Defining white Finnish privilege #20: Labeling Others to strengthen “us” and “them”

by , under Enrique Tessieri

There were two news stories where the term “person with foreign background” was used by the media this week. The first case was reported on Wednesday, when two people with ”foreign backgrounds” were attacked in Joensuu and the second one a day later, when a suspected Finnish man who tried drive over a fifteen-year-old ”with foreign background.”

After some simple investigative journalism that none of the national media cared to do, Migrant Tales revealed that some o the gang-rape suspects of Tapanila were Finns even if the police labeled them in a statement as teenagers with “foreign backgrounds.”

Näyttökuva 2015-3-28 kello 10.21.44
Read full story (in Finnish) here.

Why do the media and police continue to use such a deceptive term to label people who are not white native-speaking Finns? The answer is white Finnish privilege.

Definition #20

The term “person with foreign background” or “person with immigrant background” don’t serve any other purpose than to reinforce “us” and “them” in our society as well as our denial that there are Other Finns living in this country who should be treated equally. 

Finns of different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds are nothing new to this country. Over 1.2 million Finns left Finland between 1860 and 1999 and “mixed” with people outside of their national group.

The big question is what term should we use to describe people who aren’t white Finnish-speaking Finns. The police would only use such labels if a suspect of a crime was at large.

The term ethnic Finns, or kantasuomalainen, is in my opinion an ethnic label that exposes white privilege. Its message is clear: We are in charge here and you are the minority because we have an ethnic claim to this land.

If the Saami have been here longer than so-called ethnic Finns, why don’t they call themselves ethnic Saamis?

Are terms like white Finn, black Finn, brown Finn more appropriate than “person with foreign background?” But aren’t they social constructs as well? Have you ever, for example, seen an Asian with “yellow” skin or an Amerindian with “red” skin?

I haven’t.

Identity is a personal matter. Nobody has a right to label you according to his or her prejudices. We must therefore ask, groups like Afro Finns what they call themselves.

Disagree?

What do you think a black Finn would feel if he was born and raised in Finland but is still considered a person with “foreign background?” Such a label excludes as opposed to includes him or her as an equal member of society.

What about if labelled you, a white Finns, “person with Swedish background?”

Certainly I couldn’t do that because you have white Finnish privilege and I don’t.

See also:

 

 

  1. juhis88

    This is stupid. Of course you can find racism everywhere if you really try. I bet you could figure out at least ten reasons why milk is racist if you tried.

    To my understanding kantasuomalainen is a synonym for native Finnish. I can’t choose one morning to be ethnic Somalian and it might even offend people if i did such claims. Being kantasuomalainen doesn’t mean that we are in control or that we are somehow superior to minorities. In fact we could one day be minority, but we would still be, kantasuomalaisia, ethnic Finns.

    “If the Saami have been here longer than so-called ethnic Finns, why don’t they call themselves ethnic Saamis?”

    Actually it is not known if Sami people actually were here longer than so-called ethnic Finns, but they indeed call themselves ethnic Sami. Have you ever talked with anyone with Sami background?

    I would like to label myself ethnic Karelian because that’s where my ancestry comes from, but the political climate here says that Karelians aren’t separate ethnic group but dialect minority.

    “Are terms like white Finn, black Finn, brown Finn more appropriate than “person with foreign background?””

    I think that labeling people by color of their skin has been seen more commonly hurtful here in Finland especially because we ethnic Finns have had our own history of being called non-white by other Europeans and Americans and having to suffer of discrimination because of that and thus “person with foreign background” is rather neutral label.

    “What about if labelled you, a white Finns, “person with Swedish background?””

    I don’t see how anybody would get offended by that, but i would definitely correct you by explaining difference between person with Swedish background and ethnic Finn. In fact i feel that only racists would get offended by being wrongly labeled as some other ethnic group than what they in reality are. That would reflect their opinions about that certain ethnic group.

    • Migrant Tales

      Juhis88, racism is a social ill and we should not play it down. Racism isn’t an abstract concept but exists and does great harm to people. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties.
      Article 1
      1. In this Convention, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

      Who are the so-called ethnic Finns? Are the Roma ethnic Finns since they’ve been here for over 500 years? Can a second-generation migrant born in Finland be an “ethnic” Finn? Does “kantasuomalainen” mean “white” Finn?

  2. juhis88

    “Juhis88, racism is a social ill and we should not play it down. Racism isn’t an abstract concept but exists and does great harm to people.”

    Yes, but ethnic groups aren’t racism. I actually tried to google if sjw around the world have discussed about this, but i couldn’t find out any.

    “Who are the so-called ethnic Finns?”

    Baltic-Finns who speaks language belonging to Baltic-Finnish language branch or more specifically Finnish language, have Baltic-Finnish ancestry which have lived somewhere around the borders of the Finland and shares origin myth, history, national experiences, mythology and physical appearance.

    “Are the Roma ethnic Finns since they’ve been here for over 500 years?”

    No. They are Finnish citizens, but they are ethnic minority.

    ” Can a second-generation migrant born in Finland be an “ethnic” Finn? ”

    He/she is Finnish citizen, but doesn’t belong to native Finnish ethnic group. He/she belongs to his/her own ethnic group. But what if ethnic Finnish parents adopt baby child from different ethnic group then is he/she ethnic Finn?

    In some ways ethnicity is fluidic like how for example people of Canada are ethnic Canadians, but in reality there’s people from all over world.

    “Does “kantasuomalainen” mean “white” Finn?”

    Yes it means very specific kind of Finn native to Finland.

    • Migrant Tales

      — “Are the Roma ethnic Finns since they’ve been here for over 500 years?”
      No. They are Finnish citizens, but they are ethnic minority.

      I think many Roma will disagree with you. And anyway, where are you souring your points of view, or are they purely subjective. In your personal definition ethnic Finns means white Finn.

      Here’s another question: Do white Finns, or so-called ethnic Finns, call all the shots in Finland? Are they the benchmark of the language and culture of Finland?

  3. juhis88

    “I think many Roma will disagree with you.”

    You should stop speculating and ask themselves then. I’m pretty sure that they would be confused because of your claims. Especially as organization of Roma people, Roma Mission and Finnish interior ministry call them ethnic minority and separate from ethnic Finn. In fact you are first to try to stop people labeling Roma people separate from ethnic Finns. It almost feels like you won’t understand meaning of ethnicity. If so can you explain what is your definition of ethnicity or ethnic group.

    It isn’t even that if ethnic Finns don’t accept Roma people as ethnic Finns, but the Roma people themselves have strong traditions in preserving their own history, habits, culture and language.

    “In your personal definition ethnic Finns means white Finn.”

    “Swedes we are not, Russians we do not want to become, let us therefore be Finns” said some Fennoman in 19th century.
    Take a look at dictionary and what it does explain about ethnic Finn or ethnic group. If anything it is YOU who are trying to press in own personal definition of ethnic Finns. Ethnic group is in some ways subjective, but there’s strong distinctive definitions that prevents me from choosing being one morning ethnic Somali and in another morning ethnic German etc. That however doesn’t stop me being Somalian citizen or German citizen which is an umbrella label for all people and ethnic groups living in those countries.

    “Do white Finns, or so-called ethnic Finns, call all the shots in Finland?”

    In many ways yes, at least for now, because ethnic Finns are majority and thus have more voice over decisions. That is why we should try to make everything possible to hear also opinions of the minorities and make decisions which benefits everyone equally.

    “Are they the benchmark of the language and culture of Finland?”

    If we are in Finland then definitely it is beneficial to know how to speak same language as majority of people and to try to blend in, but there’s nothing wrong to be ethnic minority and trying to preserve your own cultural habits, cultural identity, language and such things same time because multi-culture is richness.

    In fact i’m very interested in Finno-Ugric cultures and languages such as Sami people in Finland and other Finno-Ugric cultures in other countries and i would like to make everything possible that they would continue to exist even in far future, but it seems that they are condemned to be displaced by ethnic majorities of their homelands.

    • Migrant Tales

      —“I think many Roma will disagree with you.” You should stop speculating and ask themselves then. I’m…

      I have and those that I’ve spoken to consider themselves to be so-called kantasuomalaisia.

  4. intternetnetsi

    So you are telling ethnic finns wont exist and in same time telling that ethnic discrimination is not allowed….

    Today im zulu, tomorrow im inuit, then cherokee and then whatever i see….