Finland has always been an international and multi-cultural country, but the myth of a monocultural people lives on.
One Pekka Vahvanen is one of the most interesting radio programs this summer Figures on racism history. The eight-part series is at Yle Areena. When you listen to it from beginning to end, for a while, not very rosy images of humanity revolve around your mind.
Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years. Slavery and racism also have long roots in the Middle East. The racism of Africans is partly brought by Europeans. State racism is booming in Asia. Science, too, has justified racism. Phew.
Racism is, by definition, the subordination of people or groups of people on the basis of, for example, ethnic origin, color, nationality, culture, mother tongue or religion.
Bullying, discrimination, persecution, ethnic cleansing or genocide are obvious and blatant forms of racism that are easy to condemn. But racism is not always so easy to identify or become aware of.
The racist opinions of an individual are not a big problem, but the unconscious prejudices that prevail in society are.
If all girls with a Somali background born in Finland are advised to study as community nurses, the teacher may not even realize that they are racist. An immigrant studying at a university may be repeatedly asked how you got here.
Unconscious, structural racism places restrictions on some people that can be fatal. The talented young person does not even set out to pursue his dream, but settles for what he was expected to want.
Otherwise as is often thought, Finland has always been an international and multi-cultural country. Until a couple of hundred years ago, more Swedish and Russian were spoken in Helsinki than Finnish. Even Finnish speakers are not as similar as is often imagined.
The idea of nationality that emerged in the 19th century was a powerful force that gave birth to democratic nation-states in Europe. Without Finnish identity, there would hardly be an independent Finland.
The myth of a monocultural Finland lives in our consciousness amazingly tenaciously. History could also be viewed from a broader perspective, and it would indeed be necessary today.
The idea of a monocultural people easily turns into xenophobia: us and others. There is usually nothing good about it.
The author is an editor of HS.