The answer to our prejudices and racism in Finland lie in our emigrants

by , under Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

It’s clear that as Finland becomes more culturally diverse this century, it will one day make a startling discovery: we are culturally rich and diverse. Some of those historians and social scientists that have kept us in the dark for now should reread their history over and over again until they get it right. 

One of the most interesting questions about why we don’t acknowledge our cultural diversity enough in Finland is the question itself. Why hasn’t it been acknowledged? In which groups’ interest has it been to not stir things too much on this front?

As a person with a culturally diverse background who is a Finn, I have always been amazed by the simplistic and fictitious ethnic and national view we have of ourselves as Finns.

Today there are officially over 50,000 couples in this country that are bicultural, according to the Population Research Institute (Väestöliitto).

But like all far-reaching discoveries you will most likely find the answer under your nose.

All of those Finnish emigrants that left this country in large numbers from the 1880s not only faced a brave new world but a culturally diverse one as well.  What role did their whiteness play in integration and in shaping attitudes of other groups?

What did the Finns think of blacks in the United States and what were their attitudes towards Amerindians? What did they think about marrying outside the group? What did some members of their community say if their spouse was black?

All these questions that were relevant well over a century ago are topical today in Finland. The only problem, however, is that for some reason we have avoided looking into this question.

It’s clear that some immigrant parents not only want their children to retain their customs but marry within the group. This was an important goal for some parents but became less important for the children never mind grandchildren.

One of the discoveries I made while doing fieldwork on a Finnish colony in Argentina from 1977 was their view of other ethnicities like blacks from Brazil and mestizos, a term used to describe people who have mixed European and Amerindian ancestry.  The darker the person, usually implied greater rejection from the community.

The way they rejected such bicultural marriages was with the help of prejudice and racism. Some actually believed that marrying a mestizo would condemn you to a life of poverty.  All the bad qualities of the white Finnish colonizer were the fault of the mestizo spouse.

Some of these racist attitudes and prejudices that some colonizers had of other groups were not only learned in Argentina but came from Europe.

I have a lot of data gathered through long interviews of how some Finns viewed other groups that were ethnically different. If I have such information I am certain that this type of information can be found among Finns that emigrated to North America, Africa and other parts of the world.

If researchers are serious about studying racism in Finland, they should look under their noses. The information is there waiting to be uncovered.

  1. Laputis

    How I hate this “culturally rich and diverse” blabling. Finnish culture by itself already is RICH and DIVERSE. There are lots of forgotten, ancient things from Finnish culture, which are just waiting to be brougth to modern world. And about enriching. Finns can “enrich” their culture themselves by adopting and borrowing things from other cultures. There IS NO NEED FOR IMMIGRANTS IN THAT, because Finns themselves can bring non-Finnish things to their culture.

    I see disrespect towards Finns and Finnish culture from Enrique’s side. What Enrique is saying is that Finnish culture is POOR (thus “need in enrichment”). Which is, of course, not true. Has he ever thought that instead of “enriching” the bringing up forgotten old things would work better? Nope, because it just doesn’t fit his agenda.

    • Migrant Tales

      –I see disrespect towards Finns and Finnish culture from Enrique’s side. What Enrique is saying is that Finnish culture is POOR (thus “need in enrichment”).

      Some of us through history and our views of ourselves have lived in denial. It’s not that Finnish culture is “poor.” The interesting question is why. The answer you will uncover will tell a lot of things about who we are and why.

  2. Laputis

    Enrique, what do you mean by “denial”?

    I want to tell you, that I have been living and grown up in traditional culture in Asian part of Russia. The one you would call “backwards” or “old-times”. I lived in village where was no running water, no centralised heating etc. There was electricity, though. I have been visiting also more removed inhabited places, where people lived like their ancestors lived 100 years ago. They kept cattle, and kept moving with them. These people often lived in yurts of light construction, which was easy to dissolve and pack. But modernity has had reached them. They used some modern inventions, like radio or motocycle. In the same time these people hold up to their original culture and traditions. The culture was and is extremely rich. There were so many folk hero tales, so many versions of traditional costume, so varied music and music instruments etc. I didn’t see nobody longing for “enrichment”. And still nowdays, thankfully, this culture continues to exist, although there is increasing danger that it will some day dissapear (youngsters more and more often switch to globalised “general European” cultre)
    I guess Finnish culture in old times was just as rich, and varied. Then at some point Finns decided to replace their culture into “general European” one. Which made to loose original Finnish cultural richness and variety. So it continued until nowdays, when some people, like Enrique, seeing Finnish “general European” culture, decided that it “must be enriched” by original cultures of other people, but not by Finnish own original culture.

    • Migrant Tales

      Lapitus, I advise you to read well what I write instead of jumping to conclusions about what you think I wrote.

      I have never said that Finnish culture is “backwards.” Those are your perceptions. What I am saying, however, is that this diversity and richness that you are speaking of has been denied by Finnish culture. It is like we haven’t grown out of our eugenics classes from before World War 2 and continue to see ourselves in that way. Even up to the 1970s some history books divided Finns into two “races.” That is my point. Finnish culture is very rich but for some reason we have limited our definition of it.

  3. Laputis

    I see that I have to disagree. Finnish culture by definition is culture created and/or accepted, adopted by Finnish people. Is it this limitation you speak about? Is it what you tie to “eugenics classes”? It all sounds as if Finnish people have no rights to their own culture. You sound as if you want to deny rights for Finns (or other ethnic groups) to have own culture, unique and different or similar from other cultures.

    • Migrant Tales

      –I see that I have to disagree. Finnish culture by definition is culture created and/or accepted, adopted by Finnish people.

      Who are the Finnish people? Your view of ethnicities and national groups is exclusive not inclusive.

    • Mark

      Laputis

      Only an imbecile would think that is what Enrique meant.

  4. Laputis

    Enrique:

    “Who are the Finnish people? Your view of ethnicities and national groups is exclusive not inclusive.”

    Oh Enrique, it seems that you never learn to distinguish ethnicities from national groups? How many times needs to be repeated that ethnicity is partly inherited feature, linked to language, culture etc., but national group is connected to country and citizenship? Why do you keep confusing them two? And why you don´t want to invent name “Finlanders” for national group from Finland?
    In Russian language there is “Rossijanin” for Russian nationals, i.e. people, who hold Russian passport and are from Russia, and there is “Russkij” for ethnic Russian, which is at least partially inherited feature, and linked to Russian language (as native tongue), Russian culture etc.

    And I remind you, that ethnic group is more important feature than national group, because, as I said before, countries can collapse, can cease to exist etc. But ethnic groups can survive in any condition.

    Talking about exclusivity and inclusivity. National group is inclusive, while ethnic group is exclusive. Since these are two different things, then they also have different features.

    Ethnicity is more exclusive than inclusive in Old World. Recently I have been talking with people from Lapland. We started to talk about Saami people. They told me that many Saami feel irritated by people, who don´t have Saami origins, but call themselves “Saami”. There are enough many “Saami-wannabes”, people, who have learned to speak Saami language to almost perfection, wear Saami traditional clothes etc., and regard themselves as “Saami”. But many ethnic Saami refuse to consider those “Saami-wannabes” as Saami. Not because of racism or something like that, but because ethnicity to them is something linked to blood-line. “Saaminess” must be inherited, at least partially.
    I understand that Saami exclusion of other people out of their ethnic group might be bad thing. Because Saami themselves are not numerous, and it might be in interests of Saami people themselves to “let more people in” their ethnic group, so that Saami ethnicity would grow more numerous. But, as you can see, things don´t work in this way. The understanding of “ethnicity” is connected to inheritance.

    • Migrant Tales

      Lapitus, the Finns are a national group where as the Saami are not.They are what we’d call indigenous.

      Your argument that Finns are like some “frail indigenous group” on the verge of extinction is what far-right groups argue in Finland.

      Sorry, but no cigar.

  5. Laputis

    Enrique, you are wrong. Utterly wrong. Finns are indigenous people. Besides that, there were first Finns, and only then country Finland. There would be no Finland without Finns preceding it. It´s not like Argentina, where first was country Argentina, after which came creation of nation Argentinians. In Finland it´s other way round. It was ethnic group Finns (and Finnish-Swedes), which created country Finland.
    Russia is a mixed case. Russia was created by ethnic Russians, but during history it was conquered by Tatars, then other way round (Russia conquered Tatars), then Russia conquered other non-Russian lands etc. Russians themselves are a) indigenous people in places, which were inhabited by ethnic Russians for many centuries b) non-indegenous people in places, which are still inhabited by non-Russian people.
    Let´s compare to English people:
    a) they are indigenous people in England
    b) they are non-indigenous in Australia, New Zealand, USA etc.

    Finns are indigenous people in Finland by all means, except maybe in far north in Lapland

  6. Mark

    Laputis

    Let´s compare to English people:
    a) they are indigenous people in England
    b) they are non-indigenous in Australia, New Zealand, USA etc.

    Uhhhh….you’re joking, right? You do realise that the ‘English’ were among only a group of migrants to the British Isles, with many migrations before and since, including Celts, Gaels, Picts, Angles, Saxons, Juts, Normans, Romans and vikings from various parts of Scandanavia.

    This putting of people into neat, homogenous boxes does not work out too well. You do realise that Finns as a nation have some of the most diverse genetics of any European people – meaning that the some Finns are more remote genetically from other Finns than they are from other Europeans.

    Sort that little soup out! Or better still, forget it and just let people be what they want to be, and stop all this ‘wannabe-‘ nonsense. It’s really insulting. I’m guessing that your Saami friends didn’t come up with that term! I know, because I’ve see you using it before.

  7. Laputis

    Mark, did you even read what I wrote? I said “people from Lapland”, not “Saami friends”. When will you learn to read accurately?

    And then another issue. Things change, they are not constant. Like, status of “immigrants” and “locals”. English people were immigrants thousand years ago, but not anymore. English people have lived enough long in England to consider themselves native there. Especially because there are no “non-English” left. I don´t talk about Scotland or Whales BTW. I speak about England.
    You, Mark, was child some time ago, weren´t you? But you are not child anymore, you are adult man now. This is example about how things are not constant, and how they can change and transfer from one status to another.
    So it goes also with transition of “immigrants” into “locals” and indegenous people”. Like, English people were immigrants thousands years ago in England, but nowdays they are native people there. Finns also came from somewhere thousands years ago, but since, they have lived so long in Finland, THOUSANDS of years, they can be regarded as “native”, “indigenous” people in Finland. The Finnish culture has adopted to the local climate, conditions etc. within that timeframe.
    IMO what tells apart “native” people from “immigrants” is the adoption to local conditions of the “natives”. Example – Russians are immigrants in Siberia still nowdays because Siberian Russian culture hasn´t adopted well to Siberian climate and conditions. The Siberian Russians still nowdays often build buildings which are not adopted to local conditions (f.e. when building some government houses they make outdoor stairs from marmor, which become unbelievably slippery in -40 C conditions). The Sakha people (Yakuts), on other hand, are native people in Yakutia. Even though they have arrived to Yakutia only in 15-16th century. The Sakha people have adopted to local conditions extremely well. They have even special horse breed which is adopted to super-cold Yakutian winters.

    Finnish culture is well-adopted to Finnish climate. Finnish food can be great for winter conditions, it keeps you warm when you are outside etc. Finnish food has also summer etc. varieties. Now let´s compare to f.e. Thai food. It´s not adopted to Finland´s climate. You see?

    • Migrant Tales

      –Finnish culture is well-adopted to Finnish climate. Finnish food can be great for winter conditions, it keeps you warm when you are outside etc. Finnish food has also summer etc. varieties.

      This is what is happening: Human beings are well adpted to any climate. People adapt. That’s what makes us survive. If you add baloney like genes tell me how to behave in my dreams then you are going back to pre-WW2 and that whole very racist/ethnocentric way of looking at yourself.

      Today we are globalized, mobile and on the move. Racism is exactly what I am said: It steals people time by forcing them to lose opportunities.

  8. Mark

    Laputis

    Mark, did you even read what I wrote? I said “people from Lapland”, not “Saami friends”. When will you learn to read accurately?

    Ah, well that makes sense. You were not talking to Saami people about how Saami people are classifying non-Saami. I mean, it’s very practical to figure out what a group of people think about something by….asking someone else!

    English people have lived enough long in England to consider themselves native there. Especially because there are no “non-English” left. I don´t talk about Scotland or Whales BTW. I speak about England.

    Yep, just dig yourself deeper….and what about the Cornish? And what about the many many thousands of Welsh, Scottish and Irish that moved and settled in England, many of them helping to build up Empire ports like Southampton and Liverpool?

    You are talking rubbish as usual!!

  9. Laputis

    Migrant Tales, you will be surprised to know how human beings are not always adopted to every climate or condition. Siberia is example. Did you know that Russian women have far more often gynaecological problems than native Siberian women have? It´s all simple. Russian women f.e. sometimes walk with mini-skirts and tights in -40 C weather! How it would not create inflammation in certain organs? That´s extreme example, but in overall Russians think less about such consequences than native people. That shows how Russian culture is not adopted to Siberian winter. The attitude already is part of culture.
    There are also other signs of adoption or non-adoption to certain climates. Look at Somali dark skin, which is adopted to African climate. I sometimes worry about poor Somali people, when I see them in Helsinki – how can they live there? Isn´t it bad to their health, or something? Defeciency of D vitamin? Too moisture air, which can be bad for their respiratory system?
    Same attitude I have to blonde and light-skinned Europeans living in Australia (especially Northern Australia). How can they live there? Aren´t they afraid from skin cancer? Don´t they suffer from terrible heat?

    I don´t support excessive globalisation and movement around for that simple reason that people can end up living in places which make them to feel bad and suffer.

  10. Mark

    God, you wouldn’t believe there are people in the world that could have ideas like this about other people, I mean serious, thinking that they couldn’t live here….

    I sometimes worry about poor Somali people, when I see them in Helsinki – how can they live there? Isn´t it bad to their health, or something? Defeciency of D vitamin? Too moisture air, which can be bad for their respiratory system?

    Oxygen is a poison to our body, but we get by with it, Laputis. Gosh, don’t you think it’s time your broadened your view of the world?

  11. Mark

    Laputis

    I don´t support excessive globalisation and movement around for that simple reason that people can end up living in places which make them to feel bad and suffer.

    Is that the only reason? Or is it ‘the Reason of Day – for why those Africans can stay in Africa – unless you are white of course!

  12. BlandaUpp

    Laputis

    “I sometimes worry about poor Somali people, when I see them in Helsinki – how can they live there? Isn´t it bad to their health, or something? Defeciency of D vitamin? Too moisture air, which can be bad for their respiratory system?”

    I sometimes worry about poor White people, when I see them in Brazil, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Florida etc – how can they live there? Isn´t it bad to their health, or something? Defeciency of melanin leading to skin cancer? Too hot air, which can be bad for their respiratory system?

    See you stupid you sound?

  13. eyeopener

    Hi Clapotis.

    What are you doing here?? I sometimes think that people with this yellow skin, how can they live here in Finland. No adoption to the climate whatsoever.

    “I don’t support excessive globalization and movement….” Are you a doctor?? Psychologist?? Dermathologist?? But I like your second part “…..the simple reason that people CAN end up……” Not so sure about your diagnosis do you Clapotis. Bad analysis after all.

    You seem to forget (lack of historical knowledge, i guess) that Finns are immigrants in their country as well. So don’t use other peoples to defend Finland belongs to the Finns. Originally this was Saami country, remember!! Blind eye!

    Thai food?? Doesnot fit in Finnish climate?? Clapotis. Do me a favor and watch Finnish TV. And see how many cooking programs promote ALL kinds of food for all over the world. To be enjoyed.

    Finnish food is more than OK but it is not the only food that’s good for people even in Finnish climate. Think off. we live in 2012. Not 2012BC.

    Get it, Clapotis?? No, eat some seal brains. Lots of vitamines.for ignorant people.

  14. I am

    Smiles 2 million my dear friend eyeopener.
    He he he
    Thank u for understanding me.
    I love people
    Sending u a fat bear hug (((((((((( eyeopener))))))))))

  15. D4R

    Laputis: How I hate this “culturally rich and diverse” blabling. Finnish culture by itself already is RICH and DIVERSE. There are lots of forgotten, ancient things from Finnish culture, which are just waiting to be brougth to modern world. And about enriching. Finns can “enrich” their culture themselves by adopting and borrowing things from other cultures. There IS NO NEED FOR IMMIGRANTS IN THAT, because Finns themselves can bring non-Finnish things to their culture.

    I see disrespect towards Finns and Finnish culture from Enrique’s side. What Enrique is saying is that Finnish culture is POOR (thus “need in enrichment”). Which is, of course, not true. Has he ever thought that instead of “enriching” the bringing up forgotten old things would work better? Nope, because it just doesn’t fit his agenda.

    I see, you want to borrow from other cultures say like food and drinks stuff like that but you don’t want to do anything with the people? typical of Finn of you.

  16. Laputis

    Mark:

    “God, you wouldn’t believe there are people in the world that could have ideas like this about other people, I mean serious, thinking that they couldn’t live here….”

    Did you ever ASK any southerner or easterner how is their health in Finland? Seriously, you are idiot. I know people who suffer from arthritis, tonsilitis etc. only when they have moved to Baltic sea area (I mean Finland, St.Petersburg, Latvia etc.)
    I myself suffer from bronchitis in mild version here in Finland. It dissapears when I return back to my homeland. The air is indeed wet in Finland, although it varies from region to region. I must say that I hate marine climate.

    • Mark

      Laputis

      The doctors have told me here several times that the air is dry!!! lololol

  17. Laputis

    BlandaUpp:

    “I sometimes worry about poor White people, when I see them in Brazil, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Florida etc – how can they live there? Isn´t it bad to their health, or something? Defeciency of melanin leading to skin cancer? Too hot air, which can be bad for their respiratory system?

    See you stupid you sound?”

    No, you yourself are stupid, honey. I don´t really understand white people with fair pigmentation who live in Northern Brasil, South Africa, Australia (especially North) and similar tropic areas. I actually mentioned white people in Australia, read my post above. Sun radiation is damn strong there.
    Argentina and Florida are not so extreme places.

  18. Laputis

    Eyeopener:

    “Hi Clapotis.

    What are you doing here?? I sometimes think that people with this yellow skin, how can they live here in Finland. No adoption to the climate whatsoever.”

    Well, yellow-skinned people can have troubles with respiratory system (like I have). But I must say that I am already from quite northern latitudes originally, I am used to cold winters and harsh weather. Some adoption I do have 😉

  19. Laputis

    Eyeopener:

    “You seem to forget (lack of historical knowledge, i guess) that Finns are immigrants in their country as well. So don’t use other peoples to defend Finland belongs to the Finns. Originally this was Saami country, remember!! Blind eye!”

    Saami country? Since when Saami have ever had a country?
    It´s not good to be ignorant, but to be stupid is even worse.
    Finland is created by Finns. Read history books. Educate yourself.

    And considering Saami, I wish they could get their own country up in the North. I mean, Saami from all Nordic countries would unite, and create together own country. Thumbs up for Saami independence!

  20. Laputis

    Eyeopener:

    “Thai food?? Doesnot fit in Finnish climate?? Clapotis. Do me a favor and watch Finnish TV. And see how many cooking programs promote ALL kinds of food for all over the world. To be enjoyed.”

    The Finns lately borrow almost all globalised crap, whether it´s good for them or not. They eat Thai food, and in the same time don´t know what pelmens are (pelmens are eaten in neighbour Russia and in Estonia). That makes me to think that there is something indeed weird going on in Finland.

    It´s from series like Russians live in extreme North in Russia, next to their settlement live native reindeer herders, who could offer reindeer meat (which has extremely good nutrients very well suited for cold winters), but instead buying and eating it, the Russians import cow or pig meat far away from f.e. Moscow region. They eat meat which is less suitable for extreme North than reindeer meat.

    Yeah, so many things to wonder about in life…

  21. Laputis

    D4R

    “I see, you want to borrow from other cultures say like food and drinks stuff like that but you don’t want to do anything with the people? typical of Finn of you.”

    I am not Finn. I am yellow-skinned, slanty-eyed Asian. 😉

  22. D4R

    Laputis:Migrant Tales, you will be surprised to know how human beings are not always adopted to every climate or condition. Siberia is example. Did you know that Russian women have far more often gynaecological problems than native Siberian women have? It´s all simple. Russian women f.e. sometimes walk with mini-skirts and tights in -40 C weather! How it would not create inflammation in certain organs? That´s extreme example, but in overall Russians think less about such consequences than native people. That shows how Russian culture is not adopted to Siberian winter. The attitude already is part of culture.
    There are also other signs of adoption or non-adoption to certain climates. Look at Somali dark skin, which is adopted to African climate. I sometimes worry about poor Somali people, when I see them in Helsinki – how can they live there? Isn´t it bad to their health, or something? Defeciency of D vitamin? Too moisture air, which can be bad for their respiratory system?
    Same attitude I have to blonde and light-skinned Europeans living in Australia (especially Northern Australia). How can they live there? Aren´t they afraid from skin cancer? Don´t they suffer from terrible heat?

    Somalis arent dumb as you may think, we supplement with vit d and get plenty of sun, but thanx for your concern about our health even though i doubt your concern is genuine.

  23. eyeopener

    Hi Clapotis.

    Even in Siberia people are better informed than you. You live in the “wanted past”. 2012 AC you know is a different world. Get used to it.

    Whatever you oppose to reality is overtaking you. You may want to object reality is different.
    Acceptance of change is difficult. The past is over!! Doesnot come back but caress the memories.

    You are getting old Papa!!

    Nothing wrong with yellow and slanty eyes. Maybe open-eyed would be better.

  24. D4R

    Laputis: I see, you want to borrow from other cultures say like food and drinks stuff like that but you don’t want to do anything with the people? typical of Finn of you.”

    I am not Finn. I am yellow-skinned, slanty-eyed Asian.

    Oh right, are you those who comer their face from the sun so they wont get darker?

  25. D4R

    Laputis: I see, you want to borrow from other cultures say like food and drinks stuff like that but you don’t want to do anything with the people? typical of Finn of you.”

    I am not Finn. I am yellow-skinned, slanty-eyed Asian.

    Oh right, are you those who cover their face from the sun so they wont get darker?

  26. Laputis

    Eyeopener, despite fact we live in year 2012, we still are part of nature. Season rythms, sun radiation etc. influence us, whether you want it or not. Have you ever heard about “winter depression” and similar things? I suspect this “winter depression” at least partially comes from wrong diet during winter time.

    Eyeopener, we were, are and will be part of nature. Whatever century or whatever technologies.

  27. eyeopener

    Hi Clapotis.

    Rythms of nature doesnot mean fooling your heads. If you want to live in the past with your memories I can respect that. However, I think it’s illogical to demand such a behavior from all people.

    I am very well aware of my past, my origins. But I want to live now not in the past. That’s where we differ I guess. My contributions are aimed at the future not strengthening the past.

    Past is gone!! It is not the future.

    Your choice.

    Don’t blame others.

  28. Laputis

    Eyopener, and D4R, I feel like you talk to me as if I were Finn. But I am not Finn, and maybe that’s why I don’t always get you (like, what kind of past you talk about?)

  29. eyeopener

    No Clapotis.

    I am not going to walk to you as if you were a Finn. Simply because you are not. Pretending is all you can. Not more!!

    Saami were far more clever than Finns. They used the land for their necesities. Didnot need a country. Sounds familiar to you??

    Clapotis. Countries are a social construct. I wonder if it is to keep people in or people out??. Like all your notions on development etc. Why don’t you live in no-where land, without running water, toilet, electricity and the kind. Nobody is holding you back.

    I think I have read more books on history and finnish history Clapotis. But you seem to be a professor in this science, aren’t you. Finland as Finland was created some 100 years ago. Wasn’t it Clapotis?? This schizophrenia is hurting some people here. Like you who struggles with the past. Schizophrenic.

    Now you found your toy to distract you from your schizo-behavior.

    Happy now??

  30. Laputis

    What past I struggle with? You don’t cease puzzling me, eyeopener. I asked you as simple question – what did you mean with “past”. And you couldn’t answer to it. You failed. Chiao.

  31. eyeopener

    Your past Clapotis. H….I….S….T….O….R….Y….

    Difficult word for you.

    No failure Clapotis too intelligent for you.

    Ciao (that the right word)

  32. D4R

    eyeopener: Your past Clapotis. H….I….S….T….O….R….Y….

    Difficult word for you.

    No failure Clapotis too intelligent for you.

    Ciao (that the right word)

    LoL

  33. Laputis

    Hisotry and past involve so many different things. You, eyeopener, was saying that I don’t cope with changes. What changes you talk about?

    BTW your short temper makes me to smile.

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