By Enrique Tessieri
What kind of society denies others their identity? What kind of society approves their children of ostracizing those that come from different backgrounds? The answer is simple: a culture that suffers from low self-esteem.
One of the biggest cultural crimes that had been committed in Finland in the previous century was Finnicization. It is another version of what countries like Brazil did to “whiten” their population by inviting European immigration to its shores.
I am grateful that I did not grow up in Finland during the 1960s and 1970s because it would have meant, apart from ridicule and exclusion, denying a part of my identity.
There are tens of thousands of people in Finland that grew up in the 1990s that went to school in this country and come from multicultural backgrounds. I doubt that you will find many rosy stories in that group about how well they were treated at school. Many, especially the visible minorities, will tell you tales about how they were excluded and bullied at school with the blessing of silence and inaction of their teachers.
Evey time politicians like Wille Rydman of Kokoomus or Timo Soini and his followers as well as others speak about the need for immigrants to integrate into society, I wonder what they mean. Students of multicultural backgrounds and visible minorities hear this rude message loud and clear every time they step out of their homes.
In many cases the attitudes, treatment and relationship that some Finns have with people of multicultural backgrounds has its roots in exclusion and racism.
When I was a kid briefly living in Finland, I had to fight with my bare fists to be accepted by my friends. In the end they did but there were always new kids, total strangers, who would make a big deal about my otherness.
I have only one advice for those who suffered this type of discrimination in Finland when they were young: It is never too late to raise your self-esteem of your other self. Returning to where you were once from will fill you with power that you never knew existed inside of you. The first crucial step in this process is accepting who you are.
If people have a problem with that it is their problem – not yours.
(Many thanks to Larion for bringing this issue to my attention)