Do “mamu” an “maahanmuuttajataustainen” downgrade people in Finland into “us” and “them?”

by , under Enrique

There are two words I’d be very careful with in Finland: mamu and maahanmuuttajataustainen especially at schools to single out third-culture children. The first label is the shortened word for maahanmuuttaja, or immigrant, while the second one means person with immigrant background. 

Kuvankaappaus 2013-10-12 kello 10.20.29
Migrant Tales has written previously about the use of mamu like this blog entry above.

Both of these labels were devised by the majority population to single out immigrants and minorities from the rest of the population.

If we are serious about inclusion and promoting mutual acceptance and respect in this country, labels such as mamu and maahanmuuttajataustainen encourage the opposite.

In order to call somebody an ethnic name you have to know the person pretty well and then proceed with caution. If Finns call immigrants mamu is it then ok in the media for men to call women gimma and women call men, äijä? In certain special cases it may be ok but rarely.

Since ethnic and group labels have a strong impact on how we perceive other groups, we should be careful how we use them. One good question we could ask is if the label promotes social equality or inequality? Does it encourage inclusion or exclusion?

In my opinion, labels like mamu and especially maahanmuuttajataustainen at schools don’t promote social equality and exclusion but exactly the opposite.

These terms exist and are used because their aim is to divide others into “us” and “them.”












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