Savon Sanomat: Rasismi uhkaa Suomen mainetta

by , under All categories, Enrique

Comment: The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) is concerned about racism in Finland and how it could tarnish the country’s good image and scare off skilled immigrants.”Before drunkards would yell (at immigrants) at night,” said EK’s Riita Wärn. “Harassment now happens at day. This is very worrying.”

While it is a positive sign that more pressure groups and common Finns are speaking out against racism, I am pretty certain that the election victory of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party in April already tarnished the country’s image.  The PS doesn’t have to worry about skilled labor coming to Finland because there are more attractive and friendlier countries to move to in Europe.

Even if racism and discrimination is raising its head in Finland, the most probable thing is that it always existed but never had a reason to come out in such force as today.

Do you agree?


Jukka Patrakka

Elinkeinoelämän keskusliitto (EK) on huolissaan ulkomaalaisten lisääntyneestä häirinnästä. EK:n mukaan asenteet ovat koventuneet selvästi viimeisen vuoden aikana. Varsinkin turvapaikanhakijoihin ja romanikerjäläisiin, mutta myös muihin maahanmuuttajiin on alettu suhtautua penseästi.

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  1. Pekka Pitkanen

    I am not entirely surprised about this. But in my experience (that is, over my lifetime, I’m now in my late 40s) there has always been quite strong racism in Finland, perhaps it is only now that people are actually really starting to talk about it and really recognise it. In that sense continuing discussion would be welcomed, perhaps that will enable some positive changes to start taking place. Having grown up in Finland, I now live in Britain, and the difference between the two is considerable. While one cannot say that there is no racism in Britain, it is very much more attenuated, and ultimately living in the British society is about how one conducts themselves as a person, and not about where one is from. From what I gather, Finland has a long way to go, but Finns should be encouraged to become more inclusive and to not think of where another person is from and what they look like, but what they are like as a person.

    • Enrique

      Hi Pekka Pitkanen and welcome to Migrant Tales. One good thing about humans is that we can learn. It is very interesting what you said about England and comparing how different ethnic groups are treated in that country and Finland (being judged by how they are as persons). It is a very positive sign that we are finally speaking about this social ill more openly. It is the right direction.

      Welcome aboard and we’d be interesting in reading more about your views on this topic.

  2. Pekka

    Hi Enrique, nice to hear from you. Here’s an article on the BBC website that sheds some further light on the British situation: It’s a good one for Finnish people, too, to read and be aware of. Generally, British people seem to think that there is no British race, perhaps this has to do with its history of being a place where so many people have come from elsewhere, ostensibly starting with the Romans and the Vikings. And then the British being around the world in the time of colonialism (for all its ills otherwise) probably made the British more familiar with other peoples, and many people from the colonies did immigrate to Britain fairly early on (from the vantage point of the present). Nevertheless, as the article hints, Britian also has had its struggles with these issues, however, the most difficult ones seem to be in the past now.

    • Enrique

      Hi Pekka, and thank you for the link. Nice to hear from you as well. It’s pretty interesting how long acceptance takes to happen in some societies. Britain is a multicultural society (demographically and in social policy) but still it distinguishes between English and British. I am confident that in the future there will be more acceptance in Finland. We’re on the right track even though we are at the start of that long path.

  3. Pekka Pitkanen

    Yes, that is true, British is much an umbrella term that encompasses, of course, the Welsh, the Scots and the Northern Irish, too, as things stand (unless e.g. Scotland decides to leave the union). Perhaps Finland should invent an all-encompassing term, too, such as “monisuomalainen”. This is partially a joke, but there is probably something true in it, too, as racism itself is often about labelling and stereotyping people.

  4. JusticeDemon

    Ricky, Pekka

    It would be more telling to contrast the “English/British” distinction with the “Russian/Soviet” distinction.

  5. Pekka Pitkanen

    Hi, not exactly sure of what you mean, but Soviet Union was of course a transitory political setup. That said, presume this could also be said of Britain in the longue duree. Interestingly, my impression is that at least some people do say that racism increased in Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union, even though I do not know much about Russia so cannot say whether and in which way(s) this may be true. And yet, presumably communism was intended as an all-encompassing ideology that would (according to the Soviet communists) eventually overtake and encompass the whole world, and such an ideology would perhaps look to see more of a unity between people than look for nationalistic aspirations. (The New Tetament view of unity under Christ as e.g. in the letter of Ephesians appears to have similar connotations.) Presumably the political reality of Soviet Union however was much about expansionism for its own sake, too. But interesting things to reflect on. On a related note, coming back to issues of labelling, the use of the word “perussuomalaiset” would, at least when taken together with the actual current policies of that party, and perhaps with a little exaggeration, to me seem to suggest an attempt to return Finland to a mythical past (however long ago such a past may have been) of purity that has now been lost. In this, outsode forces are seen as a corrupting set of forces and threats that Finland should be purged of. Such outside forces include the EU and immigration, and should probably be seen on par with the past invasion attempts of Russia for example. By implication, people who come from outside are included in this category. Of course, such mythmaking never acknowledges, at least not directly, how so much of Finnish culture has in fact been influenced and shaped by outside influences, take for example the ubiquitousness of foreign loanwords in Finnish and the large number of foreign TV programs that Finnish people watch daily. In terms of identity, and speaking in terms of ethnic studies, these people wish to see Finnishness in terms of primordial givens, that is, blood and lineage, to the exclusion of instrumental factors that in reality are there all around the Finnish people already (and have always been). Perhaps the party’s rapid rise in fact reveals the insecurity of many Finnish people in a changed situation of internationalism and integration in an internet age in a world that is also changing and most recently has been affected by an economic crisis, where the “certainties” of yesterday no longer hold. It is perhaps even a desperate attempt to cling to a mythic past, a golden era that can no longer be returned to, or perhaps only through the policies of these “true Finns” as they want to believe.

  6. JusticeDemon


    It’s simpler than that. “Britishness” is something that the English did to large sections of the world, and not only to residents of what came to be called the “British Isles”. These people also generally held British passports, enjoyed certain mobility privileges, and were supposed to subscribe to a certain system of values and a certain worldview that was mediated though the English language and determined by a small elite in London. The system could also be enforced by military means “in the higher interests of the natives”.

    The parallel with the USSR is quite compelling.

    This system still exists, though it has been slowly collapsing under its own weight for over a century.

  7. Pekka Pitkanen

    Ah, thank you for that comment, agreed, even though I might see some difference with the USSR (but agree that a parallel can be made). Your comment about a small elite is also interesting, in light of the current global financial crisis/setup where a relatively small elite runs the US at the moment (including its governement) and tries its best to impose the relevant system on the rest of the world for its own advantage, whether by propaganda or by military might. But, this is taking us off the tangent in terms of the scope of discussions here.

  8. Pekka Pitkanen

    Hi, here are a couple of British TV programmes that may be of interest:

    How The World Got Mixed Up
    BBC2, Mixed Britannia Season

    One of the very few universal laws of history is this: whenever and wherever people of different races have been brought together they have always mixed. For most of human history the power of sex managed to undermine the power of race. The incredible level of racial inter-mixing that now characterises life in 21st-century Britain is not a uniquely modern phenomenon, but a return to the traditions of the past.

    This film will re-access the meaning of the great historic force that first brought the races together – imperialism. It will tell the surprising and positive story of how, throughout much of history, the races of the world’s empires mixed together unquestioningly.


    There’s only a slim chance that black and white parents will have twins of different skin colour, but as one in ten children born in the UK is now mixed race, this genetic quirk is going to become increasingly common. Twincredibles follows five sets of twins, from toddlers through to adults, to create a surprising and compelling story about the journey of mixed race Britain.

    The stories of all these twins throw a new and fascinating light on how brothers and sisters who are similar in so many other ways lead different lives because of their skin colour. The experiences don’t always match the stereotype. For teenage boys James and Daniel, growing up in Eltham South East London, it was the whiter looking twin Daniel who suffered racial abuse, whilst darker twin James was left alone.

    Travelling through the experiences of each set of twins, the film unpeels the impact this accident of their birth has on how they see themselves and how the outside world views them. Living in diverse locations across England to Scotland, the twins tell their stories in their own words, to paint an honest and sometimes hard-hitting picture of race in modern Britain.

    • Enrique

      Hi Pekka, thank you for the links. It’s unfortunate that they cannot be viewed in our area (Finland). The myth that we are “racially pure” is a myth. The interesting question is to ask why so many believe in racial purity? Is it because belonging to a certain ethnicity or race will determine whether you will be middle-class or lower-class?

      Why do you think we promote that kind of thinking in Finland and why do some hang on to it so tightly? Is it because they fear that others will take over their meager resources like employment?

      When will we learn that character is a better judge of a person than ethnicity?

  9. Pekka Pitkanen

    Hi Enrique, thanks, I think these are interesting issues to reflect on. My personal quick thoughts are are follows. I suppose meeting someone ostensibly outside one’s own experience especially in a monocultural society can be slightly uncomfortable for some. It is perhaps easier to stick to something that one does know and something that is within one’s immediate experience. Also, interestingly, I think that it is easy to pick on someone who appears weaker if one has a bullying streak. Immigrants often belong to, or at least can be perceived to belong to the group of the “less powerful” due to not having the same social support structures than the natives (family) and of course sometimes cannot e.g. speak the language perfectly. In a group, e.g. in the schoolground, people may bully an “outsider” or someone who behaves more or less differently, especially if that individual is not able to defend themselves. In that, in the wider society, people seek strength in numbers and in homogeneity, and this happens in every area of life. Bullying is also of course in general a way that a group tries to bring a “stray” member back in line. Often certain slurs about that person are even created and perpetuated by the situation, and certain behavioral patterns get fixed. And, no one in the larger group may discourage the behaviour, often this can be out of fear that they will be picked on if they do. In the context of the a society as a whole, as long as immigrants are, or are perceived to be a relatively powerless minority, there is a threat that corresponding behaviour towards immigrants is not discouraged. Also, those perceived as weak, and this includes immigrants, can often be “scapegoated”, to bear the blame for certain problems that they may in reality have nothing to do with. And, of course, ultimately “bringing in line” immigrants or people that are different would ultimately require expelling or eliminating them, and there are plenty of examples of this kind of behaviour and policies in world history, take the Nazi genocides for example, where anything that did not fit the concept of a perfect Aryan was eliminated, and this encompassed for example disabled and mentally ill people, plus those opposing the policies of the Nazis, not only the Jews. This said, funnily enough, people do not at the moment try to bully Jews or insult the Koran, at least not publicly. This is because most people know that they will end up being punished if they do that. Jews now have power, as do Moslems (Sadly, the Jews are at the moment also using this power to drive the Palestinians from their lands etc., equally, for example, in such countries as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan it is practically impossible to be anything else than a Moslem.) So, similarly, I think one way to improve the situation consists of either increasing the number of immigrants in the country or by making racist behaviour and slurs a criminal offence (possibly an assault if directly aimed at a particular person) that is actually enforced by the police and the courts, or a combination of both. It appears that racist slurs can currently be expressed publically in Finland, even by politicians without any real problems – for example, in Britain they are punishable offences as I understand, and people do not get away lightly e.g. if they express racist jokes in public. But we should at the same time also educate people towards becoming “colourblind” and towards accepting diversity in all areas of life, and, as I have tried to hint above, this does not only apply to Finland or the West, but to societies around the world, whatever their challenges to incorporate diversity may be in each of their particular situations.

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