The long battle for ethnic equality has begun in Sweden and Finland

by , under Enrique

One wonders how Sweden’s embattled migration minister, Tobias Billström, could make his “blonde, blue-eyed” comment on asylum seekers and get away with it without losing his job.  Here in Finland we give prime television time to representatives of  racist association like Suomen Sisu, whose views on cultural diversity don’t vary greatly from the U.S. American Nazi Party or Ku Klux Klan.

To add salt to the injury to Suomen Sisu’s enemies,  immigrants and visible minorities, the association thanked the media for its “accurate coverage” of its annual meeting this month.

Billström got into hot water after an interview with DN.  “Sometimes we have this image that people in hiding live with a nice Swedish lady in her fifties or sixties who wants to help,” Billström was quoted as saying on The Local, citing DN. “But that’s not how it is. Most of them live with their countrymen who aren’t at all blonde and blue-eyed.”

After his comment instigated a storm of criticism even from Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Billströn apologized publicly for what he said.

Should we seethe migrant minister’s comment as an isolated case or an indication of a much wider problem gripping our Nordic societies?

Like the Perussuomalaiset in Finland, the rise of the xenophobic and anti-immigration Sweden Democrats in the polls is hardening opposition to  immigrants and cultural diversity in that country. More and more politicians are pointing their fingers at immigrants for the country’s economic problems. Anti-immigration sound bites are a quick way to get support from voters and media attention.

Intolerance, which has raised its head in Sweden and especially Finland, reveals how blind our societies are to European history. If there were a class on racism at our schools, most would probably fail. Stiffening attitudes have emboldened visible racists, a new political class that capitalize on invisible racists’ fears and xenophobia.

The most worrying matter is neither the visible nor invisible racists in our society, but the silence of the majority. Silence isn’t always silent, however. It can manifest itself at a talk show with two representatives of Suomen Sisu or when a migration minister makes a racist comment.

Since too many journalists and politicians haven’t been victims of racism, they simply don’t get it. In order to help them understand what is at stake and what is being debated, we could replace terms like immigrant and visible minority with women.

How many would go public and denounce women in the same way that immigrants are today? Few, if any.

Why?

Because women have fought and gained greater gender equality.

Contrarily, too few have stood up for immigrants and visible minorities. Even so, the long path towards ethnic equality has begun and there’s nothing that can stop it.

The reaction of anti-immigration groups and parties in Finland or outrage sparked by a minister’s statements about asylum seekers are the best indication that that battle is taking place today in earnest.

 

  1. FarangSuperior

    This political correct flower hat phenomenon is getting hilarious 🙂 There was absolutely nothing racist in what Billström said. Come on people, “blonde, blue-eyes”, one most have mental defect to find that racist.

    The only reason why this became a storm like this are the people like their prime minister, who are pro-immigrant. They take whatever they think can be twisted to look like offensive and they use it to driver their own agenda.

    The offending process is dishonest and sinister, take a look:

    a) normal offending process would go like this: A says something and B gets offended.

    b) dishonest offending process goes like this: A says something. B starts calculating and processing what A said and tries to figure out if he could get offended. Then B gets “offended”.

    That is how it goes in Finland too. People are not really offended but they just claim to be offended because they can. And usually the offendee is someone the original “offending” statement wasn’t even about.

    Like in Halla-aho’s somalicaust. The people who got “offended” were not even somali’s, but just native finns who saw that as a possible case to get offended as substitute.

    This kind of politics will not get us anywhere. It’s just like small kids fighting on a sandbox. People should grow up and stop getting “offended” about anything. I mean, getting offended by blondes and blue eyes… not real.

    • Mark

      Farang Inferior

      The people who got “offended” were not even somali’s, but just native finns who saw that as a possible case to get offended as substitute.

      How do you know Somalis were not offended?

      All this A and B nonsense will not hide the fact that individuals are perfectly able to be offended on someone else’s behalf and to feel sympathy. Your denial that any ‘immigrant’ would be offended is you simply putting your fingers in your ears and doing the usual blah, blah, blah… while sensible people are trying to talk sense to you.

      People were offended by his comments because he implied that Swedish citizens were blonde and blue eyed, which undermines those Swedish citizens who happen to be otherwise. It revealed a very narrow and divisive sense of ‘us and them’, with the ‘us’ having citizenship and them not. This is not the reality of citizenship demographics in Sweden.

  2. Mark

    Tobias Billström is not a politician in the mould of Immonen or J-Ha. He’s said some sensible things in the past about dealing with immigrants. I thought his idea about ‘guest’ ecomonic migrants was at least tackling the issue of ‘brain drain’ in developing countries, while his position on co-ordinating asylum policy for Iraqis (helping more of them get protection) was widely praised in the EU.

    I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Also, his party leaders (Moderate Party) were also quick to criticise his remarks and he has been quick to apologise.

    The only political party praising him was the Sweden Democrats, predictably.

  3. FarangSuperior

    Mark

    People were offended by his comments because he implied that Swedish citizens were blonde and blue eyed

    It’s quite a longshot to offend from something like that and clearly requires either intentional will to get offended or mental defect.

    • Mark

      Well, for you it does because you don’t care too much about discrimination or how it appears. But this isn’t anything unusual. When a harmful disease is recognised, people start to pay attention to the symptoms for that disease more closely and to respond to those symptoms in a preventive manner, in many cases to avoid further contamination or deterioration in health. The same is true of social phenomena that have been shown to be harmful.

      I do agree that some people will make political capital out of this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to make an effort to avoid racial stereotyping. Politicians, while being ordinary people, also hold a great deal of responsibilty, in this case, he’s Minister for Migration, and so you would hope that he would uphold the highest standards of racial equality.

      You seem to be working off this hypothesis of ‘fake offense’ on just about anything to do with people saying ‘the wrong thing’ nowadays. But the alternative, simply allowing people to say anything they like, would quickly see a drop in the ethical standards that we hold politicians to.

      Of course, as a Nazi peregrophobe, we know that you yourself have no political standards and are quite happy to see immigrants screwed left and right, but please, allow the rest of us the possibility to hold politicians to account for what they say.

  4. FarangSuperior

    Mark

    Of course, as a Nazi peregrophobe, we know that you yourself have no political standards and are quite happy to see immigrants screwed left and right, but please, allow the rest of us the possibility to hold politicians to account for what they say.

    We live in a democracy, therefore I have exactly the same right to promote criticism and stereotyping as you have to oppose them.

    BTW, did you invent that word above yourself 😀

    As a side note, there is nothing nazi in me. I just defend everyone’s right to free speech. If someone considers that as being nazi, then it’s that person’s problem.

    • Mark

      FarangInferior

      BTW, did you invent that word above yourself

      Yes, I did. I’ll be interested to see if you figure out what it might mean.

      I honestly don’t know your Nazi connections. Have you ever read anything about the Nazis or by Nazis? Ever seen Hitler’s speeches, for example? Not that this makes you a Nazi, of course, but just to get an idea of what you actually know about Nazism. You could have Nazi ideas and not know it, simply because the chain of transmission of ideas is so long nowadays.

      I refer to you as a Nazi because of your defence of Far Right extremism, by the way. Of course, not all Nazis were bad, you know! It’s important to remember that. But Nazism as a political ideology was diseased, meaning that even if there were healthy cells, it was still an unhealthy organism.

  5. FarangSuperior

    Mark

    I honestly don’t know your Nazi connections. Have you ever read anything about the Nazis or by Nazis? Ever seen Hitler’s speeches, for example? Not that this makes you a Nazi, of course, but just to get an idea of what you actually know about Nazism. You could have Nazi ideas and not know it, simply because the chain of transmission of ideas is so long nowadays.

    I have seen movies Schindler’s List and Inglourious Basterds. And I’ve seen swastika in internet and heard some Hitler jokes. That’s my connection to nazis.

    I slept through the history lessons in school.

    I don’t care about history, it has already past and we can’t change. I would concentrate on future, like all sensible people do.

    BTW. It’s not an act of sensible person to make up a word and then wonder if someone else knows the meaning…

    • Mark

      Farang

      I slept through the history lessons in school. I don’t care about history, it has already past and we can’t change. I would concentrate on future, like all sensible people do.

      You really expect me to believe that sensible people do not concern themselves with history?

      Well, the explains why you and I are so different, because history was a subject I excelled at and enjoyed very much. However, it does raise the problem that when you deny being in any way a Nazi, that in fact you do not know what it is your are denying. It’s a bit like someome accusing me of being a bipedal homonide and me having no idea what that means, and therefore denying it. It may nevertheless be true.

      I would say that your stated authoritarianism alone creates a strong association with the Nazi mentality (see Erich Fromm’s “Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”).

      So what are your links to Finnish nationalism?

      BTW. It’s not an act of sensible person to make up a word and then wonder if someone else knows the meaning…

      What’s with this obssession with being ‘sensible’ all of a sudden? I guess you need a clue: peregrinus

  6. FarangSuperior

    Mark

    What’s with this obssession with being ‘sensible’ all of a sudden? I guess you need a clue: peregrinus

    You really think I would put any effort to even google that 😀

  7. D4R

    Growing up in Finland was one of challenging thing that i have faced during my life time. (excuse my poor english language writings) When i came to Finland i was a small boy, i started school at age of around 8. I have faced hardship in scool and outside of school coming from people who were hating my ethnicity. I have being jumped and called names by people of different type of ages, they could have been adults or kinds, woman or men, it was horrible. I remember at school when we kinds were in the class and the teacher wasnt in the class, kids used to shout at me like you’re a welfare leecher, that im a bum, and this was coming from kinds who were 8 years old. At that time i could understand why were they calling me a bum, noway they could figure that out, this all were things they heard from their parents, it was stuff that’s being discussed at their homes. All these things got me deeply affected mentally and it was takingtoll on me physically. I was getting sick every short period of times, the abuse was continuous at school. I was being bullied almost every single day. Sometimes when my parents send me to school i just went to park and spend the rest of school time there alone so i could avoid not to go to school and face the abuse i was getting there daily. Oneday my teacher called us home and told my parents that i was being absent from school and they held a meeting with my parents, and so we went there to meet the teachers. In there we discussed about me why was i being absent and why was i not focusing anything at school. I just cant understand how come nobody understood my problems, they all blamed me and nobody paid attention the negative envioroment i was at the time being. How can you function and concentrate on anything when you’re being taken as a target, you’re being called names evryday,, then you get jumped by several people just becus of my ethnicity,,,, hinestly it was like in the jungle with a pack of animals, no mercy. I can’t lie, there were a few kinds who were kind to me, i guess their parents were raising them properly, but most of the kids put me through hell. This abuse continued through my teenage years, and everytime i made a complaint i was told that they’re going to do something about it but with no results, the kinds and teenagers were freely abusing me. Every year that passed by was getting worst than the previous one, and my grades were degrading to a point where my parents were getting concerned about me, they could figure out what was really happening to me, my personality changed, i become isolated even at home. I was in pain and nobody was there to understand my pain. I used to come home and shut myself at my room, there nobody that i could talk to, they cared less at school and my poor parents didn’t know what was wrong in me, even if they knew what could they do about it, nothing. Every morning when i had to go to school i was depressed, i was depressed to go and meet those evil people who just feast about my torute and i had to no option but to stand that torute and abuse, and this continued through my alementary school. Now somebody will say, this is same like school bullying, no, this is not like school bullying, this is worst than that, especially when you’re being targeted and your spirit detroyed. Again, someone is going to say, why did you come to this country or stayed here, but this is easy said than done. When my parents brought me to this country, they could know where they were coming to and what will be the envioroment like for their kids. I trully can understand the frustration my parents had and the concern, it wasnt easy for them either, we were just unlucky to face these things. I didn’t do well at school becus i wasnt receiveng the proper envioroment, i was in a bad and hostile envioroment. I can understand what alot of vicible immigrants go through, i don’t know if nowadays situation is different than my time but i want to encourage vicible youths to stay strong and talk with their parents at home if they are having similar kind of problems that i had, becus i know it will destroy them as it destroyed me. It will have effect on their education, their personalities,,,basically everything,it will destroy them. I could have done better at school if somebody could figured out my problems at school and helped me. Finland is a safe country to live for most people but there are some serious problems for viciblme immigrants. I strongly believe and hope things will get better in this country for all kind of people. We’re all humanbeings, we should treat with respect one another not degrade and destroy, i guess that’s too much to ask for some peoples human nature to destroy other peoples lives. We all have one lives, treat other as you want them to treat you, if you want people treat you bad don’t treat people that way, you don’t wan’t people to call you names and degrade you, so don’t do to them. People may look different than you, they may have different skin color than you do, but they have feelings just like you do, they get hurt and offended, understand that. If you destroy your envioroment you’re destroying yourself too. I think we as humanbeings should increase tolerance and peace in this world not intolerance and hateret becus that leads to violance and nobody is safe then, not you or me. people who spread separetism, racism, prejudice, intolerance and dangerous people and we should give them receive power, they don’t serve you or me, they serve themselves. Ill leave peace to all you and happy eastern day………To Be Continued.

    • Mark

      Can I format this as an article and post it, D4R?

      Personally, I feel that your testimony is extremely important in bringing home the social harms that come with living with discrimination and stigmatisation. It is only when these harms are properly recognised, acknowledged and condemned that we will mobilise public opinion away from the ‘free speech’ brigade who think it’s their right and freedom to trample over the ruputations of vulnerable groups in society!

      Thanks for writing this, D4R!

    • Joonas

      Even I’m not a visible minority, I can relate to your story. I have myself experienced bullying when I was a kid and same kind of thoughts went through my head. It really leaves a mark even it was so many years ago, but I would say it made me stronger as well.

      But next time you write, can you please use chapter divisions? It is quite “heavy” to read currently.

  8. D4R

    Correction

    people who spread separetism, racism, prejudice, intolerance are dangerous people and we shouldn’t give them to receive power, they don’t serve you or me, they serve themselves. Ill leave peace to all you and happy eastern day………To Be Continued.

    D4R

  9. D4R

    Mark: Can I format this as an article and post it, D4R?

    Personally, I feel that your testimony is extremely important in bringing home the social harms that come with living with discrimination and stigmatisation. It is only when these harms are properly recognised, acknowledged and condemned that we will mobilise public opinion away from the ‘free speech’ brigade who think it’s their right and freedom to trample over the ruputations of vulnerable groups in society!

    Thanks for writing this, D4R!

    Mark

    Yes feel free and use it Mark. I’m always going to put my two cents on Migrant Tales.