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).”