I read National Coalition Party (NCP) Interior Minister Petteri Orpo’s speech in parliament Wednesday about racism. While we’re moving in some direction on this front there is one factor that takes us off the path: denial.
Making a claim that the opinions of “a far right minority get too much attention” in the debate is a good example of how Orpo and other politicians play down the problem. How many far right politicians are there in parliament? Does the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party promote racism, hate speech and enable this “far right minority” to get attention?
Taking into account the latest #pizzagate scandal, which could be a good example of ethnic profiling, structural racism and outright discrimination and prejudice, Wednesday’s debate in parliament on racism and hate speech didn’t mention once this latest scandal by the police.
Read full story here.
As usual, the debate on racism and hate speech in our society normally vacillates with a positive statement against such a social ill but that is almost immediately followed by another affirmation that neutralizes the latter.
A good example of this was Orpo’s speech, who correctly pointed out that racism and hate speech should be challenged but then backtracked, according to a quote in Verkkouutiset:
“One can be critical of immigration policy or be concerned about the large number of migrants without being racist. During difficult times tolerance must address people’s concern and different opinions. Labeling somebody a racist is a harsh accusation.”
Before we study closer this claim by Orpo, it’s important to note that the PS, which have based their growing popularity on spreading urban tales and anti-immigration sentiment in Finland, is a partner in government with NCP and Center Party.
What surprises me most about the interior minister’s statement is that he uses the same language of those who are spreading anti-immigration sentiment in Finland. Classical examples of that are “being critical of immigration policy” and that we should “tolerate the intolerant.”
Terms like “immigration policy” and being “critical of immigration” are unfortunate examples of how the anti-immigration lobby has succeeded in determining what terms will be used to debate such a topic.
In my opinion, “immigration policy” and “being critical of immigration” are euphemisms for anti-immigration, anti-cultural diversity or anti-non-EU migration to Finland.
If the government were seriously against racism and “intolerance,” a much-used term in the Nordic to mean anti-racism, why doesn’t it use in its speech phases like “cultural and ethnic diversity”, “social and equal opportunity for all irrespective of the person’s background?”
The main question we should be asking as well is what are we concretely doing to challenge ever-growing racism and hate speech in our society?
Are there any new laws, apart from tightening family reunification guidelines again,that are being drafted? How many visible minorities are policemen, university professors, teachers and public servants? How are the voices of our ever-growing culturally and ethnically diverse society being heard by the majority?
Why do so-called “ethnic” Finns label Others as having some background like “person with migrant background?”
Why does the Finnish criminal code still does not recognize the term “hate crime.” When will Finland establish a racial equality board? Why can’t the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman handle cases involving discrimination at the world place?
These and others are some concrete steps that would challenge us to leave our comfortable “we are against racism catchphrase zone” and do something about challenging racism in Finland.
It’s highly unlikely, however, that anything will change on the above-mentioned fronts as long as you have a party like the PS in government. While the PS would oppose such changes, it’s clear that opposition would come from mainstream parties as well.
For those who may have conveniently forgotten, the PS bases its popularity on spreading anti-immigration and racist sentiment in Finland.
Doing the opposite would be committing political hara-kiri.
*The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.