In this post, RASTER.FI publishes the call to action ”Dismantling Antiblackness in Finnish Universities”. The document, written collectively by members of the Finnish academic community, describes the problematic persistance of Antiblackness in Finland’s university system, indicates anti-racist actions to improve students’ experience in university, and recommends textual and audiovisual resources for further reading and learning. The call also invites signatures in support and solidarity. Banner on photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash.
suomeksi, på svenska
In light of recent events that have taken place at the University of Helsinki, especially the use of Afrikan Tähti as a game to role play at a student event, the public and media debates that it generated, which were followed by the sales of the game being multiplied by three in some stores, this call aims to address antiblack racism in Finnish higher education.
The form for signatures is now closed.
Allekirjoituslomake on nyt suljettu.
While we take what has happened at the University of Helsinki as a point of departure for our reflections and for this call to action, we assert that racism is commonplace in student events and the ways Finnish universities are run.
Antiblack racism has been reported in Finnish media in the past years and more cases of antiblack racism at Finnish universities have been recently reported. In fact, in 2012, a Nigerian medical student had accused the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tampere of racism. In 2017, Business students at Aalto University organised an office crawl for their employees on the theme of “The Empire of Britain and colonial times” using racist jokes at checkpoints.
In 2018, students at Åbo Akademi University were found to have attended a party on the theme of “Africa” in blackface. That same year, students at Jyväskylä University went to a sitsfest in blackface and chanted songs with Nazi references and the use of the n-word in the lyrics. A few weeks ago, a media investigation raised issues around antiblack racism and labour exploitation at the University of Turku. Racism is not a new phenomenon in Finland or in Finnish universities; however, the increasing reporting of it in national media and social media may suggest less tolerance toward normative racist practices and discourses in Finland.
Therefore, while specific institutions and organisations should be responsive to the acceptance and normalisation of racist practices within them, the discussion on antiblackness should go beyond the walls of a single university and the management of a single student organisation to encapsulate all institutions of higher education in Finland.
Importantly, this call to action draws attention to the ways in which the denial of antiblack racism and its severance from colonial rule leads to reactions that are defined by surprise, shock and unfamiliarity as animating emotions that render incomprehensible the existence of racism in Finland. This is confounded by a failure to examine and take seriously more generally the experiences of racialised people within Finnish society and more specifically how antiblack racism is embedded within institutions of higher education in Finland.
The refusal to acknowledge the heterogeneity of Finnish society is what structures the unfamiliarity with the plight of black and other racialised groups in university settings thus naturalising racism that sustains black and other racialised students’ subordination.
For that reason, we should discuss what this event and the debates that followed can tell us about Finnish history, culture, and society. In doing so, we hope to gesture towards horizons in which racism is actively countered on a political level and not recuperated by depoliticised neoliberal discourses of “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “internationalisation”.
In addition, a critique of colonial violence cannot fall into a culturally responsive approach that looks to the diversity of the students, instead racism must be named and confronted by submitting to anticolonial and antiracist pedagogies that implicate Finland in the colonial conquest of the West. To dismantle barriers to anticolonial and antiracist work entails the work of abolishing structures that harm black and other racialised people and to take seriously histories, knowledges and experiences that are grounded in liberatory frameworks.
Substantive dismantling of barriers also means acknowledging the entanglements between knowing and unknowing by paying attention to how epistemic ignorance makes impossible relationality and institutes colonial mastery instead of generative, unresolvable, and uneven epistemologies. This call to action therefore orients our vision towards recognising distinct modes of coloniality happening at the university by refusing to displace racialisation as that which happens outside Finnish borders, to validate and expand black and other racialised people’s presence in Finland.
In the writing of this call, we were inspired by several transnational calls to action to tackle antiblack racism in institutions but also other liberation movements. For example, the Palestine and Praxis: Open letter and call to action and the Scarborough National Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education.
The call to dismantle antiblackness in Finland inscribes itself in a global movement for black liberation and affirmation of black life. It is also deeply connected to other liberation struggles in Finland and transnationally. It is for example not possible to divorce the struggle against antiblack racism from issues related to Sámi sovereignty, border imperialism, xenophobic nationalism, other forms of racisms, migrant labour exploitation and so on. This acknowledgement demands forms of solidarities that recognise these entanglements in order to more efficiently address oppression, dispossession and marginalisation.
In the classroom and on campus, we commit to:
- Demanding our academic institutions, faculties and departments to create courses that explore Finnish participation in the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism, and to include this knowledge in existing courses;
- Resisting the (re)production of black trauma, and gesture toward narratives of liberation;
- Challenging the idea that Finland is a white nation;
- Engaging black scholarship in course syllabi, our writing, and through invitation of black speakers and community members to speak at events, without engaging in tokenism;
- Acknowledging the heterogeneity of blackness in Finland;
- Resisting the liberal categorisations of race, by rejecting the narrative that divides and hierarchizes along axes such as social class, language, citizenship, gender, race, religion and sexuality;
- Centering critical race analyses in teaching and drawing links to intersectional oppression and transnational liberation movements;
- Rejecting the idea that race and racism are imported and newly-emerged phenomenon in the Finnish context;
- Acknowledge that black teachers and lecturers experience antiblack racism from their students and other teaching staff (ie. racism manifesting in student feedback, in disrespectful and inappropriate behavior in the classroom, in racially motivated complaints, etc.).
In research, we commit to:
- A practice where research does not stop at academic output, but followed up with a commitment to transformative action that addresses the needs of said community;
- Building concrete research support practices, including mentorship and supervision with compatible level of skills and experiences on research area, to encourage black faculty thriving through the academic ranks and into positions of research leadership, accompanied by recognition practices for members of historically underrepresented communities bearing disproportionate burdens of the labour;
- Providing scholarships, funding, bursaries, fellowships and related, dedicated support including increased research opportunities, mentorship and alumni engagement to support black engagement, enrollment, and thriving;
- For research about black communities or that is likely to affect the welfare of black communities, encouraging co-construction, collaboration and relation building with relevant communities;
- When collaborating with partners from Africa, ensure that they are involved in all decision-making and planning activities throughout the entire project, and equitable ownership of projects, accreditation and funding distribution;
- Reject white saviour partnership arrangements;
- Engage in ethical research practices and accountability;
- Recognise and condemn extractive neocolonial academic practices as a form of unethical research practice.
As administrative and support staff, we commit to:
- Equitable care and protection of black staff, students and members within the academic environment;
- Equip student welfare officers, teaching staff, HR personnel, university and occupational therapist to administer appropriate psychological first aid when being first responder to staff or student who have endured antiblack racial trauma;
- Take seriously and follow up on feedback from black staff on current operational and administrative practices and standards in a transparent manner;
- Acknowledge that emotional reactions that result from antiblack racial discrimination and dehumanising practices is not a reason to evade institutional responsibility;
- Develop an official complaint channel that is clear, easily-accessible, transparent and prioritises complainant’s well-being to handle antiblack and racist complaints;
- Monitoring and reporting of complaints related to antiblack and racist incidents on campus and related to campus activities;
- Recognise that tackling racism in universities requires a sustainable financial investment. Allocate a budget to this end and communicate clearly and transparently about it;
- Disengage from marketing and communication practices that capitalise on a supposed “diversity” (eg. using photographs of racialised staff and students for promotional material while institutional racism is still rampant).
As members (research, teaching and administrative and support staff and students) of academic institutions, we commit to:
- Pressuring our academic institutions to collect racial equality data, with regards to racial discrimination, recruitment, retention, and composition of the institution;
- Recruit and retain black faculty: this may be through the creation of positions that require expertise in specific areas such as, but not limited to, black studies, Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial studies, Decolonial investigations, black feminism, Transnational feminism, social justice and intersectionality. This entails seeking black academics who are not currently based in Finland, while at the same time paying attention to the employment situation and working conditions of black researchers and teachers who are currently in Finland;
- Ensure that black postsecondary students are financially and intellectually supported in their studies and research and that academic positions are created and made sustainable for them to work in Finnish higher education;
- Disengage from exclusion based on language. This means ensuring that communication, events, meetings, initiatives use English or a combination of languages that include English so as to not exclude non-Finnish and non-Swedish speakers. This also means holding peers accountable when they use exclusionary practices such as speaking Finnish and Swedish in front of non-Swedish and non-Finnish peers in order to antagonize them.
As application evaluators for funding institutions, we commit to:
- Requiring applicants who do research with black communities or that is likely to affect the welfare of black communities to report concrete efforts made to co-construct, collaborate, and build relations with members of these communities;
- Take into account what is the researcher’s relationship to the communities they research in the selection process;
- Make transparent the profiles of funding applicants, proportion of successful and unsuccessful applications, especially in social sciences;
- Select and highlight research projects within the social sciences and humanities that engage with the themes of racism, colonialism, and social justice that go beyond migration and integration narratives. Migration and race are not interchangeable;
- Expect and require an engagement and practice of research ethics and accountability.
As members of student unions and associations, we commit to:
- Making an explicit stand and taking concrete action on antiblackness on campus;
- Interrogating the absence of black and racialised students at events and as service users;
- Supporting black and racialised students organising;
- Reaching out to and sustaining engagement with black and racialised students;
- Consulting racialised professionals to design surveys that attend to racialised students’ well-being initiatives; and ensuring that data collected can be openly-sourced;
- End and stop promoting activities that are essentially voluntourism and/or are based on notions of white saviourism.
Articles, chapters, magazines & interviews
- Kehinde Andrews. (2019). Blackness, Empire and migration: How Black Studies transforms the curriculum. Area 52(4), pp. 701-707.
- Myrtle P. Bell, et al. (2021).Making Black Lives Matter in Academia: a Black feminist call for collective action against anti-blackness in the academy. Gender Work Organ 28(1), pp. 39-57.
- Audrey K. Bowden & Cullen R. Buie. (2021).Anti-Black racism in academia and what you can do about it. Nature 6, pp. 760-761.
- Dionne Brand. (2020). On narrative, reckoning and the calculus of living and dying. Toronto Star.
- Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures. (2019). Why I Can’t Hold Space for You Anymore.
- Ylva Habel. (2011). Challenging Swedish Exceptionalism ? Teaching while Black. In Education in the Black Diaspora: Perspectives, Challenges, and Prospects, edited by Kassie Freeman & Ethan Johnson. New York: Routledge.
- Remi Joseph-Salisbury. (2019). Institutionalised whiteness, racial microaggressions and black bodies out of place in Higher Education. Whiteness and Education 4(1), pp.1-17.
- Suvi Keskinen. (2019). Intra-Nordic Differences, Colonial/Racial Histories, and National Narratives: Rewriting Finnish History. Scandinavian Studies 91 (1-2), pp. 163-181.
- Suvi Keskinen. (2018). The ‘crisis’ of white hegemony, neonationalist femininities and antiracist feminism. Women’s Studies International Forum 60, pp. 157-163.
- Suvi Keskinen. (2016). From welfare nationalism to welfare chauvinism: Economic rhetoric, the welfare state and changing asylum policies in Finland. Critical Social Policy 36(3), pp. 352-370.
- Ian Law. (2016). Building the Anti-racist University, action and new agendas. Race, Ethnicity and Education 20 (3), pp. 332-343.
- Mio Lindman & Milka Njoroge. (2020). Att förstå strukturell rasism i Finland utmanar tanken om Finland som undantag. Ny Tid.
- Milka Njoroge. (2021). Diaspora Mixtapes: Toward a Politics of Black Filmmaking. No Niin 6.
- Ali Osman. (2021). What is the elephant in the room? The experience of a black academic in Sweden. International Journal of Contemporary Sociology 58(1), pp. 63-85.
- Anna Rastas & Kaarina Nikunen. (2019). Contemporary African and Black Diasporic Spaces in Europe. Open Cultural Studies, 3(1).
- Shirley Anne Tate & Paul Bagguley. (2016). Building the anti-racist university: next steps. Race, Ethnicity and Education 20 (3), pp. 289-299.
- Shirley Anne Tate & Damien Page. (2018). Whiteliness and institutional racism: hiding behind (un)conscious bias. Ethics & Education 13(1), pp. 141-155.
- Françoise Vergès. (2019). Capitalocene, Waste, Race and Gender. E-flux.
- Svart Feminism i Norden, edited by Jasmine Kelekay (2021). Astra magazine.
- Yhdenvertaisuusvaltuutettu. (2020). Selvitys afrikkalaistaustaisten henkilöiden kokemasta syrjinnästä.
- European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. (2018). Being Black in the EU.
- Rasismi, valta ja vastarinta — Rodullistaminen, valkoisuus ja koloniaalisuus Suomessa, edited by Suvi Keskinen, Minna Seikkula & Faith Mkwesha (2021). Gaudeamus.
- Antiblackness, edited by Moon-Kie Jung & João H. Costa Vargas (2021). Duke University Press.
- Feminisms in the Nordic Region Neoliberalism, Nationalism and Decolonial Critique, edited by Suvi Keskinen, Pauline Stoltz & Diana Mulinari (2020). Palgrave Macmillan.
- Racialization, Racism, and Anti-Racism in the Nordic Countries, edited by Peter Hervik (2019). Palgrave Macmillan.
- To Exist is to Resist: Black Feminism in Europe, edited by Akwugo Emejulu & Francesca Sobande (2019). Pluto Press.
- Relating Worlds of Racism: Dehumanisation, Belonging, and the Normativity of European Whiteness edited by Philomena Essed, Karen Farquharson, Kathryn Pillay & Elisa Joy White (2019). Palgrave Macmillan.
- Locating African European Studies: Interventions, Intersections, Conversation, edited by Felipe Espinoza Garrido, Caroline Koegler, Deborah Nyangulu, & Mark U. Stein (2019). London: Routledge.
- Dismantling Race in Higher Education Racism, Whiteness and Decolonising the Academy, edited by Jason Arday & Heidi Safia Mirza (2018).
- Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe, edited by Michael McEachrane (2014). Routledge.
- Whiteness and Postcolonialism in the Nordic Region: Exceptionalism, Migrant Others and National Identities, edited by Kristín Loftsdóttir & Lars Jensen (2012). Farnham: Ashgate.
- Complying with Colonialism: Gender, Race and Ethnicity in the Nordic Region, edited by S. Keskinen, S. Tuori, S. Irni & D. Mulinari (2009). London: Routledge.
- Sara Ahmed. (2012). On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Duke University Press.
- Zygmunt Bauman. (2004). Work, Consumerism and the New Poor. Open University Press.
- Simone Browne. (2015). Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Duke University Press.
- Judith Butler. (1997). The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Stanford University Press.
- Aimé Césaire. (1950). Discourse on Colonialism.
- Fatima El-Tayeb. (2011). European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe. University of Minnesota Press.
- Frantz Fanon. (1952). Black Skin, White Masks.
- Frantz Fanon. (1961). The Wretched of the Earth.
- C.L.R. James. (1989). The Black Jacobins. Vintage.
- Audre Lorde. (1984). Sister Outsider.
- Achille Mbembe. (2011). Necropolitics. Duke University Press.
- Katherine McKittrick. (2006). Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. University of Minnesota Press.
- Sherene Razack. (1998). Looking White People in the Eye: Gender, Race, and Culture in Courtrooms and Classrooms. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
- Christina Sharpe. (2016). In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Duke University Press.
- Christina Sharpe. (2010). Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects. Duke University Press.
- Harsha Walia. (2021). Border & Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism. Haymarket Books.
- Eric Williams. (1994). Capitalism and Slavery. University of North Carolina Press.
Videos & podcasts
- Culture Arts Society. (2020). Anti-blackness in the Nordics. [Video].
- Ryerson University. (2020). Anti-Blackness: Institutional Constraints & Pedagogy. [Video].
- The Funambulist & Awa Konaté. (2020). Anti-blackness and Nordic Exceptionalism. [Podcast].
- University of Calgary. (2021). Courageous Conversations: Anti-Racism and Decolonization in the University. [Video]
Anaïs Duong-Pedica, Gender studies, Åbo Akademi University
Amiirah Salleh-Hoddin, CEREN – University of Helsinki
Dionysia Kang, Åbo Akademi University
Milka Njoroge, Queen’s University, Kingston Canada
Inka Rantakallio, University of Helsinki
Nelli Ruotsalainen, PhD Candidate, University of Helsinki
Hedayat Selim, Åbo Akademi University
Kim Ramstedt, Tutkimusyhdistys Suoni ry
Caroline Nordenswan, Åbo Akademi
Jana Turk, Doctoral Student at University of Helsinki
Kris Clarke, University of Helsinki
Anita Kittery, University of Eastern Finland
Margarita Sakilayan-Latvala, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences
Iida Pöllänen, Tampere University
Lotta Leiwo (opiskelija, Helsingin yliopisto)
Johanna Ennser-Kananen, University of Jyväskylä
Taina Saarinen, University of Jyväskylä
Iida Kauhanen, University of Oulu
Johanna Leinonen, University of Oulu
Sanna Ryynänen, University of Jyväskylä
Mia Halonen, docent, senior researcher, University of Jyväskylä
Maria Petäjäniemi, University of Oulu
Theresia Bilola, Turku City Council
Marjukka Weide, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä
Vesa Puuronen, University of Oulu
Samira Saramo, Migration Institute of Finland
Sabine Ylönen, University of Jyväskylä
Zahra Edalati , Tampere University
Magdalini Liontou, University of Oulu
Jusaima Moaid-azm Peregrina
Pauliina Puranen, Jyväskylän yliopisto
Riikka Kunelius, University of Eastern Finland
Angel Iglesias Ortiz , Tampere University
Mafi Boby Fortune, University of Oulu
Susanna Välimäki, associate professor of art research, University of Helsinki
Magda Karjalainen, University of Oulu
Kristiina Skinnari, University of Jyväskylä
Leonardo Custódio, Åbo Akademi University
Kristiina Skinnari, University of Jyväskylä
Samuel Lindholm, JYU
Reetta Humalajoki, University of Turku
Martta Myllylä, Doctoral Student, University of Helsinki
Anna-Leena Riitaoja, University of Helsinki
Behnaz Norouzi, University of Oulu
Karoliina Lummaa, Turun Yliopisto
Juho Kaitajärvi-Tiekso, PhD student (TUNI/TAU/etc.), Planning officer (Uniarts Helsinki)
Antti-Ville Kärjä, University of the Arts Helsinki
Patrik Hettula, Åbo Akademi University
Golnar Gishnizjani, PhD student, University of Turku
Camila Viana, University of Jyväskylä
Patricia Carvalho Ribeiro, University of Helsinki
Jasmine Kelekay, Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara
Tytti Pintilä, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
Minni Matikainen, Jyväskylän yliopisto
Kuura Irni, University of Helsinki
Heidi Katz, Åbo Akademi University
Sanna Ojalammi, Jyväskylän yliopisto
Sari Pöyhönen, University of Jyväskylä
Marianna Ferreira-Aulu, University of Turku
Nettie, Jyvaskyla University
Janina Vuoti, Jyväskylän yliopisto
Heidi Niemelä, Oulun yliopisto
Kaarna Tuomenvirta, PhD Candidate, University of Helsinki
Lauri Uusitalo, Tampere University
Hamed Ahmadinia, Åbo Akademi University
Anne Häkkinen, University of Jyväskylä
Mona Eid, University of Helsinki
Mira Karjalainen, University of Helsinki
Elina Oinas, University of Helsinki
Dusica Ristivojevic, Grant based senior researcher, UH
Maedeh Ghorbanian, doctoral candidate, Åbo Akademi
Anna Rastas, Tampere University
Sabine Harrer, University of Vienna
Elina Turjanmaa, University of Oulu
Alganesh Messele, King’s College, London University
Aino Nevalainen, HY
Maarit Forde, Tampere University
Pedro Oliveira, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Faranak Halali Luca Tainio, University of Helsinki
Reetta Ronkainen, Jyväskylän yliopisto
Ioana Țîștea, Tampere University
Ulkar Aghayeva, Chair of Fem-R
Tiina Seppälä, Rovaniemi
Suvi Keskinen, University of Helsinki
Minna Seikkula, University of Helsinki
Monika Keisala, student at Turku University
Tuuli Kurki, University of Helsinki
Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Luke.
Cecilia Fewster, University of Helsinki
Anne-Mari Souto, University of Eastern Finland
Aino-Maija Elonheimo, University of Helsinki
Suvi Lensu, Aarhus ja Edinburgh yliopistot
Sirpa Lappalainen, University of Eastern Finland
Saara Toukolehto, University of Groningen
Keshia D’silva, University of Helsinki
Majed Abusalama, PhD Candidate at Tampere University, Director of WeAreNotNumbers, writer
Annaliina Niitamo, PhD candidate, University of Helsinki
Ylva Perera, Åbo Akademi University
Derek Ruez, Tampere University
Behnam Khodapana, University of Jyväskylä
Polina Vorobeva, University of Jyväskylä
Nataša Mojškerc, Tampere University
Nia Sullivan, Åbo Akademi University
Jeff Hearn, Hanken School of Economics
Emilia Lakka, University of Jyväskylä
Päivi Iikkanen, University of Jyväskylä
Linnéa Holmberg, Åbo Akademi University (Student)
Tanja Seppälä, University of Jyväskylä
Dr Eva Johanna Holmberg, University of Helsinki
Vanessa Virmajoki, University of Helsinki
Sami Tanskanen (ISYY)
Audrey Paradis, University of Oulu
Milla-Maria Joki, University of Helsinki
Here’s the sixth batch of signatures:
Ella Alin, University of Helsinki
Saara Pellander, Migration Institute of Finland
Camila Rosa Ribeiro, Tampere University
Tuuli Lukkala, University of Eastern Finland
Ines Högström, Tampereen yliopisto
Elsa Myllyaho, SOS ry, Tampereen yliopisto
Marika Jalonen, student
Arja Turunen, University of Jyväskylä
Marjaana Jauhola, University of Helsinki
Linda Bäckman, Åbo Akademi
Linda Annala Tesfaye, Hanken School of Economics
Eva Nilsson, Hanken School of Economics
Leena Vastapuu, Swedish Defence University
Mila Seppälä, University of Turku
Simo Kellokumpu visiting researcher, University of the Arts Helsinki
Tanja Mikkonen University of Helsinki
Anuhya Bobba, Doctoral Student, University of Turku
Seija Jalagin, University of Oulu
Magdalena Kmak, Åbo Akademi University
Anitta Kynsilehto, Tampere University
Miitta Järvinen, University of Turku
Hanna Karhu, University of Helsinki
Jenni Helakorpi, University of Helsinki
Niina Hanhinen, University of Turku
Heidi Latvala-White, Siirtolaisuusinstituutti
Sari Vanhanen, Migration Institute of Finland
Satu Sundström, University of Helsinki
Miika Kekki, University of Eastern Finland
Riikka Turtiainen, Turun yliopisto
Nicola Ussher Rebecca von Martens
Hai Nguyen, Turun yliopisto
Marja Tiilikainen, Migration Institute of Finland
Usva Friman, Tampere University, The Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies
Freja Högback, Åbo Akademi University
Bonn Juego, University of Jyväskylä
Ville Laakkonen, Tampere University
Ellen Glader, Åbo Akademi
Ina Juva, Helsingin yliopisto
Tuomas Äystö, University of Helsinki
Stina Hakomäki, University of Helsinki
Paco Diop, Student, Turku University & kindergarten teacher and deputy council at Turku City
Michelle Francett-Hermes, Giellagas Institute, University of Oulu
Kata Kyrölä, University College London
Camilla Marucco, University of Turku/We See You ry
Matilda Pärssinen, Åbo Akademi
Janne M. Korhonen, LUT