As the European Parliament elections near in May 2014, the attacks against immigrants and visible minorities in Finland by the Perussuomalaiset (PS) are getting stronger and more relentless. The latest one is by none other then PS MP Olli Immonen, who gave parliament Wednesday a written question that Finland should start registering people according to their ethnic background.
PS’ chairman Timo Soini was silent about Immonen’s plans when approached by the Finnish media.
Read full story (in Finnish) here.
Even if we speak in Finland of a society that prizes education and Nordic values, MP’s like Immonen show that the education they received at school and at home on racism was too little and deficient.
The term “race” is generally used in the US while “ethnic group” is used in Europe to mean the same thing. In the US, blacks consider themselves “a race” while some Hispanics refer to themselves as la raza, or “the race.”
According to Immonen, who is chairman of the ultra-nationalist anti-immigration Suomen Sisu association, ethnic classification of people in Finland is necessary due to its ever-growing cultural and ethnic diversity.
I personally believe it’s none of Immonen’s or the general public’s right to pry and classify me into a group they think I should belong to.
Immonen said that Finland could copy the same ethnic-classification system used in Britain. Some ethnic groups that people could be classified into are Finnish Finns, Finnish Swedes, Saame, Roma, other European, African, Asian, diverse ethnic background and other ethnic group, according to the PS MP.
Finland does classify people according to their nationality, mother tongue and place of birth.
Taking into account that race or ethnicity is a social construct to begin with, classifying people into groups is difficult especially in an age when we move and travel with greater ease from country to country and where we adopt complex multicultural identities.
To show how difficult it would be to classify people along ethnic lines, the system we use presently in Finland is fraught with problems. Nationality, mother or father tongue, place of birth don’t shed light on a person’s ethnic identity since that it a personal choice.
US American sociologist Yehudi Webster at the California State University, Los Angeles, believes that classifying people by race actually worsens racial strife.
“It is not ‘race’ but a practice of racial classification that bedevils the society,” he writes.
Writes the American Anthropological Society:
“In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.”
Countries like England and the United States, which classify people into ethnic groups, have a questionable history since both practiced slavery and had oversea colonies. Ethnic classification played a crucial role in enabling whites in these countries to exploit other groups by classifying members of their population into superior (whites) and inferiors (other groups).