Your example is the best weapon against racism

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

We cannot change the world we live in but we can influence with our example those that live next to us. In the same way we can change matters for the better there are other people who can with their example impact society adversely.

The Internet is one of the most important breeding grounds for racism in Finland and elsewhere. Any person who wishes, no matter how ignorant he or she may be, can write on any topic.

There used to be a saying a long ago that one must write volumes before he can publish. That doesn’t seem true any longer.

When I was a young journalist working for the Buenos Aires Herald, an editor gave me some valuable advice: “Remember that words are like bullets. Don’t overkill.”

The Internet seems today like a free-for-all killing field for racism where overkill is the rule. We even have social-media lynch mob leaders that masquerade as defenders of our values sounding hostile battle charges against immigrants and minorities.

I would like to introduce you to Hemmo Koskiniemi’s blog. He is a PS city councilor of Rovaniemi and in my opinion one of many examples of what is wrong with the PS.

His May 21st entry, Justified racism – “Nigger” lives alone in a 75 m2 home, makes the following claim: An n-word immigrant lives alone in a 75 m2 home with all expenses paid by the City of Rovaniemi and Finland while an ill single father with two children was turned down by the city to pay a guarantee equalling one-month rent.

What is outrageous about Koskiniemi’s entry is that he doesn’t even bother to verify what he alleges. Or did he get the information from a spiteful social worker? Either way, accusing a man of abusing the system without getting an official reply from the authorities is not only lazy but irresponsible and malicious blogging.

Migrant Tales got in touch with the City of Rovaniemi, which denied any wrongdoing in the case. I have sent an email to the editor-in-chief of Uusi Suomi, Markku Huusko, about Koskiniemi’s claim and the City of Rovniemi’s response to it.

We will keep you informed on how the case evolves.

  1. Arto

    A minor detail: as I pointed out before, I think correct translation would be negro, not nigger. The Finnish word neekeri did not originally have negative connotations and therefore it does not translate well as nigger.

  2. Jonas

    Arto, you’ve put your finger on it. The Finnish word neekeri indeed did not originally have negative connotations – but it does today. The meaning of words evolve. Before neekeri was pretty much the only word used to describe people with coloured skin. It was thus used in both neutral and negative (and I guess also positive) circumstances. It was still used in school textbooks in the early 1970s. But then, as time has progressed, it has become a pejorative term. Today it clearly is offensive to many people and thus should be best avoided. Of course, considering its past, it is not at all surprising that some people find this contemporary meaning confusing – especially elderly people, who might quite innocently still use it without meaning any offence as they have not known any difference.

    A similar process has occurred with many of the words we used in the past, including in mainstream media, to describe those suffering from mental illness.

  3. JusticeDemon


    Kielitoimisto flatly disagrees with you.

    How would you translate saatanan neekeri?

    I agree with Ricky’s translation. The pejorative intention is evident from the context of the article, which is intended to imply that the individual concerned was somehow not entitled to his alleged standard of living.

  4. MaryMekko

    I hardly think that one need visit the Internet to get ideas. How about just walking around the streets of Helsinki, riding the Metro, watching the behavior of male immigrants at the Central Station? How about the Finns, travelling the world these days, eager to learn and see all? How can all these educated Finns not notice the trouble in “multikulti” countries throughout Europe and North America? The Internet reflects reality, it doesn’t create it. These stereotypes of welfare fraud could not exist without some realities behind them. How about someone DISPROVING this above story about Rovaniemi’s housing situation? A simple call to the housing authorities could do it. Yes, the responisibility should belong to the original blogwriter’s, but if he/she is making things up, then investigative journalism, challenging what it reads, must rebut with the facts. IS the man with Nekeeri skin really on welfare? In a small town, how hard is that to find out? DOn’t the taxpaying citizens have the right to know if their money is used for outsiders, and if so, how much? If you say they don’t have the right to know where their money is going, on what basis do you make the claim? Why not spell out the real numbers right here?

    California is going bankrupt because of the large number of parasites in the system, especially in the housing and medical worlds. Don’t forget the biggest parasites, the politicians who run them and the fat adminstrative paychecks involved. Just go ahead and expose them? Are they sacred cows even in Finland? Good God, your nation has gone too far.

    ANd imagine, the working people have to expose their income and tax levels ONLINE! Why not the parasite welfare cases?

  5. Singaporean_in_Finland


    According to latest statistics, 90% of crime done by foreigners in Finland is done by Russians and Estonians. Why the constant bashing of dark skinned people in Finland when statistics don’t correspond with reality?

    Black people make up less than 1% of the population and of that group, only a portion of the political refugees are on welfare. The total amount of Finns abusing welfare far outnumbers any other group. When’s the last time Finns discussed welfare abuse by Finns in an open public forum?

    You state: “DOn’t the taxpaying citizens have the right to know if their money is used for outsiders, and if so, how much?”. Calling legal residents and citizens of Finland “outsiders” is pretty low.

    • Enrique

      Hi Singaporean_in_Finland adn welcome to Migrant Tales. I was really happy to read that we have Singaporeans who visit and comment on our blog.

      Isn’t it incredible how people who claim to be “educated” are in pre-school when it comes to understanding other cultures and ethnicities? If you are a politician there is no other explanation than opportunism mixed with self-deception. If you follow national politics, what do you think about the latest exit of the SDP and Left Alliance from government talks? We’ll know today if the Center Party will enter talks or if, after a long weekend, the SDP will return to the negotiation table.

  6. Allan

    Of course the city of Rovaniemi will deny all “wrongdoing”, as everything has been done by the book. They will also hide behind “welfare decisions are private and can not be discussed in public”. You really expect some city officials to publicly admit that refugees do get better treatment than the poor people?

    Or did he get the information from a spiteful social worker?
    He got a letter, as a councilman, from this ill 2-kid father living in the same building as the black gentleman. Why don’t you write to this guy and tell him he is not being discriminated against?

    • Enrique

      –Of course the city of Rovaniemi will deny all “wrongdoing”, as everything has been done by the book.

      Seriously, Allan, is this how you conduct business in real life? Writing blogs like they were some chat sites and masquerading hearsay as truth? If you ask me what is wrong with the PS, Hemmo Koskiniemi is a good example.

      I hope that those that voted for the PS stand up to people like Koskiniemi and too many others. The true shame of Finland is that we are asked to take people like Koskiniemi and other PS politicians seriously.

  7. JusticeDemon


    He got a letter

    You worked that out all by yourself from Kahden lapsen yksinhuoltaja isä soitti eilen illalla…?

    It wasn’t so long ago (25 May) that you questioned my competence in the Finnish language. Now we can all see the depth of your own expertise in this field.

    At least one of the issues arising from this ATL blog contribution by Hemmo Koskiniemi under the Uusi Suomi banner is adherence to the code of ethics for journalists. You might like to focus on points 8, 10, 11, 12 and 15 of this code before assuming that there is any substance to Koskiniemi’s contribution other than to inflame prejudice.

    The essence of this blog contribution is that Koskiniemi received a phone call from a constituent complaining that the local welfare office had refused a request to transfer the caller’s rent guarantee from a flat in an apartment building to a terraced house. The grounds for this refusal was that the rent for the terraced house exceeded the limit separately decided by the local social welfare board, which comprises politicians and is chaired by a Kokoomus appointee.

    There is nothing here to suggest that the refusal was discriminatory or otherwise incorrect. The social welfare board has set a cap on rent subsidies. To transfer the rent guarantee in the caller’s case, the welfare office would have to approve a lease in which the rent exceeds that cap.

    This should be the end of not particularly newsworthy story.

    Instead, the embittered caller launches a tirade against one of his neighbours, who is identified only as a male immigrant “nigger”. The racial epithet adds nothing to the story. Its sole purpose is to inflame prejudice. The caller seems privy to a great deal of private and confidential information concerning this neighbour, whom the caller considers to enjoy unspecified social welfare privileges. In all probability the caller is merely guessing and speculating about the personal circumstances of a complete stranger selected only as a member of a despised population group, but you never know before you investigate.

    Now if this entirely new line of complaint has any substance, then it might just possibly be newsworthy. What Koskiniemi has to do is take down the caller’s details, at least note the address of the immigrant concerned, get up off his arse, and do some real investigative work. Taking the story straight to publication without this work already violates the ethical principles referred to above.

    I understand that Ricky has now been doing some real investigative work on this case. Let’s see where it leads.

  8. JusticeDemon


    The welfare office has obviously issued the guarantee deposit that is required by the caller’s current lease, but it has declined to transfer this guarantee to a new lease.

    A guarantee deposit is intended to cover minor breaches of the lease agreement, such as superficial damage to the property, the costs of extraordinary cleaning at the end of the tenancy, and non-payment of rent. These deposits are generally equal to between one and three months’ rent. The latter is the legal maximum under section 8 of the Act on Residential Leases.

    The best way to arrange these guarantees is in the form of a sealed bank deposit made by the tenant. This deposit can only be withdrawn after the lease expires and when the lessor has declared that there are no outstanding claims arising from the tenancy.

  9. Mark

    Thanks JD

    Is it possible to say if this transfer is to a new lease on the same place of residence or for a lease on a new place of residence?

  10. JusticeDemon


    In this specific example the old lease concerned a flat in an apartment block, whereas the new one concerned a terraced house. Obviously it’s theoretically possible that both dwellings are owned by the same housing company.

  11. Mark

    So would I be right in thinking that this sick man wanted to move from his apartment [nothing to do with a black man living upstairs, of course!] but was receiving [sickness] benefit, meaning he was asking the social to transfer the deposit to the new place.

    Is it possible that the rivitalo was a more expensive rent and the deposit could therefore have been more? Would that automatically be turned down if the man is already deemed to be living in ‘adequate accommodation’?

  12. JusticeDemon


    You are correct on all counts. The welfare office will not switch the guarantee deposit unless it can approve the new lease. In this case the rent specified in the new lease exceeded the stipulated maximum. We can simplify the case by saying that this man wanted to move to more expensive accommodation requiring a higher rent subsidy that exceeded the guidelines.

    As I said – it’s a non-story. It’s roughly equivalent to discovering that your luncheon vouchers cover the price of a basic burger and fries, but not the Big Mac meal at McDonald’s. You then see some random Finn with a Big Mac meal at the next table, and you immediately assume that this chronically depressed antisocial wino must get more valuable luncheon vouchers than you.

  13. Arto

    Jonas wrote: “The Finnish word neekeri indeed did not originally have negative connotations – but it does today.”

    Since you feel I need a lecture about it, I think you did not fully read what I wrote. I wrote: “The Finnish word neekeri did not originally have negative connotations”.

    JD: “How would you translate saatanan neekeri?” In case you choose such a preceding word, it would not be wrong to translate as nigger, since we don’t have a direct translation for the word.

    My point is, nigger has (in my opinion) much stronger negative meaning than the word neekeri has today. I believe the English word negro would have pretty much the same amount of negative connocation as the Finnish word neekeri.

  14. Mark


    In this case, your opinion counts for nothing AND puts you behind the times. The issue here is how people of colour feel about the use of the word neekeri, and almost all of them think it is derogatory. That is the opinion that matters, the people to whom it refers. Stop using it Finland, and show some fecking respect to your minorities!!!!!!

  15. Hannu

    Problem here is that american “negro” isnt proper anyway and similand finnish “neekeri” isnt but still some idiots claim that neekeri = nigger what isnt true.
    Neekeri = negro.
    By history negro and neekeri have been proper and there is still “united negro fund” so i think translating neekeri to nigger is lie,

    • Enrique

      Hannu, here is a lesson you could learn on how to be civil with people. First you assume (when you assume you make an “ass” of “u” and “me”) that Jamaican in Finland is black. Can you try for once not to speak to people with skin color as your first filter? Second, how can you ask such a question in such a way? It’s like me asking you without knowing you: Hey, do you like Finns being called winos and bums or alcoholics? What is correct? You say that your grandmother taught you about being civil and good manners. It looks like she missed out on this department pretty badly. No offense, however, to your grandmother.

      Here is a super important lesson to you and anywone who is stil in the dark. This will help you a lot: Respect what others consider offensive. You don’t make up their identity labels. They decide and we comply.