Exposing white Finnish privilege #75: Obsession with race, ethnicity, and us versus them

by , under Enrique Tessieri


If we want to give a massive blow to racism in Finland and parties that promote this social ill, we need to change the language we use when speaking of all those that live here. One label that I have always disliked is “person with migrant or foreign background.”

What does it mean and why is it used?

In many respects, it is a hostile term whose main purpose is to exclude and distinguish people who are so-called “real” Finns and those who are not. How can a person with a foreign background, even if he or she was born here, compete if you are from nowhere?

It’s encouraging that Green League politicians like Maria Ohisalo, the minister of the interior, brought this up in a session of parliament. In an interview, she reiterated her message: “Many youths have asked me how long them must be a person of migrant origin before they can be Finnish citizens.”

Placing people in such categories offers racist amunition. Racist and Islamophobic politicians from parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* have a narrative to protect.

Fortunately, there are people who are challenging these racist categories. AfroFinns, brown Finns and any other types of Finns come to mind.


If we want to give racism a blow, we need to change the language we use when speaking of Other cultural and ethnic groups in Finland.

The labels and langauge we use must inspire inclusion, not exclusion.

Even if Finland is a highly racialized country with some circles obsessed by its whiteness, I am confident that this will change in time and that classifictions used by Statistics Finland will become history.

Statistics Finland has some doozies for ethnic classification like (a) person of Finnish origin born in Finland; (b) person of Finnis origin born abroad; (c) person of foreign background born abroad; (d) person of foreign background born in Finland; (e) unknown.

See original page here.

What do all of these “ethnic” categories mean and why are they important? The role is clear and one important factor is ensuring that we continue being a racialized society.

Even if my mother is Finnish, and I am a Finn in theory, I have been reminded all my life that I am not a Finn. Even an employer once called me “a migrant” knowing perfectly well my Finnish background.

A lot of work is needed to change the present state of affairs.

If we succeed in the task, we will take a huge step in turning Finland into a country that lives up to its ideals of social justice.

It will also offer as well a one-way ticket to a very dark place for the Jussi Halla-ahos, Riikka Purras, and Wille Rydmans of Finnish poltics.

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