I'm ignorant about minorities

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

A while I ago I realized something that made me feel really stupid, only to realize that most people are on the same level. I randomly switched on the TV and there was nothing really on, but I ended up putting the song contest show the Voice in the background. There was this woman singing and it was a nice song, but I realized I don't understand a word of it. I didn't even recognize the language. Neither did any of the judges, apparently, because one asked and she sang in Northern Sami. I was kind of shocked how me or any of the judges didn't recognize the language. Are we really that ignorant about these people? Northern Sami is an official language in parts of Finland. It's pathetic none of us recognize it.

I've always wanted to know about the Sami people. Most of them live in Sweden and Norway, but Finland and Russia have their share as well. I know they have three languages here in Finland, I recognize their flag, and they have those funny looking clothes that match the flag. That's it. That's all I know about them, which is very ignorant of me, but also says something about the "regular Finns", if you will.

I know the Sami people are our indigenous people. Finns, and generally other people in Sweden and whatever, have threated them horribly. It's very normal in every part of the world among indigenous peoples. They've been treated like shit. Many still are. It wasn't long ago that the Sami people couldn't even access education in their own language, but were forced to speak Finnish. I suppose the situation is a little better nowadays, but I still know very little about them.

I partly blame our education system for this. Over the course of 12 years I've spent in school, we've barely covered Finnish minorities. Most of the education is that we have these people here, now let's focus on how to solve this equation. I don't know why that is, but if I had to guess, we don't like admitting our mistakes. Finns are very good with pretending our history isn't connected to world history. Oh, we didn't take part in the Holocaust. We had no idea. Oh, we weren't a part of Operation Barbarossa, we just happened to attack the Soviet Union with the Nazis at the same time as they did in the south. Oh, we haven't mistreated minorities. Okay, we have, but let's not talk about it. Because seriously. How are history teachers going to make us understand what's wrong if they don't admit that we've done something wrong? 

We've rarely taked about the Sami people, and maybe that's partly because they live in Lapland. I've never met a Sami person, or if I have, I at least don't know. They look like normal people, right? 99% of Finland is white and dresses the same way everyone else. I wouldn't know. But they live on the other side of the country. Maybe they are more widely acknowledged in the north. 

Another, very large minority, that I know close to nothing of is the Romani people. There are 11 000 of them in Finland, about twice the amount of the Sami people. I know we've had them for 500 years. They dress in recongizable way, and they have a little darker skin than most people here. But aside from that, I don't know anything about them, but they're probably the most hated minority here. They steal, everyone carries a knife or a gun, and they beat random people up. That's the stereotype, which has led to horrible things. For example, a grocery store in one city gave its employees an instruction to always call security if you see one of these people walk in. Just in case that they don't steal anything. This got a lot of attention here. It's good it did, because how the hell can we treat these people like this? 

Again, I know very little of the Romani people. Again, I partly blame the education system. They are rarely mentioned. If they are, it's once again, we have these people here, you can look it up on your own time if you're interested but let's focus on the important things now. That sucks. I mean, from what I've understood, their culture is interesting, and I know nothing of it, even though I'm used to seeing these people walking down the street. We had a few in our elementary school. No one ever explained why some of us dress differently. But maybe we never asked. We were kids.

On the other hand, I can't blame our education system for not knowing about these minorities. All I have to do is Google it and I would know. But on some level, I find it sad that we don't talk about minorities.We should. Different minorities are an important part of our culture and society. Especially Swedes.

The one minority that I do know of, at least something, are the Finland Swedes. They're by far the largest and most important minority. There are almost 300 000 of them. They speak Swedish as their first language. They are richer, healthier, more socially and politically active and just overall, better, than us normal Finns. No, seriously, they are. Finland and Sweden go way back. Before we were a part of Russia, we were a part of Sweden. For centuries, Swedish was our only official language. Finnish as a written language is just a few centuries old. Even then, Sweden was the language of the better people, while Finnish was mostly spoken by commoners who lived in the middle of nowhere. While that's no the case now, they have had a huge impact on our modern society.

The one every kid gets to face is "pakkoruotsi" which is translated to mandatory Swedish. Everyone has to study at least 4 years of Swedish. It goes on to secondary education and universities. Most people suck at Swedish. Me included, to be honest. I've had to use Swedish once in my lifetime. It was at Bangkok airport because I met a Swedish couple and asked them if they would look after my bag. Funny how you start to trust your fellow tourists from neighboring countries when you're abroad. No, but seriously. Swedish is pretty useless, especially if you live in Eastern Finland like I do. I wish I spoke Russian, it'd be ten times more useful. Or Arabic. Or Chinese. But no. Swedish it is, just because the rich Finland Swedes provide probably 90% of our taxes (not really that much) and their political party always, always, gets 4.7% of the votes. Now they're in the government and want to make Swedish mandatory in the marticulation exams. Thank fuck I graduated last spring.

In all seriousness, I wish I knew more about the dozens of minorities Finland has. These three are the most important, I would say, and two of them are complete mystries to me. In the end I don't know much about the Finland Swedes' culture either. I just know the language so that helps. In my opinion it's very pathetic of myself and my society that most people know very little. I mean, I know more about Aboriginals and Native Americans than I do of these minorities that we have, and that's because we don't talk about these people in school as much. We definitely should. It's important to know the minorities of your own country. At leas something of them. The fact that most people know nearly nothing leads to mistreating them and thinking they're not a part of us. They are, and they should be. Multiculturalism is a blessing, not a curse, right? 


Submitted: February 17, 2020

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