Exposing white Finnish privilege #48: Allow me to smear your religion so mine can shine

by , under Enrique Tessieri

What is surprising how Finnish white society has brought new topics in the discussion about the white Finnish narrative. A classic of this narrative is, with the help of denial, that we don’t have any issues with racism. If we deny racism we can smear other groups at will. 

The 1960s was a good decade for the xenophobe and Islamophobe. Finland’s geopolitical isolation from the world and its suspicion of foreigners allowed academics like Heikki Waris to claim the following:

“Racial homogeneity particularly characterizes the Finnish people who have practically no racial minorities…Consequently, racial prejudice and discrimination are nonexistent.”

Parties like the Perussuomalaiset, Blue Reform and others who are overtly or covertly hostile to cultural and ethnic diversity (non-white society), still use Waris’ argument. By having fewer people or restricting altogether migrants who are Muslims and from outside the EU, we can “reduce” racism as Waris incorrectly argued. It’s one of the false reasons why some want to return to the stuffy 1950s.

As one can appreciate, Waris wasn’t thorough in his deduction and critical enough about his whiteness. If you wanted to see racism in Finland during Waris’ time in the 1960s, all you had to do was ask the Roma and Saami minorities for an update.

The same denial and arguments used to whiten our society and weaken minorities and migrants today are, unfortunately, still blooming.

A radio talk show on YLE (in Finnish) below is a case in point. With little respect for our Constitution and our Nordic way of life, the talk show host uses her prejudices about Muslims to set the tone of the debate. The title of the program is revealing: The use of the Muslim veil – is it or not a personal matter?

Listen to the whole program (in Finnish) here. One question that I ask about the radio program is why are only Muslims targetted.

White Finnish privilege #48

I teach migrants, who are from outside the EU, about Finnish society. Those classes I teach aim towards a candid discussion about living in Finland. By “candid” I mean bringing the useful things about Finland and the Elephant into the room.

Some of the good things I mention about Finland, which I believe are crucial in helping them to adapt and become active citizens, is respect for diversity and different lifestyles. With respect to the veil, or hijab, that is a personal choice because it is a right guaranteed in the constitution.

In plain English, it means that there are different customs and lifestyles and they must be respected. Even if we may disagree that alcohol is a bad thing in my religion, I accept and respect other people’s right to drink alcohol.

Here’s a question I ask my students: What about if you respect somebody’s culture but they don’t respect yours?

Part of the answer to that question is active citizenship and using all the institutions and tools of society to change matters.

Allowing cultural bygones to be cultural bygones is not a bad idea as long as it doesn’t infringe on a person’s human rights. If we want tragic examples of the latter and why asylum seekers come to Finland, all we have to do is ask how the seeds of war and strife have overcome some Northern African and Middle Eastern countries.

If we gave power to people who still attack and loathe other people’s customs because they are different from ours, like some members of parties such as the PS, Blue Reform, and others do near-constantly, we’d be fanning the flames of discord and strife. Finland’s success story in the last century was partly made possible by becoming an inclusive society and promoting social equality.

Considering that YLE can produce a talk show with a poker face that questions another religion’s civil right to practice their faith, reveals that there is still a lot of work to do. The real message of the radio program is not concern for gender equality but an old red herring:

Only white Finns have the privilege to enjoy and demand social equality and fairness. As a non-white, you don’t have that right. Stay passive so we can continue to dismantle your culture and identity to suit our prejudices, bigotry and privileges.

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  1. Parsad

    There’s not a single day when we the minorities are not discriminitaed, everywhere we get humiliation and sorrow. The only place where they don’t discriminiate is the Zebra Crossing on the road where we are given way to cross the road. We are soon leaving Finland to migrate to another country (Canada). No Jobs given to us here, treated like lowest, brutally regarded as non existant here.

    I would also recommend International students to not even think of coming here to study.