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.

Why does a black person from the Dominican Republic or an Ecuatorian, who has an Amerindian background, suffer discrimination and racism in Spain? Is it because of his or her lack of knowledge of the Spanish language and culture or because of institutional racism?

Whenever a politician, policymaker, government official, or youth worker suggests that the sky is the limit with respect to adaption (just learn the language, for example), they wash their hands of their failure and complicity to adapt Other Finns.

If I were a white Finn who wants to keep institutional racism intact, I would blame failure in adaption on the migrant and minority. It is your fault! Try harder! You can do it!

Discriminatory and disenfranchising labels that fuel social exclusion are examples of how little Finnish society wants to do to change the order of things.

The topic of Finnish identity continues to be monopolized by white Finns. For now, if you aren’t white, you are most likely “a person of migrant background.”

As long as we do not look at ourselves in the mirror as a society, the so-called “immigrant” problem will worsen in Finland.