Exceptional Finns with immigrant backgrounds

by , under Enrique

Some Exceptional Finns with so-called immigrant backgrounds are Husein Muhammed, Nasima Razmyar, Arman Alizad, Tino Singh, Abdirahim Husu Hussein and Ali Jahangiri. All of them have one thing in common: They are exceptions to the stereotype but have immigrant backgrounds.  

But how can you call a person who has lived most of his or her life in Finland “a person with immigrant background” if he speaks Finnish or Swedish as his main language or is near-perfectly bilingual? For how long must that person carry that extra label, immigrant background, before he or she is accepted?

You know that there is something fishy about the whole term, Exceptional Finns, since anti-immigration parties like the Perussuomalaiset, speak in favor of these types of immigrants and Finns.

Exceptional minorities permit racists to be racists. You are an exception and therefore you can get your shoes shined. Only exceptional people count from your ethnic group. Let’s not dwell on the problem: Why are people shining shoes and living in poverty in the first place? Answer: They are not exceptions.  Source: Flickr.

The fact that these exceptional people are not considered full-fledged Finns (because they have that drop of immigrant background) not only reveals a lot about our racism but our views of cultural diversity.

Cultural diversity is not a social illness. It not colorblind as well. It is a lifestyle-identity choice that we make personally and which society should protect and encourage. Whether we want to hyphenated our identity or not is a personal choice. It is our choice.

The existence of the Exceptional Finn with immigrant background reveals how some want to eat their racist cake and have it at the same time. It permits them to feel like they are not racist even if they are. This line of thinking in a white Finnish world would work in the following way: Those who do not succeed at becoming exceptions are failures.

In many respects, and in a Finnish context, all these cases represent what Julian Abagond calls in the United States Exceptional Negroes.

“Exceptional Negroes are those who are ‘no like other blacks.’ They do not fit the stereotypes. Sometimes they achieve great things, rise to the top of their field,” writes Abagond. “They become sports heroes, film stars, tokens, black best friends, beloved servants and so on. Some even have white fans, lovers or admirers.”

Language plays an important role in Finland and is an important factor fueling discrimination.  Finland’s large white Russian community is a case in point.

 

 

  1. JM

    “Some Exceptional Finns with so-called immigrant backgrounds are Husein Muhammed, Nasima Razmyar, Arman Alizad, Tino Singh, Abdirahim Husu Hussein and Ali Jahangiri.”

    You might also want to research Teuvo Tulio or Räshid Nasretdin if you are looking for figures of the past. (Assuming you aren’t familiar with either of course).

  2. JusticeDemon

    This is all about visibility.

    I have worked with several successful individuals with at least one immigrant parent, some of them born abroad, who “disclosed” this fact to me after we had established a close and friendly working relationship.

    In one case I noticed that my Finnish-speaking student (the CEO of a highly respected engineering consulting firm) made regular comparisons between English, Finnish and German. It turned out that he had attended the German School in Helsinki. I remarked that it can be quite difficult for immigrant families to get their children into these “special” schools, because so many Finnish families enrol their children on waiting lists at birth. At this point my student confided in me that his father was a naturalised German who had Finnicised his name.

    In another case I helped to organise a business seminar event at which a highly respected marketing consultant was one of our teachers. Towards the end of the third seminar of this kind somebody asked a question about whether a certain strategy was suitable for “umbrella organisations”. Our teacher responded to this as if the question had concerned businesses that make or sell umbrellas. After we pointed out this amusing misunderstanding, the speaker admitted that English was his fourth language after Finnish, Italian and Swedish. He had spoken Italian with his immigrant parents at home. This came as a surprise to everyone present, including three senior civil servants who had worked closely with the speaker for several years.

    There really are a lot of exceptional individuals whose immigrant background remains invisible even to their closest associates. They tend to be highly talented achievers, but they are generally rather reluctant to dwell on their intercultural identity. This reluctance – which is often an ingrained habit born of the need to avoid school bullying and other forms of victimisation – has the drawback of perpetuating the idiotic myth of cultural homogeneity in Finland.

    This behaviour pattern is still continuing. In quite a few cases I have heard first-generation immigrants describe themselves initially as Ingrian Finns, only to admit later (and on more friendly acquaintance) that they are in fact the Russian spouse of an Ingrian returnee. It’s a safe bet that their children will end up controlling trading and cultural relations with Finland’s most populous immediate neighbour, but I’d like to think that they will not be as reluctant as the present generation to admit their intercultural origins.

    • tp1

      What is there to explain? They are making a big fuss just because of the actor’s skin colour. That is a school book example of racism.

      And how people have responded to that poll. Majority of people opposes that black skinned actor is playing the role.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –That is a school book example of racism.

      tp1, no it isn’t. Race, as they commonly use in the U.S., and ethnicity in Europe have roles in discrimination. Not recognizing this fact is racism, or what some call colorblind racism. If you do a search on Migrant Tales, you will find that we have written a lot about colorblind racism.

  3. Mark

    tp1

    What is there to explain? They are making a big fuss just because of the actor’s skin colour. That is a school book example of racism.

    Let’s take this at face value. When the media made a fuss over the first black president of the US, that was racism? When people talk about racism and discrimination based on people’s skin colour, that is racism? When people see another person’s skin colour and dwell on it for five hundredths of a second, that is racism?

    Oh, can you provide this ‘school book’ where you found this definition of racism, please!

    Majority of people opposes that black skinned actor is playing the role.

    And this isn’t racism? If they object merely because of the skin colour, it isn’t racism? And yet they are focusing on skin colour, which by your definition, amounts to racism.

    Your definitions and application of those definitions appear to be highly selective AND inconsistent.

  4. Iam

    Thanks Mr Enrique
    Have a joyful day dear Enrique
    And how is my all?
    Mr all, he he he
    I know UUU look at all answers 🙂
    So i say u a fat hi plus
    Have a happy day UUU beautiful all

  5. tp1

    And this isn’t racism? If they object merely because of the skin colour, it isn’t racism? And yet they are focusing on skin colour, which by your definition, amounts to racism.

    What is wrong with you? That is EXACTLY what I wrote, that in my opinion that is racist. And now you ask that kind of question. Go figure…

    • Mark

      tp1

      You think that people who object to this are being racist, and yet anyone that refers to the skin colour is also a racist? Let’s be clear here, because so far you have shown the consistency of a wet fart!

  6. tp1

    Oh, can you provide this ‘school book’ where you found this definition of racism, please!

    Definition of racism is to treat people differently because of their colour. And this is exactly what this article did. They made the implications that this person is not suitable for the role because of his skin colour. And that’s what in my opinion is racist.

    • Mark

      tp1

      Definition of racism is to treat people differently because of their colour. And this is exactly what this article did. They made the implications that this person is not suitable for the role because of his skin colour. And that’s what in my opinion is racist.

      Actually, I disagree. While I think it is interesting that Mannerheim be played by a man who is black, I don’t think that protests against it are necessarily racist. People might be stuck on the idea of ‘historical accuracy’.