Ten steps to tame the beast of racism and prejudice in Finland

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Like alcoholism, racism is a social ill that exists but is rarely recognized as a problem. In countries like Finland we are still debating whether racism and prejudice is a problem or not.  How much must racism grow for us to accept it as a serious problem that threatens our present Nordic way of life?

In Europe, the Nordic region was seen as an island of tolerance when compared with the treatment of immigrants and minorities in other parts of the continent. Xenophobic and far-right parties like the Danish People’s Party, Sweden Democrats, Perussuomalaiset (PS) and mass killer Anders Breivik have dented that image recently.

Racism and prejudice are close relatives. One good definition of racism is that it is institutionalized while the other one is personal suspicion against a group.

The term “institutional racism” was coined by Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) in the 1960s. According to him, institutional racism is the “collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture, or ethnic origin.”

While these two social ills exist in all political parties, they have found a home in the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party.  The questionable views of PS MPs like Jussi Halla-aho feed people’s prejudice which in term fuel institutional racism in our society.

Thus we can, thanks to these arguments, justify not hiring and not accepting certain groups as equals in our society because we loathe them. If we let matters to parties like the PS, institutional racism and prejudice would survive for hundreds of years as is the case with the Romany in Finland.

While this list below is far from complete, here are some things we can do:

1.  The first step is to accept that it exists and is a threat to our society;

2. Stop ignoring history when it is uncomfortable like our relationship with Nazi Germany in the Continuation War (1941-44);

3. Teach our children what terrible wars and suffering racism and prejudice has brought on humankind;

4. Demand an end to silence by politicians. Expose politicians who vacillate on this issue of racism and prejudice;

5. Don’t be afraid to speak out. Start your own blog and/or association to spur debate to expose these social ills;

6. Join a political party or start a social movement that challenges institutional racism and prejudice. Be ready to use all of your democratic rights  like organizing demonstrations, hunger strikes and active lobbying;

7. Speak to those who suffer from these social illnesses and forgive their ignorance. People change;

8. Report all racist harassment and hate crimes to the police. If the police treat you unfairly report it as well;

9.  Have zero tolerance for racism and prejudice. Be passionate about fighting racism;

10. “Never, never, never give up (Winston Churchill).”


Note: If you still believe that racism isn’t a big problem in Finland, check out these sites and read the threads: Are you a target of racism in Finland and Racism in Finland.

  1. BoredinFinland

    I tend to think that Nordic countries were labelled as the epitome of tolerance because in previous years they did not receive inmigrants.

    They really sold well their image of being indeed tolerant societies but only towards people who were (1) blond (2) with pale skin (3) with blue/green eyes (4) and have a Nordic name (very important) …. (!!!!)

    Of course we (the rest of the planet) did not know the condition of living of the Sami people here….lest see how much this image of “being the queen and king of tolerant” will last

  2. BlandaUpp

    There’s always been racism here. It used to be targeted at Sami and later towards Roma people who are Christian. Now the code word to escape the racist label is “Islam”.

  3. Method


    Weird, you forgot Freudenthal and his amazing race theories and the fact that the RKP gives medals in his name and celebrate his “Swedish natiolist spirit”.

  4. BlandaUpp

    @ Method

    How could I forget! We’re always in denial about our own baggage as second class Postcolonial subjects. Our identity has been shaped by racism, imperialism and colonialism. Freudenthal is quoted on page 38 in this book.


    “In its more extreme aspects Freudenthal theory linked language, nationality and race, and went on to claim the racial superiority of Swede over Finn in a way that paralleled theories of Aryan superiority elsewhere in contemporary Europe.”

    Then there’s also the discrimination our own emigrants faced in the US.

    “Finnish Americans became the victims of ethnic slurs after socialist-leaning Finnish immigrants began to settle in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. Finnish immigrant promoters of labor activism prompted racist responses directed at all Finnish Americans. The racist response reached its apex in 1908, when “established” Americans turned to the power of federal law, bringing to federal district court the deportation trial of one John Swan, a Finnish immigrant worker. According to Carl Ross in The Finn Factor, the unusual argument that Finns were actually of Mongolian descent—and therefore subject to the Asian Exclusion Act—hit many Finnish Americans hard and polarized the community into two camps, one conservative, identifying itself as “True Finns,” and the other socialist, promoting American citizenship to its membership. In spite of efforts on both sides, various vigilante activities continued against Finnish Americans even into the late 1930s, as the 1939 wrecking of the Finn Hall in Aberdeen, Washington, attests. Being called a “Finn-LAND-er” became “fighting words” to both first and second generation Finnish Americans.

    Stereotyping hastened Finnish assimilation into the American mainstream. As white Europeans, they could do just that. Some Finnish Americans anglicized their names and joined American churches and clubs. Others, identifying themselves as indelibly connected to America’s racial minorities, entered into marriages with Native Americans, creating a group of people known in Minnesota and Michigan as “Finndians.”

    Read more: Finnish Americans – History, Modern era, The first finns in america http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Du-Ha/Finnish-Americans.html#ixzz1WTD4g3dh

    • Enrique

      Thank you BlandaUpp for this refreshing look at Finnish immigration history to the United States. Great stuff!

  5. Hannu

    “2. Stop ignoring history when it is uncomfortable like our relationship with Nazi Germany in the Continuation War (1941-44);”

    I dont see anything uncomfortable in this.

  6. Method

    Hmm, maybe I should comment the points.

    1. Yes, it exists. How does it threat our society? And what society is this “our society”?

    2. Yes. What’s there to ignore? It happened.

    Alot of things happened with Nazi Germany. Here’s one of the most least spoken things:

    3. What wars exactly have been based on racism and prejudice? I mean to teach your kids this is one thing, but to know the facts is another. Wars, as I see them, are commonly based on greed, injustice, religions and ideologies. Yes, the last three can contain racism, but it certainly isn’t the cause. You’re ducking the issue, since it’s arguable, that racism isn’t really the illness, but a symptom. You want to stop racism, attack the illness, don’t treat the symptoms as illness, because it’ll always come back.

    4. Agreed.

    5. Agreed.

    6. Why not.

    7. People change, yes, but it goes both ways. You treat people badly, they change the other direction, treat people well they change to your direction. If you want to win hearts, it begins with your actions. If your rhetoric is aggressive and you want to challenge, don’t be surprised if there’s aggression and your challenge is called.

    8. Yes.

    9. Zero tolerance is not a good way to promote tolerance. Your passion might be seen as fanatism. Fanatic people are seen as morons. Don’t be a moron if you want people to believe you.

    10. Yes.