Dismantle institutional racism and myths if you want people to adapt to Finland

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The ongoing discussion in Finland about our ever-growing cultural and ethnic diversity is grounded on two misleading assertions that hide the core problem: language is the magic bullet to become a part of society, and white Finnish society is innocent – if you don’t adapt it’s because of you.

Heikki Turkka of Children of the Station (Aseman lapsia ry) association was quoted as saying on MTV that youth gans in Helsinki may mostly comprise of so-called children of migrant backgrounds.


Read the full story (in Finnish) here.

He adds offering an explanation to why non-white Finns may be a majority in such gangs:

“I’m not surprised at all when I am working with youths,” he said. “If you lack the right language skills, it’s not possible to have the same opportunities to succeed at school, academia, or in a hobby where you would be accepted. In such a case, your opportunities are limited.”

Few will deny that language plays an important role in one’s adaption in Finland and elsewhere. What is misleading, however, is that we spread this myth as a panacea to your final adaption to this country.

Most people know about how difficult it is for a member of the Roma community to get a job interview despite the fact that that person’s mother tongue is Finnish. There are also examples of how difficult it is for brown Finns and other minorities to get job interviews because of their ethnic and cultural background.

An interesting case in point is Spain, where there is a sizeable Latin American community. These people speak Spanish as their mother tongue, are mostly Catholics, and know about Spanish culture because their country of birth was once a Spanish colony.

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The magic word for Finland’s future success rests on change and inclusion

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Finland is in a bind, and we have heard these for a long time: Finland’s population is aging, and there is an ever-growing need for foreign labor. Our answer to these challenges is not only disappointing but leaving our future to chance. 

Why is there such a negative and suspicious attitude towards foreigners in Finland? Is it because during the Cold War, geopolitical isolation waws the rule in Finland? Is it due to the myths that feed our exceptionalism at schools? Is it history and our conflicts with the former Soviet Union that left a bitter taste in our mouths?

How come Finland’s second-largest party in parliament is hostile towards immigrants and normally sounds like a rabid dog barging whenever it lashes out its racist views?

Is it xenophobia plain and simple?

It is a positive matter that some Finns have spoken about the anti-foreign atmosphere that robs the country and migrants of utilizing their potential.

A letter to the Helsingin Sanomat editor signed by two rectors of the University of Turku, Haaga-Helia, and a University of Jyväskylä development manager wrote:

“Effective cooperation is needed for the internationalization of higher education institutions generally, to benefit the labor market and society. It requires a change in national attitude [towards foreigners].”


Read the full story (in Finnish) here.

Even if the letter to the editor is essential and shows leadership in an area abandoned to the jaws of populism and politicking, xenophobic sentiment in Finland continues to grow, keeping the whole nation’s moral compass hostage.

Does Finland have the will to change and live up to its highest values enshrined in the constitution?

Time guards the secret to that answer, but rest assure, we will know sooner or later.

Tuttu temppu jota poliitikot käyttävät: sanoo jotain rasistista ja pahoittelee sanavalintaa kun kohu nousee

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Seuraava temppu on yksi vanhimmista jota poliitikot käyttävät kun sanovat jotain epäasiallista tai rasistista.

Otetaan keskustan kansanedustaja Juha Pylväs, joka kutsui turvapaikanhakijoihin sanoilla jonkin sortin “elintasosurffarit.”

Pylväksen temppu:

  1. Hän leimaa turvapaikanhakijat rasistisesti.
  2. Hän pahoitteli sanavalintaa kun kohu nousi.

3. Hänen rasistinen ulostulo on onnistunut, koska se on levinnyt äänestäjien keskuudessa.

Migrant Tales Literary: Where happiness lives

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                                                                 No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.

                                                                                                          William Blake (1757-1827)

Leo Honka

Of all the seasons that pass over Finland, possibly fall is the most magical. But what makes it stand out from the others?

Is it the pitch-darkness? Is it the vast universe above and its peppered celestial inhabitants that appear to gaze down on us longer than usual? 

Yet again it could be the sound of rustling leaves and rapid breezes that holds on for a moment to trees before losing steam. Are they the moonlight beams that light timid forest paths that lead to places that test your courage?

Or is it the bittersweet combination of homesickness dancing momentarily with merry anticipation before you part for distant lands? 

Searching for happiness

For some Finns, autumn is the most mysterious season. If a ghost house comes alive in the evening, all the spirits – imagined and real – appear to awaken from deepest slumber and to the woods during this time of the year.

For me, fall is that time when I fight pitch battles against melancholy with a sword called hope. The battle is waged by visits to the forest, which teems with lingonberries, mushrooms, and other delights. 

The journeys into the woods can be very spiritual. They can be like brief walks on the avenues of the soul. 


Autumn near Vanhala. Photo by Enrique Tessieri

If weddings are commonplace in Finland at midsummer, it’s in fall when souls make secret vows and marry other souls in secret weddings under tall shady spruces by rushing, chilly streams playing splashing sounds with stones.

One of the forests I enjoy visiting in fall is near Vanhala, a hamlet made up of a few farmhouses and an elementary school. The village, which is located 15 minutes from Mikkeli, is so small that I once biked through it without noticing it. 

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Finland’s hardline and bureaucratic immigration policy is deadly for democracy

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“Finland’s hardline and bureaucratic immigration policy based in great part on suspicion and fear of outsiders is partly to blame for the rise of a populist and hostile anti-immigration party in the last decade and even for high migrant unemployment. A systematic policy of exclusion suggests that our plans to bring foreign labor will fail. A good example of this never-never land thinking is the Perussuomalaiset* party, which wants to sell residence permits for 50,000 euros.”

The Finnish media’s reporting about migrants and minorities is a disappointment

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It is surprising, even worrying, that outsiders are the ones that help burst the media’s many bubbles. One such OP-ED published Wednesday in Helsingin Sanomat by Antti ivijärvi and Martta Myllyä sheds light on a blind spot of the media fed by exceptionalism and ethnocentrism.

Should it be a surprise that this state of affairs happens whenever migrants (usually asylum seekers and Muslims) and minorities are brought up?

Recently we saw this ethnocentric monster appear with the Helsinki district court’s ruling that carrying Nazi Germany flags in public was not ethnic agitation.

As usual, the debate surrounding neo-Nazis and racism in Finland does not consider the victims themselves. When have you seen a black sociologist offer his views on an act of racism or of racism in general in this country?

Two days after the Helsinki court’s ruling, Kirkko ja kaupunki was the only media in Finland that interviewed the Jewish community.

Certainly, Jews, Roma, and other victims of Nazi terror have some opinions about Nazi flags.


Read the full story (in Finnish) here.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: A migrant’s journey never ends and may last generations

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“When a migrant embarks on a journey, he may not realize that the journey the migrant is on never ends and that he is part of another journey that a relative began generations ago. Thus a migrant’s journey may begin during our lifetime, but it rarely ends during our lifetime. Your relatives, those who are now talk of the future, may remember and admire your journey and courage long after you died.”

My paternal (right) and maternal relatives in Argentina. On the right are Dante Tessieri and his wife Aida on the left with Angelo Lullo and his wife Augustina on the left. All three except for Augstina were from Italy. Even if the pictures were taken over a hundred years ago, I still remember them, even share their pictures with you. Source: Tessieri family album.