In Finland the enemy is within and in the structures, not outside threatening us

by , under Enrique Tessieri

If I had to choose who discriminates and defends structural racism in Finland the most, I’d come to the following conclusion: Many of those who claim to be for social equality are the worst enemies of our culturally and ethnically diverse community. Their silence is one matter that exposes them but also their defensive stands whenever they feel that their power and privilege threatened.

If they feel threatened, they’ll go on the defensive and do everything to ensure that your efforts come to naught. Status quo sees another day in Finland.

A disgraceful example of the latter was the moral panic displayed by politicians in the face of the attack by a knife-wielding foreigner in Turku that left two dead and eight injured.

Their knee-jerk reaction and opportunism were so evident that even YLE wrote about the moral panic that had struck Finland.

People who belong to racist and bigoted groups like Finland First, Suomen Sisu, Suomen Vastarintaliike, the Perussuomalaiset* and others, are at least sincere about their hatred of cultural diversity. They are easy to spot. But what about those that smile in your face and assure you with a poker face to not to worry since social equality is guaranteed by the law?  

How can you spot these types of people? Easy. When they speak about how we all enjoy social equality and gender equality in this country, it’s usually a red herring.

While equality is paramount and an important value to defend in Finland, it is guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.  Alarm bells should be ringing whenever they justify their discriminatory behavior by stating that you come from “a backward culture,” or that Muslim women are oppressed, 

They don’t debunk myths but perpetuate them in order to disenfranchise, exert control over migrant and minority groups.

Read more about Denouncing Myths of Women’s Rights, Muslim Women, Feminism and Islamophobia in Europe here. Published by the European Network Against Racism.

If you believe such wise tales, that we’re all equal, you’ll wake up eventually when you look for a job. If you are lucky enough to get a job, you’ll discover that you have little power and are a second-class employee.

In a story Migrant Tales published in June, and using three practical nurses working at a large company in Helsinki, I highlighted how structural racism and discrimination work at one company.

There’s too much violence in Finland. The candles and the sorrow that paid their respect for  Jimi Karttunen’s, death in September are no longer there. Photo by Enrique Tessieri.

Here are some observations from the story:

  • If there is discrimination in our society, we will find it in the workplace in the form of power and privilege. White Finns will usually have priority over Other Finns and migrants like who gets to work the best hours;
  • Racism and discrimination are played down because the manager turns a blind eye to the problem;
  • People who deny racism underestimate migrants and minorities by believing that they don’t know what are such social ills, even if some experience racism on a daily basis;
  • At meetings, your opinions don’t count and carry little weight. If you do make a good suggestion,  you will not get credit;
  • If you complain and stand up for your rights, you will be singled out and treated as a troublemaker;
  • When you complain to the union or the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in Finland (Työsuojelu), there is little you can expect. Most of the people listening to you are white and have never experienced racism.

In the story, “How systemic racism and discrimination work in the Finnish workplace,” a practical nurse called Maryan, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tells us how she became paranoid about the system:

“And this is the reason why I feel so paranoid these days,” she admitted. “I thought I had the same right to disagree with the co-worker when she called me the n-word a number of times. I definitely overestimated who I am in Finland and what my rights are.”

Two sides, two extremes

We all know about how US President Donald Trump has emboldened white supremacists, the KKK, neo-Nazis and other racist groups with the “two sides” argument after what happened in Charlottesville that led to the death of a protestor.

In the same manner, President Sauli Niinistö speaks of the “two extremes” to claim, like in the Okie from Muskogee song, that there is a silent majority in Finland that doesn’t get excited about defending our Nordic values and human rights never mind applying them to newcomers.

Are the so-called tolkun ihmiset, or the silent majority, the ones that help to maintain the status quo? Are they the ones, like President Niinistö, who will tell black people that they enjoy equality in this country? Are they the ones who won’t do anything about challenging institutional racism and encourage you to sit and do nothing about defending your rights?

How does the tolkun phenomena work?

  • Society, politicians and public officials encourage you not to be too vocal about your rights. You can be vocal, but it must not exceed what they consider appropriate and acceptable. You can kick and bitch all you want, but as long nothing changes everything is fine;
  • You will rarely take part in meetings where decision-making takes place affecting the cultural diversity community. Why are so many anti-racism associations and public officials who hand money to such groups white?
  • If you are lucky enough to be at those meetings, your words will carry little weight. There’s very little to no follow-up;
  • In sum: the tolkun phenomena is supposed to maintain the status quo and keep matters as they are. Don’t rock the boat!
  • Denial is a synonym for tolkun environment.

You may rightly ask what kind of denial permits the tolkun environment. The answer is self-evident and right under our noses: We are in denial that Finland is, and always was, a culturally and ethnically diverse society. The tolkun person has no idea but he somehow believes that all those non-white people in Finland will either obediently return back to their home countries and/or will mysteriously turn white and become Christians.

Denial and overreaction are keeping this country from finding efficient and sensible solutions in coexisting with its ever-growing culturally and ethnically diverse society.

* After the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity.  One is more open about it while the other is more diplomatic. 

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.