Exposing Finnish white privilege #65: Racism exists because our society profits from it

by , under Enrique Tessieri

What thoughts race in your head whenever a politician, public official, or white Finn rambles on about how social justice is a key value of our society and why racism and discrimination, which are illegal, have no place in Finland?

While the latter is important for newcomers to know, the issue is how such topics are taught and framed to students that have little idea of Finnish society.

I am a sociologist who has been an immigrant-Other all my life. It should not surprise you why I am interested in immigration topics.

The editor of Migrant Tales, Enrique Tessieri, with author and journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge, who authored Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Her book that focuses on feminism and structural racism is a classic of the anti-racism movement. Photo by Bashy Quraishy.

One of the courses I teach is “active citizenship” (Aktiivinen kansalainen). Nearly all my students came to Finland as refugees or are seeking asylum. Since I have a lot of respect for the students, I tell them frankly: Do you want me to teach the hypocrisy, spread myths, and lies about your new home country or tell how we can change matters?

When we talk in class about social ills like racism, the Perussuomalaiset*, and other toxic topics that impact newcomers negatively, I encourage them to organize and use all the democratic means available to change matters.

For those who whine silently, I offer them handkerchiefs.

None of the students cry. Some listen more attentively than others.

Finnish white privilege #65

Today, Saturday is a better example than any to show the impunity of Finnish white privilege in the media. An article by Yle on five reasons why discrimination exists in the labor market offered only a partial view of the issue. Helsingin Sanomat published a human interest story on the same day about PS first vice-president, Riikka Purra.

One of the problems with the Yle article is that it absolves the police, politicians and other public officials for doing little to nothing to challenge discriminatory practices in the labor market. If you disagree, look at the underwhelming number of discrimination cases that are mentioned by the Yle article.

Likewise, the Helsingin Sanomat article of Purra is another example of toothless Finnish white privilege journalism. Nowhere in the story does the writer challenge Purra’s Islamophobic far-right views. Even the book she is reading by James Burham, “Suicide of the West,” exposes the PS politician’s ideology, which is mistrustful to migrants and Western liberal values.

Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán dispises Western liberalism.

Purra’s party and herself are the ones fueling the hostile environment against migrants and minorities in Finland. The Helsingin Sanomat article offers us, instead, exalting pictures of Purra.

Both articles highlight why racism and discrimination have impunity in Finland. Both articles were written by white Finns who have never suffered racism in their country. Moreover, they don’t grasp how these articles fuel the hostile environment.

If the Roma minority has lived in Finland for over 500 years and faces racism and social exclusion even today, at this pace migrants and minorities will have to wait centuries for matters to improve.

Do we have to wait so long? Do we have to accept that we are second-class members of society?

Matters will never improve as long as our voices are faintly heard and our activism half-hearted. Even so, we are fortunate. We have many exemplary activists who are challenging the present order of things.

Migrant Tales wants to congratulate Maryan Abdulkarim, a true activist for social justice, for being awarded the Minna Canth award.

Canth (1844-97) was one of Finland’s foremost writers who wrote about social issues like women’s rights in nineteenth-century Finland.

See also:

*A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.