Migrant Tales has followed a story that sadly began in the Helsinki neighborhood of Herttoniemi in May 2016. A white woman threw a bucketful of water at three adults and four children from the second floor and started hurling racist insults. Two of the victims were women from Kenya and another one was a white woman from the United States.
Said the victim, Ruth Waweru.Folabit, in Migrant Tales last year: “When another neighbor told the woman to shut up, she called her an n-word lover. She said that she was a Finn, and therefore, nothing would happen to her [for harassing her in a racist manner and throwing a bucket of water].”
Open-and-shut case, right?
Waweru-Folabit got a letter from the prosecutor almost a year later after the incident:
I will not press charges because the suspected crime, when evaluated as a whole, should be seen as minor considering the harm it caused or the degree of guilt of the suspect that it reveals.
This case, and especially the prosecutor’s decision to not press charges, is a disheartening example of how the system drags its feet and plays down racism in Finland.
If a white woman throws water at somebody and starts insulting people in a racist manner it may suggest a hate crime.
What would have happened if we’d switch roles and a black woman would throw water at a white Finn and start insulting her? Would she be charged and forced to pay compensation for damages?
On May 23, 2015 Ruth Waweru-Folabit posted this message on her Facebook wall. Migrant Tales reposted it with her permission.
Migrant Tales spoke with Waweru-Folabit about the prosecutor’s decision.
“I would have at least expected an apology from the woman and that my wet clothes she’d pay for sending my clothes to the dry cleaners,” she said. “I thought by pressing on with this case it could be a warning to others and that they cannot get away with such things. I just wanted some kind of justice for what happened.”
Even if the prosecutor played down the whole event, according to the victims, we have to understand that it’s a totally different thing just throwing water on a person and throwing water and hurling racist insults at two black women and a migrant.
According to Waweru-Folabit’s friend Lena, who was with her on that day and had to buy a new cellphone as a result, said that the whole affair has been very stressful on everyone.
“Ruth is really worried about her children going to the yard because she fears what the woman might yell at them,” she said. “Imagine, you can throw water on someone, threaten to kill them and insult them in a racist manner with the n-name [and you’re not held accountable].”
Lena considers the actions of the police and the whole handling of their case by the authorities as “outrageous.”
“One of the first matters that surprised us was the actions of the police who didn’t even bother to ask us if we wanted to press charges against that woman,” said Lena. “When we went to report the matter to the police, they seemed totally disinterested in the case.”
One matter that the police suggested to the suspect and victims was mediation.
“The whole [mediation] process was a joke because the woman changed the story and started to accuse us for what happened,” she continued. “Throughout the whole process the message has been the same from the authorities over and over again: get over it, it’s nothing serious.”
As we can see from the graph, Finland has one of the highest rates of reported hate crimes of the countries mentioned. Source: OSCE/ODIHR Hate crime statistics [ http://hatecrime.osce.org/ ]
Notes: Data is not available for each EU Member State for each year for racially motivated crimes as some EU Member States do not record and/or publish disaggregated data on hate crimes.
Lena, who has lived in Finland for fourteen years, said that this is the first time that something like this has happened to her.
“This incident has taught me a lot,” she said. “For one, I will stand up for my rights in this country.”
One question that should be asked of the police service is why do they, as in this case, suggest mediation? Isn’t throwing water, insulting and harassing somebody in a racist manner a crime?
For some migrants and minorities racist harassment and hate speech leave an ever-lasting trauma. To mediate with someone who insults and attacks you in such a manner reveals that you either don’t understand what happened and/or that you play it down.