Experiences of racism need to be voiced without threats of negative sanctions

Researcher and lecturer at the University of Helsinki, Dr. Faith Mkwesha (photo), heard alarming news about the treatment of her son at the Helsinki central metro station in July 2020. Her then under aged son had traveled with a ticket that was no longer valid when stopped by ticket inspectors and security guards for control. The Black young man was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed, and was later held by the police for hours before he could travel back to his hometown. He was in the company of his friend, a white young man, who did not have a valid ticket either but was let go directly after the inspection. Video footage and accounts by witnesses were sent to the family afterwards. Having made these events public through social media, Dr. Mkwesha is currently being investigated for slander towards the security guards and officials who were in charge of the control measures*.

The work in the private and public security sector involves the right to use force towards individual people. It is thus of great importance that they are open to criticism and public scrutiny of their work, instead of initiating police investigations on persons who voice their concern for racism and unequal treatment. Both the private and public security sector should be able to face criticism and seek ways to enhance non-discriminatory practices in their work. To initiate police investigations on slander, with possible legal consequences, can provide serious hindrances to make experiences of racism visible. It is the task of security institutions, but also the Finnish society more generally, to contribute to a respectful atmosphere, where Black, Brown and other racialised minority persons can voice their experiences of racism and unequal treatment without being threatened by legal procedures or other similar negative consequences.

Suvi Keskinen, Professor, University of Helsinki

Anna-Leena Riitaoja, University researcher, University of Helsinki

Ali Ali, University Researcher, University of Helsinki 

Tuuli Kurki, University researcher, University of Helsinki

Gwenaëlle Bauvois, University researcher, University of Helsinki

Saara Koikkalainen, University researcher, University of Eastern Finland

Daria Krivonos, Researcher, University of Helsinki

Elisa Pascucci, Researcher, University of Helsinki

Minna Seikkula, Researcher, University of Helsinki

Niko Pyrhönen, Researcher, University of Helsinki

Zeinab Karimi, Researcher, University of Helsinki

Tobias Pötzsch, University lecturer, University of Helsinki

Liina Mustonen, University of Duisburg-Essen

Nora Fabritius, University of Helsinki

Markus Himanen, University of Helsinki

Aminkeng Atabong Alemanji University of Helsinki

Johanna Ennser-Kananen, University of Jyväskylä

Mari Toivanen, University of Helsinki

Leonardo Custódio, Åbo Akademi University

* Multiple associations, initiatives and academic groups have released statements of support to Dr. Faith Mkwesha. For example, the COST Network Decolonising Development, the Decolonial International Network, the discipline of Global Development Studies at the University of Helsinki, and the activist-scholarly network “Feminist and Queer Solidarities beyond Borders”.