Time has shown us that our anti-racism efforts in Finland haven’t been in vain

by , under Enrique

It was only a few years ago when Migrant Tales was openly challenged by some for speaking out against racism in Finland. According to the more hostile commentators that posted on our site back then, racism didn’t exist in this country. If it existed, it was minor and exceptional.

Even after the anti-immigration and anti-EU Perussuomalaiset (PS) party scored their historic election victory in 2011, some Finns continued to live in denial about this social ill.  As intolerance was played down, Finland become an ever-hostile place for immigrants and visible minorities.

Here’s one comment Allan in May 2011 that sums it up:

That is exactly what Enrique is trying to achieve with his hate speech, or has already along with your kind of sycophants. Always there is a foreigner anything happens it is “racism” be it from having to pay a bus ticket and someone not sitting next to him, its “racism”. So that is why there is no racism in Finland, as it is all imagined. Boy called wolf one time too many.

Allan’s comment about racism in Finland is highly revealing because it shows how intolerance is able to see another day thanks to denial.

The question is no longer whether there is racism in Finland or not, but to what extent this social illness has found roots in this country. Those roots of intolerance are very deep and cover a wide area.

Still in denial?

Why then do some Finns still refuse to recognize that there are “other” Finns, who have the same rights as they to live here?

Why don’t you ask immigrants and visible minorities if they feel secure in Finland? How can they be if they are underemployed or unemployed? Why not ask third-culture children who, despite having lived all their lives here, are still labelled as pupils “with immigrant backgrounds” by teachers?

Why not ask why such youths have a greater chance of becoming marginalized than white Finns?

Why are we asking this question over and over again, if there is racism in Finland, if we have the answer and proof? Ever thought about asking the Romany minority of Finland, which have lived here for five centuries?

Tim Wise puts the whole issue in the following manner when he speaks of white privilege in the United States:

To be a person of color in this country, is to always have to know what the other guy thinks. It is to always have to know what the other person thinks about you. I you don’t, if you for one minute, you forget what other people think, your life is in danger.

The intolerance that Wise speaks of is already here in Finland and will reach the same intensity as in the United States if we do not take concrete steps to challenge such a social ill.

But why should a white Finn challenge intolerance? He’s the top dog, a member of the dominant group.

Sensible people understand that if racism isn’t challenged in our society, the biggest loser we’ll be the whole of society. White Finns will be able to keep their privilege but at a huge social cost.

To find a good answer whether intolerance is an issue in this country, it’s important to listen to those that are at the receiving end like Laura Eklund Nhaga.

I hope that more Finns, especially those with non-white backgrounds, stand up for their rights like this young woman.  

 

  1. Joonas

    “it was minor and exceptional.”

    And what’s wrong with that statement? Majority of Finns are not racist, but of course there is the minority of Finns who are against immigration – like in every country. It’s a problem, but there are several other issues which are much severe..

    “Even after the anti-immigration and anti-EU Perussuomalaiset (PS) party scored their historic election victory in 2011, some Finns continued to live in denial about this social ill.”

    I think this has been stated before, but I do not believe people voted PS because of their anti-immigrant stance, but because they were against Greek bailouts. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t any major political discussion about immigration in 2011 election.

    After the election there has been several racist blurts from the party which are condemned by the press and most of the readers. However, party itself has done horrible job reacting to these acts.

    • Mark

      Joonas

      And what’s wrong with that statement?

      What’s wrong with that statement? How about it’s not true! In the 2011 HS Gallup poll, 66% of people thought that Finland was a fairly racist country, although of those polled, comparatively few admitted to seeing themselves as much or a fair amount of racism in themselves (only 15%). Does that mean that this is the extent of racism in Finland? Hardly – in the same pole, 37% said they didn’t have a positive view of Roma, 35% of Finns saw Islam as a threat to democracy and Western values, and most worryingly, 29% thought that people belonging to certain races are not suited to living in modern society.

      Clearly there are a very significant number of people who hold very racist views who yet do not think of themselves as even slightly racist, i.e. a quarter of the Finnish population, based on this poll. That’s absolutely incredible in terms of basic ignorance about racism, what it is and what it is not. All this talk about foreigners having mistaken notions of racism pales into insignificance when you are brave enough to digest those poll results.

      Majority of Finns are not racist, but of course there is the minority of Finns who are against immigration – like in every country. It’s a problem, but there are several other issues which are much severe.

      First, it’s a largely silent majority that are not racist. While that in itself is a good thing, their silence is not. They might as well be racist, for all the good it probably does in terms of countering the very vocal minority that are very racist and happy to spread that message throughout Finnish society.

      And making comparisons with other countries is pointless. This is NOT a ‘country’ problem. It’s a problem of individuals and the ideologies they buy into and the harm they then do by spouting and promoting that ideology. Mixing these issues with nationalism is just another symptom of the sickness and a means to add fuel to the fires of hatred.

      I think this has been stated before, but I do not believe people voted PS because of their anti-immigrant stance, but because they were against Greek bailouts. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t any major political discussion about immigration in 2011 election.

      You are being naive, Joonas! 🙂

    • Joonas

      “First, it’s a largely silent majority that are not racist. While that in itself is a good thing, their silence is not. They might as well be racist, for all the good it probably does in terms of countering the very vocal minority that are very racist and happy to spread that message throughout Finnish society.”

      Unfortunately Finns do not often express their opinions very openly and usually don’t wants to stick their noses other people’s business – maybe as an exception this Tahdon2013 campaign. But I feel it is quite unfair to say the people who are not more outspoken about racism are as bad as racist themselves. People are objecting several things, but often they keep those to themselves or people around them.

      “And making comparisons with other countries is pointless. This is NOT a ‘country’ problem. It’s a problem of individuals and the ideologies they buy into…”

      Yes, the problem is in individual level. People can condemn their actions and the police can take stronger measurements if needed, but what else do you expect?

      “You are being naive, Joonas! :)”

      Am I wrong? Being against Greek’s bailouts was their biggest theme in the election and they could have not gained such a big support without it. Some members of PS also advertised themselves as “immigration critics” and had stronger stance about it, but you can’t say it was the main reason most of the people voted for PS. It might be a reason for some, but thinking PS gained such huge popularity because of it is just absurd.

    • Mark

      Joonas

      Unfortunately Finns do not often express their opinions very openly and usually don’t wants to stick their noses other people’s business – maybe as an exception this Tahdon2013 campaign

      Such passivity is historically very destructive when combined with a rise in ultra-nationalism and racism. For example, making public their dislike of racism is not putting their noses into anyone’s business. If that was a legitimate reason for silence, then there would be NO CULTURE whatsoever to speak of in Finland – no media, no literature, no cinema, no music, no books, no education. I mean, it’s all all putting messages into the public domain and trying to educate people and stretch their experiences.

      But I feel it is quite unfair to say the people who are not more outspoken about racism are as bad as racist themselves.

      It’s not unfair, because their silence is complicit. Not to come across as too religious, but there are the sins of commission and the sins of omission.

      Being against Greek’s bailouts was their biggest theme in the election and they could have not gained such a big support without it. Some members of PS also advertised themselves as “immigration critics” and had stronger stance about it, but you can’t say it was the main reason most of the people voted for PS.

      It’s just hard to say one way or the other. Even surveys that ask people why they voted might not give accurate results. Do people themselves even know why they voted? As the poll results I mentioned above highlight, people have opinions that are racist and they don’t even recognise them as racist, suggesting that their biases are somewhat outside of their awareness. Nevertheless, the bailout issue was at least a good trojan horse for people to express a high degree of ‘nationalism’.

      If it was the bailout issue, then we would expect a huge fall in their support in the next national election, as that’s effectively a non-issue now. Personally, I expect them to get between 17% and 19% of the vote. I also expect them to push their nationalist credentials in any way they can.

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