One of the problems when we challenge intolerance is to find its many hiding places and sources. Intolerance has many ways of surviving. One of these is microaggression that appears innocent on the surface but reinforces your exclusion, inferiority and to walk about in your new homeland with a social rollator as a marked human being.
A social rollator will appear before you if you accept your low standing in society. Not allowing people to attain their potential because of prejudice and discrimination is a form of social exploitation.
Picturing and spreading stereotypes of immigrants as “helpless” is wrong. I personally raise my hat to Muslims, Africans and visible immigrants who move to Finland. It takes a lot of guts to live in a country where too many are openly hostile to you.
If our white media in Finland were to be believed, you’d think that immigration is not only a problem but that the biggest groups are Muslims, Somalis and Africans. Why are these groups monopolizing our attention in the media and in the speeches of some politicians when they only comprise a small fraction of total immigrants?
Finland’s immigrant population in 2012 accounted for a a mere 3.4% (183,133 persons) of the total country’s population, according to the Population Registration Center (Väestörekisterikeskus). Of these 183,133 non-Finns, the majority were Europeans and non-Muslims. Somalis, for example, only account for 0.26% of the country’s total population.
What about religious affiliation? Surprise: The overwhelming majority (77.3%) of people in Finland are Lutherans compared with 1.47% classified as “other” religions.
Here’s a “standard” story published by the Finnish media on immigration. While the story is about the rise of racism in Europe, Suomenmaa uses Muslim women and a child to drive home the point. The majority of immigrants living in Finland are white Europeans with Africans and Muslims acquiring for a fraction of the foreign population.
If those groups that receive so much attention in the public are a tiny minority, why do they receive so much attention by the media, politicians and general public?
The answer is clear: It shows a heavy dose of ignorance and prejudice.
I’ve learned the hard way: The next time I publish an opinion piece in the Finnish media, I will ask the editors not to put a picture of a Muslim woman, black African or Asians working for a cleaning company.
When we speak of immigrants, the Finnish media too often uses Muslims and black Africans to picture this phenomenon like on this Savon Sanomat story above. In the picture we see a black man learning to crochet from a white Finn, which again could suggest that only black immigrants are fit to do menial work.
Spreading stereotypes about immigrants is just as bad – if not worse – than a racist who comes out of the closet. At least some of us know that what the racist is saying is wrong.
Too few of us, however, don’t see how the media reinforces the same social illness in an acceptable manner.