In the hands of white Finnish privilege, our ever-growing cultural and ethnic diversity is a pathway of good intentions and social exclusion

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Or is the saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions?”

One would think that the great amount of effort put into Finland’s educational system would help it to come to grips with social ills like racism and xenophobia. If we look at the political landscape of Finland, and how hostile this country has become for some migrants and visible minorities, it shows that something vital like tolerance and respect weren’t taught enough at school never mind at home.

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The #I, too, am Finland! campaign was a very successful way of promoting inclusion.

It’s ironic that all those things that made Finland into a successful country today, even like its military victories of the Winter War (1939-49) against a vastly outnumbered Red Army, are threatening us today.

Take for instance the Winter War, when Finland was attacked by the former Soviet Union on November 30, 1939. Not only do we know of the military exploits of the Finnish army during that gruelling 105-day war, but how it helped to unite a country by healing the wounds of the 1918 Civil War.

If the Winter War did a lot to unify the country, it reinforced as well our suspicions of Russia, which still exist today, and of the outside world.

Certainly living next to an autocratic state like the USSR can bring out the worst or the best in any nation.

The worst that our relationship with out giant eastern neighbor has fuelled is xenophobia and hostility to cultural diversity. With the help of negative attitudes of foreigners, building of social constructs and laws like the Restricting Act of 1939, were easy to keep in force for decades. For one they helped us as well to “forget” the over 1.2 million Finns that emigrated from this land between 1860 and 1999 and what they contributed to our diverse Finnish identity.

For these reasons and others, Finland was never a breeding ground for cultural diversity but a hostile place for it.

Since white Finnish-speaking Finland has monopolized this “privilege,” which gives it near-total control of political, economic and social power, it’s clear why some Finns are today so uneasy about our ever-growing cultural and ethnic diversity.

I for one am an optimist about Finland’s bright future as a culturally and ethnically diverse nation. I’m optimistic because our diversity as a nation is a fact, not a social construct like white Finnish privilege.

If we don’t succeed at challenging matters like intolerance, we run the risk of impoverishing ourselves.

It’ll be like be on a road to impoverishment where we’ll smile cordially at each other with the best intentions to the road to hell.