Migrant Tales (March 22, 2012): Is Finland ready for cultural diversity?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Migrant Tales insight: This opinion piece was published over three years ago. on an article published about 20 years ago.  Do you believe what J.W. Berry wrote still holds true for Finland? Are we closer or further away from building a successful culturally and ethnically diverse society? 


In light of social ills like racism and social exclusion in Finland, J. W. Berry of Queen’s University of Canada offers us an opportunity to ask a very important question: Are we in Finland ready for cultural diversity? If we still aren’t quite there yet, how long will it take? 

Nationalism is a double-edged sword. It served to unite and mold a social construct like the national identity of the Finns but in the process it excluded other groups.

While great injustices were committed against us by Stalin, we have to learn to forgive and move on. This is necessary if we want to build a well-functioning culturally diverse society that reaps synergies and grows successfully. But taking into account the political situation in Russia, such a task can be challenging.

We should, however, not mix the Russian people and individuals with its past and present political system and leaders.

Our national identity should not hinge on those rivers of blood from former wars but how we turned this society after those wars into a successful Nordic welfare state. Lasting values like social equality and social justice should unite us today, not the hatred that lingers from those conflicts.

Doing away with our ethnic and national myths, which constantly remind us that we are under threat from the outside world and that war is only a heartbeat away, will be easier said than done.

Certainly I would want to be an optimist and state that this wretched period is only a short temporary phase.  Admitting that things will be better in a few years time is, however, an exercise in self-deception.

I hope, however, that time will prove me wrong.

But let’s look at Berry’s view* on the factors that make a culturally diverse society possible. According to him, there are four criteria:

  1. There needs to be a general support for cultural diversity as a valuable resource for a society.
  2. There should be overall low levels of prejudice in the population.
  3. There should be generally positive mutual attitudes among the various ethnocultural groups that constitute the society.
  4. There needs to be a degree of attachment to the larger national society.

All these points could be debated for and against about our society. Possibly some would claim that all four points are met with flying colors by our society. Others would disagree.

I believe it’s not a question whether we are ready or not for culturally diversity. The fact is that our society is already culturally diverse and we should learn to deal with it.

If the aim of political parties like the Perussuomalaiset [1] has been to make Finland white again, then it’s clear that they’ve failed.

* J. W. Berry: Prejudice, Ethnocentrism and Racism. Siirtolaisuus-Migration 2/1996. pp. 5-9.

[1] The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names 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.