Why migrants and minorities in Finland continue to suffer from discrimination and social inequality

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Entitlement and denial are some of the reasons why respect for cultural diversity and treating Others in Finnish society as equals faulters. There is too much lip service like “we’re against racism” but few deeds to give such a powerful statement life and meaning. 

Entitlement reinforces denial. It permits the majority to have its racist cake and eat it.

There’s no way that we’ll have too many listeners to our anti-racism cause as long as entitlement and denial play a central role in how the majority views and treats minorities.

It’s pretty simple: How can I, a member of the minority, tell the majority, which has entitlement and power, that it should give up its privileges so I could be treated and compete on the same level as he or she? How can I convince public officials and politicians to put into action those “we’re against racism” catchphrases?

Worse yet is that we have members of our culturally diverse community that are mouthpieces of the majority or mamu-setäs (Finnish Uncle Toms).

If we look at countries like the United States, the Civil Rights Movement (1955-68) and its most illustrious leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. show us that the only way you are going to change things is through a social movement.

If the white Finnish majority doesn’t treat minorities as equal members of society and matters only get worse, it’s only a question of time when there will be such a social movement in Finland. A social movement is much more powerful than all the money and resources that the state can throw against it.

A social movement can be ignited by a small handful of people who are at the right place at the right time.

Rosa Parks was in such a situation when she wouldn’t give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Her brave “no” ignited the Civil Rights Movement.

The Arab Spring was ignited in the same manner in Tunisia when Mohamed Bouzaizi set himself afire on December 17, 2010.

There are more examples like the Cuban Revolution where a handful of men toppled US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista’s regime in 1959.

In all of the above examples, entitlement was challenged. In all three cases, denial allowed entitlement to live another day.

Finland’s ever-growing culturally and ethnically diverse community needs leaders to pave the way for greater social equality and tackle social ills like racism and bigotry. We have a growing number of such leaders but we need more to make our aim of building a society that abides by social equality a reality.

Today, unfortunately, social equality only applies in most cases to white Finns.