teleSUR, 11 April 2015 **** Front Page

On Racist Incidents, Organized Racism in Finland

By Bruno Jäntti

In the past couple of months, I've encountered openly, shamelessly racist incidents in Helsinki, Finland.

Recently, I was walking in Helsinki downtown when I saw a native Finnish man in his 40's ferociously screaming at a young black woman. “Not a single Somali is my friend!”, he shouted. “Not a single nigger!” I could write “the N-word” but this fellow did not say “the N-word” — I will not sugarcoat his statement.

Some alcohol was involved, having said that, his rage seemed to be of a particular kind, the kind where it is plausible that whatever he is saying is what he really thinks. I interfered and did my best to outmaneuver this sorry creature.

In the past couple of months, I've encountered openly, shamelessly racist incidents in Helsinki, Finland, more frequently than ever before. Not only that, I also keep hearing of such incidents from family members and friends who have personally witnessed, or been the target of, such attacks.

The proliferation of racist incitement, at any rate, in terms of what I personally have stumbled upon in Finland, has made me ponder the broader question of how should individuals and movements react to and counter racist behaviour both locally and internationally. There are no easy answers nor any quick-fix solutions.

Let's think of a hypothetical. You happen to see an incident of rabid racist aggression. What are you going to do? The exact circumstances are important, of course, but somewhat complex questions of principle come at play. For example, I don't have it in me to outright dismiss the point of view that one should not intellectually debate such behaviour. To think of a rough analogy, if you encounter sexual abuse, are you going to start a debate with the offender on whether such conduct is or isn't acceptable? Maybe. Maybe not.

There are claims, assertions and slurs which fall outside of the realm of calm debating. Slurs that combine factual distortion and outright incitement, if debated, often require in-depth deconstruction. That option is usually off the table due to time constraints, putting aside the possible reluctance of the attacker to delve into topics like human biology.

Furthermore, there is something inherently suspicious with just debating behaviour which is fundamentally repugnant and unacceptable. That you lose part of your humanity and dignity if you sink to the level of discussing something that is evidently and completely out of line, empirically untenable and morally corrupt.

Fabrications, antics of the Finns Party

Besides everyday cases of racist incitement, you can find well-organized racist structures in the Finnish party politics. The Finns Party serves as the prime example of this.

Two months ago, the Finns Party — formerly the True Finns, currently the third largest political party in the Finnish legislature — published its 2015 programme on immigration policy. A conservative and Christian party that encompasses both right and far-right orientations, the Finns Party has for many years been the torchbearer of organized xenophobia and Islamophobia in Finland.

Hence, that the program is a continuation and product of this tradition should not be too surprising. The program laments all these "immigrants who lack skills required in the labour market or who, for religious or cultural reasons, do not want to adopt important European notions for example on equality or freedom of expression".

What else? The program emphasizes that "Finland must free itself from the idea that immigration and multiculturalism even of themselves are necessary or preferable" but nonetheless "remain open to those who want to live in the house by the house's rules".

Original. Spot-on. What about concrete proposals? The Finns Party suggests, for example, that immigrants receiving social assistance or general housing assistance could continue to receive these forms of assistance if and only if they stay in the very apartment that has been assigned to them by the Finnish authorities. No such restrictions are applied to native citizens of Finland. Such a proposal could reasonably be interpreted as a violation of freedom of movement, hence a breach of the Finnish constitution.

The kind of discriminatory and racist attitudes prevalent both within and outside of the Finns Party are deeply ingrained in our culture, not as a dominant current of thought but nevertheless a current of thought that has considerable momentum behind it. A society can cure such a politico-ideological ailment only through continuously exposing all of its manifestations as empirically untenable. And this takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.


The archive: Bruno Jäntti, Finlanda's political and social life, Immigration, Multiculturalism and Identity

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