On March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, I was asked to give a speech about safety at a public demonstration in Turku. The event was organized by individual activists together with KJAR (the System of Free Women Society of East Kurdistan). The theme was Take Back the Night, which has been a rallying point for different feminist demonstrations in Turku during the last three years. In 2016, the theme Take Back the Night was motivated by a desire to reclaim public space from fascist and nationalist groups that had roamed in public spaces in the city at night. They claim that their motive is to protect Finnish white women who are under threat of rape and physical violence by migrant men. These groups have practiced violence and hatred towards women, racialized people, trans* people and other marginalized groups. Like in all nationalist projects, women’s bodies are being used as arguments for racist values.
Since the elections on November 9th that resulted in Donald Trump being chosen as the next President of the US, various explanations have been presented by commentators in newspapers, TV and social media. Many of them, at least in Finland, seem to centre on the role of the white working-class and discuss how people in areas that suffer from large scale industrial decline wanted political change. However, this is a very narrow and to some extent misleading analysis of the complex problematics leading to the victory of Trump
Every now and then, I get into an argument online about racism. I should know better. But once I did it on a larger scale, as a project, when I cooperated with The Guardian on a series called Racism in the Digital Age. The series developed from an editorial concern with the sheer level of abuse aimed at writers of colour ‘below the line’. But while abuse could be moderated, there was also sense that whenever a writer of minority background wrote in any way about their experience, or with a lens trained on the racial dimension of social and political issues, they were frequently greeted with hostility, hostility expressed in the refrain, ‘why are you bringing race into it?’ The first wave of articles in the series, then, was to examine changing understandings of racism in the UK, and also to invite writers who had experienced this abuse or latent hostility to write about their experience of writing about race and racism in an interactive media environment.
It is with great concern that researchers of the anti-racist research network RASTER have followed the events in Finland during this past fall. Please read our statement here.
What does it mean for an academic to practice anti-racism? Is it about acknowledging that racism occurs in and outside of academia? Is it about familiarizing oneself with “race” and critical race or postcolonial discourses? Is it a matter of incorporating discussions on “race”, racialization or Othering in one’s teaching, research and writing? Or does practicing anti-racism entail more than these?