Racism in Finland and elsewhere

by , under All categories, Enrique

Every society has its racists but the question is where we draw the line. For a country like Finland, the problem of drawing a clear line hinges on the fact that there are still too few immigrant and ethnic groups living in this country, amounting for 2.7% of the population (143,256).

Even though foreigners in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century had a big impact on Finland (Stockmann, Fazer, Rettig, Paulig, Finnlayson and others), our view of cultural diversity as a normal characteristic of  society is mixed. Some Finns don’t have any qualms with this while for others it is a life-and-death issue.

If we look at the laws, educational system and the ideals we want to pass on to our children, however, it is easy to conclude that immigrant-and-refugee hate groups in Finland are a minority whose presence and arguments are storms in a tea-cup.

A good example is the present one-sided immigration-refugee debate. While the anti-diversity-and-populist True Finns, and to many sad respects the Social Democratic party under chairman Jutta Urpilainen, have not seen their popularity soar in the polls despite their stiffening rhetoric  on immigrantion and refugees.

If we look at the definition of racism and agree that it means “discrimination or prejudice based on ethnic background,” we still have to look at the specific society where this type of social ill is taking place. How do people discriminate in Finland, how do we define racism and what does the law say? The Equality Act, for example, gives clear definitions of discrimination and harassment.

In my opinion, an excellent example of discrimination in this country is high immigrant unemployment. Since racism attempts to exclude and keep other groups from realizing their potential in society, high immigrant unemployment serves this purpose and shows where we have a lot more work to do. Immigrant unemployment in Finland at the end of 2009 stood officially at 26%(!) compared with 9.2% nationally.

Even though anti-immigrant-and-refugee groups in Finland attempt to change the ongoing debate and their hate agendas with funny catchwords like “immigrant-critic,” and “freedom of speech/democracy,” we must draw the line as a society and call a spade a spade.

What would we say if there were anti-women’s-rights groups that used the same arguments to justify oppression of women in public as they do when stereotyping immigrants and refugees?

I am certain that many of us would be outraged.