I have been an exchange student living in Finland from Belgium since February. One of the matters that caught my eye in Mikkeli is racism. I have met many immigrants and foreign students who have told me about their experiences.
Racism isn’t inherited but learned. This means that people can change. In some of us prejudice is such a problem that it bursts out as a destructive force. There are too many sad examples in Mikkeli of how this silent ogre has harassed its victims.
A young man asks a bus to stop but the driver ignores him. A woman who is sitting inside the bus speaks out and the driver responds: “I don’t take black people on my bus.”
Another incident involves two foreign students who live in an apartment flat. A gang of alleged skinheads attacked their home in March and started knocking at their door at around midnight in a hostile fashion. Since the two did not open the door, the attackers broke the kitchen window with a wooden club.
The police were called and they are still investigating the matter.
Why does this happen? The answer remains a mystery.
Racist violence takes place in Mikkeli and Finland too often. Society should not even tolerate one such act.
Fortunately, there are strong laws against this type of violence. The Finnish Constitution grants all people the following right: “Everyone is equal before the law. No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.”
There is hope despite these crimes in Mikkeli. People can change and given the right information matters can improve. Meeting people from other cultures could be an important first step in this direction.
Meanwhile, society should not tolerate but take action and openly condemn this type of violence.