starting from the first day of 2013, there’s been discussions, critics, debates, and all sorts of talk about racism here in Finland. it all started when a famous Finnish author wrote an article in one of the best & well-known Finnish newspaper about her own experience(s) in Finland, how she and her daughter had been subjects of racist comments for far too many times that in the end she decided to move out of the country. i’m not gonna write about the whole thing here, and neither am i going to comment on the issue itself.
after i read the article for the first time, i talked about it with my husband, and after a while, my husband said something like, “i wonder why it’s always viewed as ‘racism’ when the subject is African, or Asian, or from any other background than the people from the Western world. what if the subject is a westerner? isn’t that also ‘racism’?”
it got me thinking. and of course, he’s right, it is also racism, no matter who the subject is, whenever someone/a group of people treat that subject with discrimination or prejudice. it’s very rare, or at least not as common as when the subjects are African or Asian, or some other ethnic background. but it exists, too. you don’t really think anyone could get away from racism, do you? 😉
because then i remember something that happened when i was very young, in my own home country, in my own home city, in my own school. i was probably 7 or 8 years old, and i had no idea what a race means, let alone notice the differences in real life. but i could spot it when someone had a different hair colour than the rest of us, because everyone in my home country back then had dark hair (and the old ones would have grey or white hair, but that’s a different story). and this particular one was someone who went in the same school taxi as i. a school taxi, in case you’re wondering, is a small car that takes some kids to (the same) school and back to their homes, and usually the kids in one school taxi live around the same area so it wouldn’t take such a long time to drive them to and from school.
he was a kid younger than me, probably by 1 or 2 years. his mum is Dutch, and his dad is Indonesian, and that was enough to make him have blonde hair. which was not normal in the eyes of little kids in my country back then, i suppose. (though, ironically, our school was actually right next to the International School) anyway, because of his different appearance, every single day since he joined our school taxi, he got teased and bullied by the other boys in our school taxi. i don’t remember exactly what they said, but i can assure you it was no different than those things little western kids would say about another kid who has dark skin colour or small eyes, just the other way around. and since i had no idea what race meant, and i didn’t know what racism was, i’m sorry to admit that i might have laughed along with those other boys. or at the very least, i didn’t see anything wrong with it. i didn’t tell this to any parent or teacher, i didn’t think this was not right. only when once or twice it got out of hand that the boy cried did i start to think that maybe we were being too harsh on him.
one day, this boy couldn’t take it anymore, and when we got to his house, he told the school taxi driver to wait there a bit as he went inside his house. the next thing we knew, his mum came out of the house, and scolded us all in broken Indonesian language. she said things like how we should be ashamed of ourselves, calling names and making prejudicial remarks to someone just because he looked different, etc. that was the first time ever in my life that i learned what racism is. and how easy it was to ‘go with the flow’ when you’re a kid yourself, not knowing what’s right or wrong, and how close it was for me to grow up not knowing.
the school taxi was very quiet for the rest of that day, and the next day, no one dared to say anything to the boy. he was happy for a while, but then if i remember correctly, he also couldn’t stand the silent treatment he was getting in return, and finally, after some time, he never came with our school taxi anymore.
i also had another experience when my husband (back then he was still “just my boyfriend”) first came to my home city. most of the people were good or just shy to him, but once, when we were walking somewhere (can’t remember what part of the city for the life of me… i think it was quite near where my parents live) suddenly a somewhat older man shouted to us, “Dutch! go back to your own country!” luckily for my husband, this old man was saying it in Indonesian language, so my husband didn’t understand it at all. and he isn’t even Dutch to begin with, but still, that was quite something the old man was saying.
again, i’m not going to go into details about the racism itself, but the thing is, after this issue of racism came out in Finland, everyone seems to be talking about it, and how there are new kinds of racism, and silent racism and all that. even when someone asks something like, “how do you celebrate Christmas in Indonesia?” to an Indonesian is considered by some as a racist question.
so yes, i believe if you look closer and hear better, you can find racism everywhere and anywhere. not one race in this world could escape from a racist comment, and it doesn’t matter how great or pathetic you think you are. and i’m not saying that we should cover our ears and not see what is there around you, but rather than always trying to analyze if some remark someone is saying is actually a form of racism or not, wouldn’t you be doing yourself a favour by not thinking too much about it? after all, what matters is, i think, how you take those kinds of comments. take my husband’s experience for example. he didn’t understand the language that the old man used when he became a subject of a racist comment, so what happened? nothing. life went on normally. and though what the old man did was not right, but the comment made no effect to the subject at all, and so the old man’s “mission” failed. if you understand the language and what the comment means, that doesn’t mean you can’t still ignore it. that won’t change the fact that the other person is a racist, but perhaps you can look at it this way: you are better than the other person, because these kind of things don’t get to you. you can even feel sorry for them, for being so narrow-minded.
of course, i can’t say the same thing about racist acts if it goes beyond nasty comments or remarks. and i’m sorry to say, i don’t have any wise words on how to make the whole world be a better place, or how to make these racist things disappear altogether. but whenever i get to be the subject of a racist act, i always try to remember that there are millions or billions of other people in this country, my home country, in this whole world that are NOT racist. in my head & heart, these people can make up for the few that are racists. that’s much more to be thankful about in this life, than to sulk about or get hurt by. 😉
PS. this writing is purely my own opinion in a peaceful state of mind, and in no way meant to hurt or harm anyone, with or without any experience of any kind of racism. 🙂 and also, this is only about racism in its simplest form, and i prefer not to talk more about the deeper forms of racism here or anywhere else. thank you for understanding!