

  1. D4R

    I visited IL reports comments section about ummayah and it left me very depressed of reading all those hatefull comments about ummaya and Somalis and other non wanted immigrants. Some of them were even proud to be racist, but i must say that i was pleased to see some positive comments coming from native Finns defending us, sadly they’re small in numbers. That goes to show that there is hope in this country but im affraid we may be along long head of that time.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      D4R: Finns defending us, sadly they’re small in numbers.

      An ever-growing number of people. Be assured, D4R, in twenty years people will read those comments and say the same things we’d say if we read a KKK comment board written about blacks in the 1950s.

  2. Jssk

    I would take Abu-Hanna’s story with a bit of salt. She has said half-truths and made stuff up before. Im not saying that she hasnt experienced racism though.

    It looks like she is venting her bitterness against finns and Finland in the column.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –It looks like she is venting her bitterness against finns and Finland in the column.

      It’s her point of view, which is important. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned from all this. Listen and take on board what others think about racism in Finland. As you can appreciate, it’s useless for a white Finn to tell us that “racism is a minor problem in Finland.”

      Listen, take on board, investigate and put forth proactive solutions.

      Isn’t that a positive way to move forward? Maybe some in our society don’t want to move forward.

    • JusticeDemon

      Jssk

      She has said half-truths and made stuff up before.

      I bet this is a reference to her reported experience of meeting the convicted racist criminal Halla-aho on the nursery school run.

      Do you have any reliably corroborated basis at all for calling her a liar?

      Didn’t think so.

  3. Mark

    Jssk

    –It looks like she is venting her bitterness against finns and Finland in the column.

    Sounds like she has reasons to be bitter and angry. And what’s wrong with writing about it. Surely that is a constructive way of dealing with what is clearly a history of abusive treatment.

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