In the last few weeks Finnish racism has been a hot topic both in Finland and abroad. The discussion on racism in Finland has been going in circles for decades. The discrimination our generation faces here mirrors the experiences of our parents and now, like then resources are wasted on explaining away the problem, rather than on creating changes. Recent studies show that it’s time to move on from the question of whether or not racism exists in Finland to what will be done about it.
According to recent studies Afrofinns, with roots in sub-Saharan Africa, are one of the groups which experience the most racism. The effects of racism are multifaceted and have an effect on all aspects of life from daily encounters to structural discrimination in working life, housing market and education. On an individual level the culmination of these experiences is traumatizing and creates feelings of insecurity. Institutional racism keeps a sector of the population from advancing in society. In the long run, racism has been shown to create mental health problems and isolation from society. On a societal level these issues culminate and create economic burdens. In addition, Finland’s reputation as the most racist country in the EU decreases how attractive the country is to foreign professionals and investors. Racism depletes resources and causes human suffering, the price of which Finland will have to pay.
The political discussion on immigration is often aggressive and populist rhetorics and the lack of facts create misunderstandings and fear to all involved. Hatemongering and immigration painted as a threat directly influence the lives of Afrofinns and other non-white people living in Finland. The term immigrant has become synonymous with a non-white person, as white western migrants are not seen in the same light. The immigrant conversation often includes all of us, even though we are not all immigrants. We are finns, citizens, voters and taxpayers but we are rarely thought of outside the immigrant context. Our existence is used as a political weapon utilized across the political spectrum.
It is the government’s duty to build infrastructures and a society in which all communities and individuals can live in a safe environment. It is in Finland’s interest to create policies and conditions that allow the same opportunities for all to grow, live and be an active member of society.