Exposing white Finnish privilege #43: White versus dark skin

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Brown is beautiful just like black and white are beautiful, right? Add to the latter equation power and privilege and a more sinister picture emerges: White is beautiful but brown and black aren’t. 

Finland is such a racialized country and so conscious of its whiteness that it only sees people through a very narrow lens: white Finns or non-white Finns.

Whiteness is such a powerful matter in Finland that some non-white children learn not stay under the sun too long for fear that their skin won’t become too tanned.

Some, like Rosa Emilia Clay, Finland’s first African-born naturalized Finn and primary school teacher, kept her African background a secret from her children.

Clay’s granddaughter, Normalee Johnsson, wrote in a letter in 2009 that was partly published in Helsingin Sanomat:

“When mother died, we learned her secret: we had African blood in our veins! Finally we understood why mother always wore a bonnet and long sleeves in the summer. What we could not understand is why she kept our African, Arab, and English heritage a secret. For a while it was shocking that I didn’t know who I really was.” 

Those who know a little about Clay’s life in Finland, are well aware of the racism she faced and suffered.

Like hundreds of thousands of other Finns, Clay emigrated to the United States in 1904.

She never returned to Finland.


Various shades of brown. Source: Citizen by Chance

White Finnish privilege #43

Racism and white privilege are such powerful forces that some people spend their lives passing as white, according to a story in the Washington Post.

Just like in Clay hid her ethnicity from her children, the question is why do some want to hide their ethnicity? Why do some minority teenagers want to stay away from the sun so their skin won’t get too tanned?

The answer: white power, which is relentless and destructive to non-white people.

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  1. intternetnetsi

    As a guy who is in winter practically transparent so you cant get whiter than that and in summer im second hand negro because i do tan a lot. In summer im tan as fuck and i have never heard negative comment because of my tan or tan of anyone.

    Never seen or heard anyone to talk badly on normal tan, spray stuff and artificial stuff get their share but normal…

    you are again telling us how US worked 100 years ago and tell that its somehow finns fault…

    My tan is way over middle east but not africa. Deep brown.