Should Finland’s Uncle Toms be called mamus?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Alarm bells go off inside of me whenever I hear migrants, who should know better, claim that racism isn’t a major issue in our society many times standing next to or speaking to white Finns. There are many reasons why a migrant may play down such a social ill. These may include ignorance, prejudice, lack of courage and outright opportunism. 

Whatever the reasons may be, one matter is needed in Finland’s migrant terminology: A Finnish equivalent of Uncle Tom.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Uncle Tom’ Cabin debut in 1852 as a play that aimed to raise awareness against slavery in the United States.

Despite its noble beginnings, the meaning of Uncle Tom has changed to mean today a black man who will do anything to appease his white oppressors, even betray his race or ethnic group, according to Urban Dictionary.

Migrant Tales had a lively debate in 2011 about what Uncle Tom is and what it would be in Finnish. @HelsinkiObs was kind enough to offer us the following older and new versions of the term: Setä Tuomas and Tuomo Setä, respectively.

While the latter two are good terms that have been directly translated from English, Finland should have its own Setä or Täti Tuomas term. One candidate that would, in my opinion, be a perfect translation is mamu, the shortened word for maahanmuuttaja, or migrant.

Since such a label is shameful, mamu should be spelled in lower case.

The purpose of this column is not to release a social media lynch mob on anyone but to raise awareness of a serious problem that the migrant and visible minority community faces. Betraying a group for personal gain and opportunism is just as bad when a person sells secrets to a foreign country.

How do you spot a mamu?

  • Excessive subservience to white Finns
  • Some mamus claim to be migrants but in fact are Finns since they have lived most of their lives here
  • He or she is a mouthpiece of the arguments used by white Finns to maintain migrants and visible minorities as second- and third-class citizens
  • Plays down and denies, like some white Finns, racism
  • Underestimates the destructive power of racism
  • Never speaks of systemic racism
  • Claims to be against racism but has the same opinions as the worst racists in Finland about minorities in his or her own country
  • Believes that a social ill like racism can be beaten with kindness and understanding

While there are many mamus, one that readily comes to mind is Fija Saarni, MP James Hirvisaari’s aide. Nasima Razmyar’s rebuttal to Perussuomalaiset MP Teuvo Hakkarainen is a good example of mamu-spirited writing.

Razmyar wanted to have an honest discussion over coffee with Hakkarainen after he claimed that Muslims were taking over Finland and Europe.

Moroccan-born Junes Lokka, who’s lived most of his life in Finland, is another sad example of how some with migrant backgrounds become white and spread racism. He’s a member of the Muutos 2011 party with MP James Hirvisaari, one of Finland’s most notorious racists.

Glenn Robinson is editor of Community Village whom I have great respect because his postings shed strong light on how intolerance operates in our society.

A recent posting by him, Moving the Race Conversation Forward, offers us – and especially mamus – valuable food for thought about the weapons used to maintain racism in our society.

According to Moving the Race Conversation Forward, there are four levels of racism that we should keep in mind. While internalized and interpersonal racism are individual forms of racism, the one that the media, politicians and the public forgets is systemic racism.

Says Jay Smooth of Race Forward (see video clip here): “Once you get past those individual levels, first of all you have to deal with institutional racism: The racist policies and discriminatory practices in schools and world places and government agencies that routinely produce unjust outcomes for people of color. And when you step beyond that level you have structural racism: The unjust racist patterns and practices that play out across the institutions that make up our society.”

How does systemic racism work in Finland? Ask yourself how many black professors do we have at our universities. What about policemen who are visible minorities? Look at the television ads that bombard us daily and ask how many minorities are in them.

Why is it that when white Finns speak of migrants in the employment market, they usually speak of low-paying like cleaning?

Why are unemployment levels among migrants 2-3 times higher than the national average in Finland?

Why isn’t there any debate in our society about systemic racism in Finland?

Kuvankaappaus 2014-1-31 kello 21.16.11

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