It was a very sunny summer afternoon and myself and three other immigrant friends of mine visited the Linnunlahti beach. On arrival we saw some Finnish guys playing volleyball at the pitch, so we requested to join but they declined. They nicely explained that they were engaging in a sort of competition and so would prefer to play without us. Their response seemed not to have gone down well with us, and the response from one of my colleagues was that they were racist. Although the Finnish guys did not hear that comment, I explained to my friend it was unfair to label such act as racist.

Undeniably racism is a very touchy subject for most people, as issues concerning free speech and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights come into play. Some argue that talking about supporting racial discrimination and prejudice is just words and that free speech should allow such views to be aired without restriction. Others point out that these words can lead to some very dire and serious consequences. Despite the serious consequences about this touchy subject, I am of the opinion that some lessons could be learnt from it.

Prior to my arrival in Joensuu, I heard stories about how it was quite difficult for immigrants like me to live here. Of course it was normal for people who mentioned such stories who were mostly immigrants to exaggerate some of the stories. And so each time I listened I kept asking myself what might have influenced such racist acts. Most of the perpetrators of racist acts are not made to explain reasons for the actions, rather such reasons are left to victims who give all sorts of meanings. Some of the reasons were way overboard but since they are the victims, the feeling is that they have a right to say whatever they want.

I now will turn my attention to a much broader issue which also encompasses racism, and this is discrimination. Several studies about cross cultural issues have pointed to prejudice and stereotypes to be a reason why people of one culture or race discriminate against the other. In the story I mentioned above, one question that cross my mind was that, what interpretation would have been given if all the people were from one race. I am not quite sure if discrimination (racism) will come anywhere near list of possible reasons for such actions. In that regard, I ask whether it is fair to label such act as racist just because there are different skin colours involved. After all, discriminatory acts even exist among different tribes and cultures in Africa, but not much noise is made about it.

Each time I engage in discrimination discussions with my fellow immigrants from Africa, I continue to maintain that whatever discriminatory acts that we experience must rather propel us to think about the development of our continent. We can view it as a wakeup call to improve the lots of our brothers and sister back home. I am saying this because the prejudice and stereotypes that influences other to discriminate against us are stories that come out from Africa ad reported by our own people who act as news correspondents for international news agencies. Having spent time to monitor news on majority of the international news networks about Africa, all I hear is mostly the bad and evil stuff. Trust me some of the news are so weird that one may be tempted to ask where our human values are. As I mentioned earlier, not very specific reasons are always known about people who engage in discriminatory acts.

Africa has enough resources to create good developments and better living standards for its citizenry, however what most of the citizens are interested in is travelling abroad to seek greener pastures. For example, since January 2014 over 5000 illegal immigrants have been arrested of the coast of Italy. Many of them loose and continue to lose their lives because of the dream to make it to Europe. I can imagine what stories would be told about Africa if we are able to create better living conditions that compares to the best countries in the world. I can imaging the respect and honour that will be accorded Africans if we do not abandon our continent to seek greener pastures elsewhere but rather go on holidays. So whenever I hear any discussion about discrimination especially against Africans, I should be in a rush to take side and explode in anger, rather it must serve as a reminder to contribute towards improving and developing my dear continent.

By Isaac Adaam

International Business student at the Karelia University of Applied Sciences


This story has been published in Karjalainen newspaper and produced by JoMoni

Isaac Adaam