A headline in a Helsingin Sanomat news story about US President Donald Trump’s racist tweets to “the Squad,” four progressive women elected to congress in 2018, highlights how the media racializes non-white people in Finland.
While the story uses the Finnish News Agency (STT) and AFP as sources, the copy editors at Helsingin Sanomat could do a much better job instead of labeling people of color as people of migrant origin.
Helsingin Sanomat calls the four congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar, “people of migrant origin” when, in fact, they should be called people of color or minorities.
In my opinion, people of migrant origin is a convenient term to deny people of color and other minorities the right to be equal members of society. How can one be equal if you are constantly reminded with problematic labels that you are outsiders and eternal migrants?
I wonder how the four US congresswomen would react in an interview if a white Finnish journalist called them “people of migrant origin.”
They would, I suspect, be surprised. It would prompt a swift reaction: Who isn’t a person of migrant origin in the United States, they’d ask.
Even if some ethnonationalist groups in Finland like to romanticize that they were chipping stones right after the Ice Age, every white Finn, every single one, in this country is “a person of migrant origin.”
That label used by Finland’s largest newspaper is not only offensive but shows Helsingin Sanomat’s ignorance and prejudice towards people of color. It reveals how racialized the media is when it speaks of non-white people in Finland.
Instead of seeing Finland through racialized lenses, the media should show leadership in promoting inclusion and public spaces to people of color instead of constantly reinforcing their exclusion with labels made up by them.
Does the Finnish language have a translation for the term people of color? If it doesn’t like integration (kotoutuminen) about twenty years ago, it should find one.
In the late-1990s and apart from the term integroituminen, Finland had to invent a new term for integration because there was no appropriate word in the Finnish language.
*White Finnish media story of the day highlights how the national media racializes Finland’s ever-growing culturally and ethnically diverse society by maintaining antiquated, even racist and exclusive views about who has the right to belong and call this country their home.