Exposing Finnish white privilege #61: #NoRacismInUniversity #WeAreNotSkinColour

by , under Enrique Tessieri

The fact that a group of black researchers headed by Dr Faith Mkwesha are challenging institutional racism at Åbo Akademi reveals a lot about the nature of the beast and how too little is done today to tackle racism. Dr Mkwesha is a researcher at Helsinki University and Åbo Akademi. 

A petition, which has already received over 1,100 signatures, requests the rector of Åbo Akademi University, Mikko Hupa, and the Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen to put an end to all forms of racism against black, brown and racialized students at Finnish universities.

You can sign the petition here.

According to Dr Mkwesha, a black researcher at Åbo Akademi University found a racist card in the mailbox of her office. When a complaint was filed to the head of the gender studies department, there was nothing done to support and protect the researcher.

Another case involved a pregnant black student, whose husband died at the time when she was racially harassed by another student. The head of the gender studies department knew of the black student’s situation. In this case, both students were separated because the student felt uncomfortable about being in the same room with the black student.

The black student was required to come at night to the office at a time when she was in pain and mourning her husband’s death.

“It appears that there is a fear of the system and this is why some people don’t want to complain,” said Dr Mkwesha. “But its high time that we start to do something to change matters.”

The researcher said that she hopes that the ongoing campaign will fuel long-overdue debate about a very serious issue facing non-white students at institutions of higher learning.

“I hope and I am confident that our campaign will bring the long-overdue debate about racism at Finnish universities,” Dr  Mkwesha said. “This is a wake-up call.”

White Finnish privilege #61

The Cold War (1945-91) kept Finland geopolitically semi-isolated from Western Europe. We even saw the country’s small foreign population, which reached a peak in 1928 of 29,685 foreigners but plummeted 41 years later in 1970 to 5,483. Finland’s foreign population started to grow rapidly in the 1990s especially after 1995 when it became an EU member.

In 2017, there were 249,300 foreign nationals living in Finland.

The fact that the country is becoming more culturally and ethnically diverse is a challenge to white Finnish privilege and that Finnish universities must adapt to a new reality.

The #NoRacismInUniversity #WeAreNotSkinColour campaign reveals that even people with PhD degrees and students of higher education face today racism and discrimination. In many respects, there is a pattern as the recent case of Dr Jeevana Subasinghe shows: Challenging racism is dangerous to your career. One of the weapons used by those whom you are complaining against to counter complaints is silence and inaction.

“We must not allow this to happen anymore,” concluded Dr Mkwesha.

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