Why inequality should matter

Njoki Githieya

“Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon, let me begin by a disclaimer: I am an Angry black woman in the making.” This was the line I used to open my presentation at the Challenges to Migrant and Racialized Researchers in the Nordic Countries workshop during the recently organized ETMU days in Jyväskylä. As a young black immigrant researcher in Finland, I am confronted by inequality more often than I’d care to disclose, but, for the purpose of this paper which is a representation of my short presentation at the seminar, I will try to address my thoughts holding the larger black community as a whole.

To challenge the existence of inequality is to attempt to humanise the minority groups who experience social injustices. In Finland, one largely homogeneous and dominant identity, the white Finnish identity possesses the power to ascribe value to the other; and consequently the power to disenfranchise those identities deemed to not meet the requisite litmus test. So what do we do as a people perpetually destined to fail the test? I argue that we must consolidate our attempts to have a conversation. A conversation that shows race as the constant and primary pain visited on black people and blackness in general. It is to demand transformative inclusion and an equitable existence.

To contextualize the failing relationship between Blackness and Finnishness, let us examine the formation of institution and policy through identity. Given that value is ascribed by the dominant identity, they thus hold both the power and resource to shape the orientation of any policy, social institution and organization with their cultural preference; consequently, facilitating the failure of this relationship. With this in mind, the negative portrayal of race/colour has had a direct effect on the lives of immigrants – black immigrants in particular, who have to contend with the unfair ascription of less than value on their identity from the dominant (in this case Finnish) identity. In practise it affects, what jobs people of colour have access to, how far and fast they vertically grow in employment positions, their remuneration among others. The black community continues to struggle to be treated equally, struggles to find opportunity equivalent to the level of their qualification. It is a constant challenge to compete with whiteness BUT WHY MUST WE? Isn’t the evidence of such deeply rooted inequality enough to champion for positive change?

The resulting feeling of voicelessness and unequal coexistence compels us to live in a constant state of being defenceless, it is perpetual defeat. I purpose this article not to aggravate the divide further but to encourage real discussion into the understanding of varying forms of systemic de-legitimization of Blacks and Africans in Finland. I hope to create a blunt understanding and with this change the manner and practice of interacting with marginalized groups. Owing to the changing trends characterizing the 21st Century it is prudent on us to find means through discussion to overcome varying forms of systematic isolation that are consequences of inequality. Practical possibilities of transformative actions can be executed to guarantee equality and inclusion in all spheres of engagement. This is why the study into inequality matters. Conversation about Finnishness versus Otherness matter.

Njoki Githieya studies in Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research (PEACE) Master’s Programme at Tampere University.