How to battle racism in Finland

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

A student from an African country asked me about moving to a city in Eastern Finland. “Is it a nice place?” he said, meaning if there was a lot of racism. Since we can never predict when racism will strike, one good way of confronting this social ill in Finland and Europe is by not running away from it.

Things have been so bad in many parts of Finland that some ethnic groups fear going to a night club alone. Usually they visit these places with a group but never alone.

One may ask how is it possible that some ethnic groups would not chance being in a night club alone for fear of being attacked. What kind of country are we living in? Why do public officials and the police play down this social ill?

The reason why most cases of racism and harassment go unreported in this country is because there is a strong culture of denial in the police for these types of crimes.

A policeman from Mikkeli told a group of foreign students that if they are yelled at and harassed in public they should ignore these insults and not report it to the police. He compared racist harassment with the type of jokes people throw at him as a policeman when he visits his home town.

Certainly another cause for not reporting racist crimes in Finland are immigrants themselves. This has to change not for the sake of the victim but for their children and grandchildren.

It doesn’t matter what “official Finland” thinks about racism. It is what we think of it and how we will react to it.

There are many ways skinning racism but one of them is not running away from the problem.

  1. bryan

    nice start, but was expecting it to develop into something. there are many ways to develop this issue, and the debate should continue. personally, after many years of fighting racism, I believe Finland needs a strong central body (like the Anti Nazi League did in the UK) to give a voice and direction to what happens. When people see organised protest, they tend to feel stronger in their own convictions, and are hence more likely to be ‘onside’ for future interventions. The same people are the ones that change the opinions / complacency of those around them. This is not the only thing needed, of course, but would be a big step forward for dealing with the lack of participation in dealing with both racism in general, and the kind of institutionalised racism we witness from some of the police force, for example. Bring things to the forefront – only then will those with power see that they really have to respond to public opinion.

    • Enrique

      Hi bryan and welcome to Migrant Tales! While these organizations are important, the factor that will kill racism is public opinion and awareness.

  2. Mary Mekko

    “is it a nice place?” really means, “is there a lot of racism?” WOW! Here in the US, if a person asks, is that a “nice neighborhood”, it implies a safe and WHITE neighborhood. So it is possible that your (presumably nonwhite) African was wondering if he (or she) would be entering a safe, quiet and decent area, not a dangerous area, as Africa is full of such bad sections, to be avoided by all races. Look where Obama’s halfbrother lives in the slums of Nairobi, certainly not a NICE PLACE!!!

    Meanwhile, if a nonwhite in Finland, as a male, is afraid to go to a nightclub alone, welcome to the plight of most white women in USA. They also are afraid to go alone, because mostly nonwhite males are aggressive in these places. So if a male from Africa finally experiences what we white females fear, well, perhaps that would be a good lesson for him, perhaps he will reflect on his brothers’ behavior that has created so much animosity towards all blacks. Do you think he will really give it some thought? Probably not! Male cultures down there thrive on dominance of women, and for such a male to understand a woman’s view: hmmm.

    Let him gain solace in that he cannot or probably will not report to the police, just as white women here rarely take advantage of the HATE CRIME laws on the books. They will be laughed at. I tried it myself once and was LAUGHED AT by the black police at the police station in the Divisidero, a black neighborhood. Me, a white woman, victim of hate crime? Well, yes, since I was a teenager riding the buses, but it was the first time I reported it.

    Perhaps a foreign student, male and nonwhite, feeling afraid and unwelcome, will not choose Finland as his new country. Would that be bad for Finland? You decide. Not you, Enrique, you the Finns, especially female Finns, who want to go to nightclubs alone in safety at night.

    Yes, Enrique, you lived in California. You know full well why the politicians and police play down these social ills, making all people, especially women, suffer violence and harassment. The police even dare to reprimand WOMEN that they are wrong to be out at night! Not the blacks and Latinos harassing them!!!! Sounds like Indira Gandhi is needed to declare a curfew on the men in the USA!!!

    So don’t act too innocent and outraged that it happens in Finland… Finns do not want the chaos of this country coming to their streets, and they have good reason to fear it.

    Poor Finland.

  3. BoredinFinland

    Mary Mekko, what a horrible human being you are. Please, where does that hate come from? I do have been in the slums in Nairobi, and you know what? I have found better people there than in others “full of whites” (as you have said) countries. Let me remind you that you are white only because you do not have enough sun during the year (poor of you) for your skin pigmentation to develop….

  4. Max

    Hi Enrique. I just pretend I didn’t read the message from “mary mekko”. It is really not worth neither the time nor the effort to answer to that kind of trash. And I believe I just anticipated one of the ways that could help us to combat racism. I might be totally wrong, but I noticed that, what people of e.g. hommafoorumi really want is to discuss immigration issues with high profile politicians or Government officials.

    This of course increases their credibility and profile. And it would be ok if we were dealing with ordinary people. The problem is that, if you accept to start discussing immigration issues with them, you will soon find yourself in a corner, where they will just aim and throw at you all possible trash, sorry, I mean facts. In fact, as we all know, Halla-aho and his henchmen are the one and only depository of absolute truth, which makes it quite difficult to start any kind of serious conversation.

    On the other hand, turning the other cheek to people like that will result in more public exposure for them and their ideas. The more we talk about them, the more people get to know their ideas. Unfortunately people are in general very easy to manipulate, if you are so sleazy to take advantage of their lack of knowledge, fear and prejudices. And they are good at it!

    People like that must be ignored and treated like a viral disease. You do not give them a chance to spread racial hatred, insult and humiliate and label whole societies based only on their own twisted, psychopathic view of the world. And all this in the name of freedom of speech.

    The freedom of speech they advocate, whenever we try to stop them, is an excellent piece of evidence of their cowardliness, their way to hide behind higher values and rights. If there was no Internet, today they wouldn’t dare to say the same things in front of a crowd. This would be for them quite a reality check and put a sudden stop to their wrongful use of the right of freedom of speech. But nowadays, although we have internet, we don’t need to put up with people like mary mekko & C. We should just ignore them.

    • Enrique

      Hi Max, welcome to Migrant Tales and thank you for your insightful thread. You make very good points. At the end of the day people in the PS that have made a name for themselves with racism are people who like attention. They are like the social used car salesmen who found the old sales pitch of racism to sell their “cars” to voters. They are also cowards who enjoy bashing other people for fun and political profit. Usually the people they loathe cannot debate with them. Probably the worse mistake they have made is that they actually believe in their fantasies. For a person to claim that the Nuremberg trials was a farce shows not only ignorance but a lack of perspective. In other words, many of Finland’s Counter-Jihadists are a bunch of social welfare spoiled kids seeking attention.

  5. Mary Mekko

    BoredinFinland, who cares what makes a man’s skin black or mine white? I am discussing the behavior of different groups, not their skin color.

    Obama’s brother also makes the claim that the denizens of the Nairobi slums are very good people, simply trying to survive in almost-desperate circumstances. He wrote a whole book on this, which I read with great interest. I don’t condemn anyone for the color of his or her skin, but his (usually his) behavior towards me, based on my skin color. I have been the victim of racial hatred often growing up in San Francisco, as have many white women throughout the USA. The harassment and nasty language, the cruel hate crimes against young women of white skin, is beyond belief, that it is not stopped by the nonwhite community leaders or the male white leaders. How often I was called “white bitch” at random, just walking down the street, by nonwhite males, goes into the thousands of times. I never reported it to the police because I had no say in these matters – I was supposed to suffer their dominance in the public life, and if I complained, I was a “racist”. White boys and men were not doing this to me, I can assure you. It was definitely racially motiviated hate crime.

    Did I provoke them? Never. I walked with eyes down and in no way making contact. That did not stop their anger and hatred.

    Yes, I am angry at them. Yes, I have something to say about it. I have the right to NO HARASSMENT in my own city, even if in Nairobi I am a foreigner subject to hate crimes.

    If you can’t deal with the victim’s anger, then you don’t understand due to your own racial blindness: you can’t imagine a white person as a victim of racism.

    Wake up, dude. Your kith and kin aren’t the only victims of hate crime in the West.

  6. Yossie


    “it would be ok if we were dealing with ordinary people”

    Ah, so we are not dealing with ordinary people? Those people are below you? so you dont need to bother arguing against them like you would with “ordinary people”? I think this is something Enrique has called along the lines of “justifying your hatred because these people are lower than yourself”.

    “The problem is that, if you accept to start discussing immigration issues with them, you will soon find yourself in a corner, where they will just aim and throw at you all possible trash, sorry, I mean facts.”

    I think this shows the rather unfortunate situation about where we stand. You see it as anti-immigration people only thow trash at you. They cant have any facts right? Enrique went discrediting a professor of demographics only because he was part of immigratin watch or something along the lines. Basically for you people, the only “right” information can come from the people who are in favor of immigration. What a cycle, why should anti-immigration people believe anything from those who are in favor of immigration either then?

  7. BoredinFinland

    I wonder how Finns could move forward the debate if it is clear that (1) It is hard for Finns to accept that they are not perfect and that their “number one” place in different societal aspects (including immigration policies) in the world might be misleading and ….what it is worse …it is probably being supported by dubious national statistics/studies ; (2) Plus 1 to Max! Yep, arguments used by these people who support the PS party are mainly focused in exposing themselves as a victims of immigrants in this country (!). To start solving the problem, there must be a consensus that there is a huge problem of exclusion towards immigrants (first, second and next generation) …

    Mary Mekko, I feel sorry for you. I have dealt with a lot of discrimination in my life….because of my social status, my skin colour, my gender, my nationality, my age, and so on! I was told in Nariobi I was a muzungu! I know what you are talking about. And guess what? I am not bitter. Try to exercise empathy instead of hate. Imagine that, those people who insult you have received worse treatment for centuries, they have been invaded by foreigners who stole their land (Latinos), and in the worse cases treated like animals (Africans). Obviously the colour of the skin matters to you, otherwise you would avoid using terms like “race” “white” etc. Do not use those terms in a naive or simplistic way Please, because it makes your argument sounds very low.

  8. Max

    Yossie: first, you are not below me or anyone else, but you are not above anyone either. You are just far from my set of values which define my way of relating to others. This might be the main point of discordance between our worlds, but the same rule applies in everyday life: if you want to start discussing with someone about anything, you should at least be able to show some respect. If you cannot retain yourself and constantly feel the urge to express racist, insulting comments, you cannot pretend to be respected and considered as a credible counterpart in any kind of debate.

    Secondly, I do not really hate people who are against foreigners, I fear them. If you are not able to follow the simplest rules of social engagement but want just spread hatred and prejudice, you are only a liability for any kind of society. This kind of antisocial behaviour, mostly, but not only, through the Internet, is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in any democratic society. Hatred breeds only more hatred and violent responses from both sides. Legal systems have developed instruments like the penal code in order to deal with people just like you. Unfortunately, no legal system is perfect, but we are getting there, also thanks to you, for once.

  9. Yossie


    “Legal systems have developed instruments like the penal code in order to deal with people just like you”

    Excuse me what? Are you actually saying I have broke some laws? Are your refering me as a criminal? for what?

    You said yourself

    “if you want to start discussing with someone about anything, you should at least be able to show some respect. If you cannot retain yourself and constantly feel the urge to express racist, insulting comments, you cannot pretend to be respected and considered as a credible counterpart in any kind of debate. ”

    Are you not being really insulting towards me there? Have you already included me to your “People like that must be ignored and treated like a viral disease”?

    Can you live by your own rules?

  10. khr

    In the linked article, I don’t see how the police would be downplaying racism, The whole thing is about how police is worried about that racist crime might be becoming more violent.

    As for reporting harassment, the situation is unfortunate. The resources for investigation are limited, and so minor crimes tend to be triaged to rather low priority. Let alone those where proving the alleged crime is a word against word situation. The situation is same for any harassment between people who do not know each other, whether racism is involved or not. I don’t see any realistic way for officials to affect the situation. It is up to the general population to not tolerate harassment in the public space, should they encounter it.

  11. Max

    Yossie, I have quite frankly a problem with your comments. I have the feeling that you are indeed one of those people who spend their lives to spread disinformation on the net. I might be wrong, but here is why I think like this:

    1. Your last message could be understood as an attempt to disguise yourself as a non-racist, just in favour of freedom of speech for everyone, bla, bla bla. Very abused and useful way to gain some credibility in forums, before uncovering the true intentions.

    2. Your instant reaction to my words was to portray yourself as a victim. Insulted? Why? Isn’t that the freedom of speech you all shout for? This is another typical, hypocritical behaviour of racist people.

    3. You mentioned the professor of demographics: another typical and extremely hideous habit racist people have to sustain their own theories. You wonder why racist people can’t have any facts right. You should also wonder why some professors and researchers do not consider honesty in academic work a priority and do research work starting from the results, so that they can look for suitable data to substantiate their theories. This kind of researchers is highly respected and often quoted by racist groups.

    4. You are trying to justify racists’ rights to defame, offend and mortify foreign nationalities and religious groups as a whole, spread their propaganda and after all this, in your opinion we should grant them the right to be considered as a socially acceptable counterpart in a debate. Sorry man, I’m gonna tell you this nicely: this is NOT acceptable by any standard and if you want to fight for this kind of rights you’d better get used not to ask for any respect.

    This really adds injury to insult! How the hell some people can even dare to think of being respected after all they do and say! Please!

    5. All your comments point in one direction only: hommafoorumi, kansallismielinen keskustelupalsta, Scripta & C.

    • Enrique

      Max and khr have very, very good points. People like Yossie and others argue from the point of view that immigrants are either (a) self-sustaining (they must come here and produce for us) and (b) we’ll tell/teach them what they should know. We may speak of two-way integration but it is in fact one-way. Because the view is from a high and dry place looking down, there can never be any meaningful interaction. Racist arguments are used to keep one group dominating others. This recipe or model spells disaster. It could, however, offer us a good way to measure racism/prejudice in Finland.

      To conclude, immigration is a dynamic two-way process. We get a lot back by giving. A sort of informal rule about social media: whatever you offer on the net you get back.

    • Enrique

      Max, you know the answer: assimilation is one-way integration. It’s pretty incredible that some people, especially the Hommaforum crowd, don’t know a simple difference between assimilation and integration. Their views of “integration” is subjective and narrow; in other words they want immigrants to assimilate to Finland to fit their prejudiced views. It’s all quite insane.

      If, for example you go to Ireland, they like to speak of “interculturalism,” which, in my view, means two-way integration. As you know, in Finland we use the term multiculturalism to mean many things. For a Halla-aho it means a failed policy that allows Muslims and Africans to move to Finland while for others, like Migrant Tales, it means the Canadian social policy implemented in the 1980s.

  12. Max

    Hi Enrique, I just wanted to make sure we are talking about the same thing. Yes, I agree with you, but I’m afraid that some people in hommaforum and most persut know very well the difference between assimilation and integration. It’s no coincidence that they published things like the “nuiva vaalimanifesti or last June that declaration “against” racism. This is funny stuff! Anyway, these people are really giving a new meaning to the word shamelessness.

    Going back to your script, in the Finnish Police I believe there are excellent people, who know well how to deal with problems like the one you mentioned. I also believe that the real problems are in the higher ranks of the Police, as well as the Border Guard and Migri. When it comes to immigrants, foreigners, asylum seekers, they tend to be extremely overzealous in interpreting and enforcing the law, mostly and preferably in the strictest possible way and you can see this kind of attitude deeply embedded in the whole organisation. Unfortunately, these are not that kind of organisations where subordinates are entitled to have an opinion. As khr says, the police is worried, yes it’s true, but it’s also true that they are not doing much about it. I understand anyway the challenge the police is facing. I’m still optimistic that new blood in the police forces will start challenging the status quo and bring a change. A change that is long overdue, though.

    • Enrique

      Hi Max, when you speak of the older people on the force you are talking about those that still worked when there were hardly any foreigners living in Finland. We could say that it is something leftover from the cold war era where, institutions like the police, had their own set of rules when dealing with foreigners. Check, for example, the Aliens’ Office under Eila Kännö. While I want to agree with you that things are improving in the police, I still feel that there is a credibility crisis. The police have always traditionally called for a tough line against immigrants. For some immigrants are seen as a threat bringing crime etc to the country.

      When we start seeing Finnish police of different ethnicities things will start to change for the better. As long as you have minorities underrepresented or not represented in key public places things will continue to be as they are.

      I would like to say, however, that there are many Finns who are fed up with the prejudice and the “poor-immigrant” way that some immigrants are treated in Finland.