Minority voices in the anti-racism debate

by , under Migrant Tales

Considering that discrimination in the labor market is well-documented in numerous studies, it is surprising how little is still being done to challenge this problem and how migrant and minority voices are excluded from the debate. True, some stories quote migrants, but they are usually the victims and not the experts with solutions.

The lack of minority voices in the debate allows for denial and fuels bias. With so few minorities in newsrooms, it should come as any surprise why so little is written about Islamophobia and why it is still not seen as a form of racism.

There are other factors like the majority’s fear of losing power, spreading hate speech in order to acquire power, ignorance, and our lack of will to challenge institutional racism and our prejudices.

Women’s rights are topics that migrant newcomers encounter when attending integration courses. Misogyny and feminism are important topics that everyone should understand. But other ones are equally important, like anti-racism, religious freedom, living in a culturally diverse society, and how to claim and defend one’s inalienable rights.

Terminology on the topic is also confusing. The term tasa-arvo (gender equality) is commonly used by the media, politicians, and even policy-makers to mean yhdenvertaisuus (non-discrimination). When politicians talk about gender equality, do they mean non-discrimination? Do they mean women’s rights are more important than social exclusion and racism against people of color?


Too many anti-discrimination bodies are another factor that creates confusion and blunts our efforts against discrimination.

The most important of these are the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman (Yhdenvertaisuusvaltutettu), which does not include discrimination cases at work; Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Finland (Työsuojelu), discrimination at work cases; and Ombudsman for Equality (Tasa-arvovaltuutettu), which handles gender discrimination cases.

Others worth mentioning are the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal (Yhdenvertaisuus ja tasa-arvo lautakunta) and the Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI).

Even for white Finns, the present system is confusing, considering that many of them have never heard of the existence of such bodies.

Shouldn’t Finland copy Sweden and Denmark, where one equality board handles all types of discrimination cases?

Do these different entities in Finland serve today’s ever-growing culturally and ethnically diverse communities?

In my opinion, they don’t work because of two reasons: lack of resources and legal power.

Instead of whining about the situation, we should rethink our anti-discrimination and anti-racism strategy to make Finland a more inclusive nation where difference is an asset, not an object of suspicion.