So it begins. 2013.
I’m not much of a believer in clean slates, new beginnings and such. Of course one can change direction, drastically even, but everything you’ve seen, heard, felt and experienced is still there. It cannot be taken away.
In recent days we’ve experienced a rather active discussion on racism in Finland. The heated debate was prompted by an article in Helsingin Sanomat by Umayya Abu-Hanna, a journalist of Palestinian origin, who has lived in Finland for years and years, but nowadays is living in the Netherlands.
I assume the point of her writing was to raise the issue of racism, make it visible, and shake things up a little. In that, it was successful. But of course, as we (Finnish people in general) seem to be specialists in pointing out the mistakes of others in a discussion rather than debating constructively, the discussion soon went off course.
Opinions and questions emerged. Does she have the right to criticize us, this country who has given her so much? How dare she criticize her own political party (the Greens) who have offered her so many opportunities? Maybe the racism her adopted daughter experienced really did not happen? Maybe all the remarks she and her daughter have heard on the streets were just meant as a joke, and perhaps she is just a bit too sensitive?
All above opinions were visible in the discussions of my social media network, which mostly consists of well-educated, smart people, who represent a wide variety of political opinions, from left to right, conservative to liberal.
And just to be exact, I’m not saying any of the above opinions or thoughts underlying the questions are wrong. That’s not my point and I don’t want to go into that debate. However, I will say that I was rather surprised of how fast the discussion went into ripping the original article in pieces, blaming the writer of being bitter, unthankful and overly sensitive, and at the same time deviating from the topic of “experiencing racism in Finland”.
I don’t think it was done on purpose. I believe many of us take the topic seriously and would like to see changes in society, where little children are racially harassed by old grannies on bus stops and no one cares to intervene. But why do we, who for the most part are worried about the expressions of hardening values in society and perhaps even agree on the necessity of change, feel the need to undermine, label unacceptable or even prove wrong what others have experienced? Of course this practice seems to be valid for some topics more than others, e.g. equality and racism, but still.
What came to my mind, is the concept of white privilege. I don’t believe many of us ever stop to think about it – and hey, that’s why it’s called white privilege. We don’t have to think about it. Maybe if we were a bit more aware of the concept and the way it shows in society, we might understand the subjective experiences of others as well, and be able and willing to discuss constructively? Even pro-actively and without prompting?
♥ In the meantime: My personal goal for 2013? To become a better skier, visit New York, drink only good coffee, be less afraid and more brave in everything life has to offer.
♦ Song of the day: Marvin Gaye, If this world were mine