Migrant Tales (November 28, 2011): Who is Finland’s Uncle Tom?

by , under Enrique

Comment: This blog entry was first published on November 28, 2011. For some reason, it’s impossible to access this posting from the old Migrant Tales site.  I have reposted it on www.migranttales.net.


Is there such a concept as Uncle Tom in Finland? @HelsinkiObs helped me out with this question: “It’s Setä Tuomo (older style) or Tuomo-setä if you mean this context.” 

New York Times opinion-piece gives the meaning of Uncle Tom: “Today, of course, the book has a decidedly different reputation, thanks to the popular image of its titular character, Uncle Tom — whose name has become a byword for a spineless sellout, a black man who betrays his race.”

In Finland the definition would be the same as in the United States. A Tuomo-setä could be any immigrant who betrays other people like him by becoming and adopting the same values that fuel racism.

The Finnish Uncle Tom is a pretty opportunistic person. He or she believes that the only way to escape discrimination is by becoming the culprit.

There are a lot of Tuomo-setäs out there who are more racist than some Finns.

What do you think would be a good name for an Uncle Tom that lives in Finland?

Mamu-setä, maybe?

  1. PS voter

    I haven’t read Uncle Tom’s Cabin myself, but as far as I know, the Uncle Tom character wasn’t in any way negative person. As far as I know, he didn’t betray other blacks, but was a non-violent person, who is beaten when he refuses to whip another slave and was later killed because he refused to reveal where two other slaves, whom he had encouraged to escape, had gone. And Frederick Douglass seems to have liked the novel. That is why I find it strange that somebody would call a person Uncle Tom, who is acting in a very different manner than the real character.

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