By Enrique Tessieri
The unprovoked killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, in the state of Florida in the United States has caused widespread national outrage especially among black USAmericans. How did we react in Finland when our own Trayvon Martins appeared after a killing spree took place involving three Muslims within about three weeks? On top of this we had a former councilman of a major Finnish party, the Perussuomalaiset (PS), saying publicly that he’d give one of the killers a medal.
The killing of Trayvon Martin was, like the deaths that occurred in Finland in late-January and early February, horrifying: The black Florida adolescent was visiting a friend of his father wearing a gray hoodie and with a pack of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Following him from behind was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old member of the local Neighborhood Watch, who thought the teen looked “suspicious.” The man shot and killed Martin on the spot with legal impunity protected in part by Florida’s expansive definition of self-defense.
Apart from a demonstration on February 25 in the cities of Oulu and Helsinki, only silence followed as the police were quick to rule out hate crimes. One gets the impression that ruling out the latter by the police appears to be their first and foremost aim.
But what can we expect if immigrants and visible minorities don’t have a say about their plight in this country? As long as the majority of the Finnish police are white Finns and as long as we have a large anti-immigration party in parliament like the PS, our silence will be encouraged and matters will continue as before.
Even so, our community must do more to voice its opinions and outrage at what happened in Oulu and Leppävaara. Racism and social exclusion shouldn’t be left off the hook as easily as now.
Until we do, Finland will unfortunately see more Trayvon Martins in the future with the blessing of our shameful silence.
But there is good news. Many of us have been moved by these tragic events and the spread of racism in our society. Migrant Tales is one example but there are many others like that of Miriam Attias, who has written two moving blog entries on Uusi Suomi and gathered up to 730 signatures for a petition asking for more debate in society about racism.
To sign the petition click here and scroll to Julkilausuma hiljaisuuden jälkeen: Riittää jo rasismi ja “suvaitsevaisuus” – tarvitsemme dialogia!