I am at a gathering at the British Council in Helsinki hearing a talk in 2013 by Eva Biaudet, the Ombudsman for Minorities, on discrimination and prejudice in Finland. After the talk, one of the participants, a white Englishman, says: “You speak just like a [U.S.] American.”
People who make such statements assume a lot of things about culture and person’s identity. When they assume, they make an ass out of u and me.
Not too far from this person, whom I suspect must be an English-language teacher since some explain their culture like grammar, or in simplistic terms that don’t take cultural diversity into account, is another person who continues to question if I am a Southern Californian. This was such a big issue for him that he actually asked and questioned who I am.
The questioning of who I am, or my personal identity, is no different of how anti-immigration groups fight to keep their societies white in today’s Europe.
A while back, a good friend of mine told me about an Argentinean who claimed that I wasn’t an Argentinean because I was “a Yankee.”
Something beautiful lies under the winter of our prejudices. One of the flowers you may find is yourself.
These three examples reveal how some migrants continue to see ethnic background, or background in general, as the most important matter about a person. It’s no different from those who house racist views and attitudes.
Why wouldn’t they have such prejudices? Weren’t they brought up in racist societies and part of the the system of racial oppression?
These types of comments by those three persons don’t worry me because I’ve heard them all my life. If I’d given in to such opinions about what others think I am and should be, I doubt I’d be sharing this opinion piece with you on Migrant Tales.
Contrarily, there are some in Finland who think that you’re not a “real” Finn if you’re not white and speak Finnish like Eino Leino. Those who house these types of prejudices have no idea what a “real” Finn is and I doubt that they have read Leino seriously.
One important matter to keep in mind in light of the above is that you are the owner of your identity.
Here’s what you should tell these people if they question who you are because you actually threaten who they are:
I am who I am and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem, not mine.