Systemic racism in Finland

by , under Enrique Tessieri

A video clip below by Jay Smooth published by Race Forward gives us simple good examples of how systemic or institutional racism occurs in the United States. Is systemic racism a problem in Finland? If so, how and where does it occur?

If we’re really interested in tackling all forms of racism and discrimination in this country, it’s important that we identify the problem and challenge it. We have a lot of good resources in Finland to challenge intolerance.

Just saying you are against racism won’t do. We need to be much more resourceful and determined in dealing with this social ill.

Smooth’s video talks about eight cases of systemic racism in the United States: incarceration; housing discrimination; immigration policy; employment; infant mortality; wealth gap; and government surveillance (surveillance of certain ethnic groups and ethnic profiling).

How would these examples of systemic racism in the United States apply to Finland?

Incarceration: Even if matters aren’t as bad as in the United States for blacks and Hispanics, there are more migrants incarcerated per capita in Finland than the ratio for white Finns. Certain migrant groups are being singled out and victimized. We’ve all heard these claims before: Africans and Middle Easterners are rapists, Estonians and Russians always get caught for DUI offenses.

Good examples of this type of negative labeling are the urban legends surrounding the “high” amount of rapes and crimes committed by foreigners. One study that has done great harm to migrants living in Finland was published by the National Research Institute of Legal Policy (Optula), which claims that rapes committed by Africans and Middle Easterners were 17 times higher than those committed by white Finns.

Ever wonder why this study, which has a lot of methodological holes in it since it only uses police sources, got so much attention? Why haven’t any of the researchers come out publicly, even if they point it out in the study, that you cannot draw conclusions from the Optula study and claim that some nationalities commit more crime than other groups?

Answer: systemic racism.

Immigration policy: Isn’t it odd that anti-immigration politicians and the media near-constantly bombard us with urban tales like certain groups are rapists and criminals and that immigration is “a problem.” Such claims and stories in the media give some the impression that the only people migrating to this country are people from Africa and the Middle East.

Parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* want to end residence permits to asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds and claim this to be a “huge problem.” This “huge problem” they speak of only accounts for about 8% of all immigration in this country. Finland has one of the smallest immigrant populations in Europe with 221,900 people, accounting for about 4% of the population in 2014.

Why are certain national groups singled out and victimized by politicians and the media? Why is immigration and cultural diversity pictured as a big problem?

Answer: systemic racism.

Employment: Finland’s jobless rate in March was 10.3% but immigrants suffer from two to three times higher unemployment on average. Some immigrant groups in this country suffer from over 50% unemployment, while others, like the Chinese, have lower unemployment than white Finns.

Being a country that considers work an important rites of passage for a person to be accepted as a member of this society, it’s obvious that such a social filter will be used to socially exclude some groups.

Why is there higher unemployment in general among migrants than among white Finns?

Answer: systemic racism.

Wealth gap: According to Pekka Myrksylä, former researcher at Statistics Finland, the majority of migrants that live in Finland live below the poverty line. They get less social welfare as a result since they have lower-paying jobs than white Finns.

Myrskylä stated that migrants make on average annually 27,500 euros against 36,800 by white Finns.The gap in unemployment benefits is even higher, totaling 39% (15,000 euros versus 9,400 euros).The job situation is so dire in for some immigrants in Finland that as much as 80% of them that come from the Nordic Region and Western Europe leave. Contrarily, 90% of Africans, Asians and Eastern Europeans remain in Finland.

If you are poor in Finland and an immigrant who much further will you sink below the poverty line when you retire?

Why are so many migrants living in poverty as Myrskylä claims?

Answer: systemic racism.

Government surveillance: The same question that Smooth asks about why the US government singles out certain ethnic groups and spies on them happens in Finland as well. Why are Muslims, or specifically Somalis, under surveillance by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo)? How come some, like Somalis, be held in custody for months for suspected terrorism and then released as if nothing happened? Not one Finnish daily ever asked why these suspects where being held for such a long time by the police.

If you ask some Roma or visible migrants in this country that they are commonly targets of  ethnic profiling by the police. For a long time the Finnish police denied that they ethnically profile anyone.

Despite such claims, the police have had since 2013 new anti-ethnic profiling guidelines in force.

Why do Supo and the police carry out surveillance and ethnically profile certain ethnic groups more than others?

Answer: systemic racism.

Below is another good video by Jay Smooth on how to tell someone they sounded racist.

The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The 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.