Something terrible happened on Monday night after 9pm at the Tapanila train station of northern Helsinki. A group of 15-18-year-olds were reportedly harassing a young woman on a train, who was later raped by the same suspects outside the station, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
No respectable news organization or police force with integrity should be interested in spreading racial stereotypes or fueling racial hatred. It’s not considered ethical in journalism to mention the suspect’s ethnicity if the person is under police custody.
Read full story here.
Identifying somebody by ethnicity can be problematic as well. Even if the suspects had been apprehended, the police mentioned in a statement that those under custody were of “foreign background.”
The first question that arises is what does labeling the suspects as youths with “foreign backgrounds” help in the investigation of the case? What does “foreign background” mean? Is it code for some ethnic or national group that the police uses to communicate with others?
Hate sites like Hommaforum and Muutos 2011 MP James Hirvisaari’s Facebook page, which are demanding blood, confirm the latter.
The other problem with a label like “foreign background” is that it reveals the prejudice that the Finnish police have of non-white Finns.
Christian Thibault, executive director of Liikkukaa – Sports for All, told Migrant Tales that what happened Monday was tragic and terrible for many reasons.
“We are a society that decides to look the other away and not help people if they are in trouble,” he said. “We left the woman [on the train] to be raped, the young boys to spoil their future and the police to do a job they can’t manage properly.”
Thibault has worked with youths for many years and tried to help some of them to get off the streets and into a meaningful activity like sports.
“I get many calls all the time from social workers that ask me to please help them find football teams for these kinds of boys,” he continued. “But the sports world is a closed shop to them and this really breaks my heart and I just have to try not to think about it…Matters haven’t improved over the years but have gotten worse.”
Another problem is social media that appears intoxicated with hate as if their racism and rage have been vindicated by what happened.
Hate sites called Hommaforum, which was created by Matias Turkkila and MEP Jussi Halla-aho, both members of the Perussuomalaiset* party, and others like James Hirvisaari, an MP who got sacked from the PS for taking a picture of a friend making a Nazi salute in parliament, are forming their respective social media lynch mobs.
Even if the police said the apprehended suspects were of “foreign background,” MP Hirvisaari was labeling them as Somalis, which he called “animals.”
Can anyone have a civil discussion about what happened in such a climate of xenophobia and police and with parliamentary elections only a month away?
I doubt it.
We need a serious debate in this country about many things concerning our ever-growing cultural diverse society. We need that debate in order to avoid what happened Monday from taking place again but is anybody listening?
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.
UPDATE: The headline of the story was changed from “Tapanila rape in Finland sends a distressing message about our society. “