Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Racist vandalism is costly for Helsinki city

Perpetrators of racism (racists) give all sorts of reasons in an attempt to justify or explain their twisted perception or treatment of fellow human beings who happen to look different. Sometimes economic reasons are evoked. Some in Finland argue, for instance, that migrants from Africa and elsewhere are "welfare shoppers" who move to the country to tap welfare benefits and deplete state funds. Despite their concerns, many racists go around vandalizing public spaces with racist writings and graffiti -- forgetting that cleaning up the mess will be financially costly for the state and the city they seek to "protect" from "invaders".

The City of Helsinki has cleaned up a bus stop (see pictures) that was vandalized with racist writings and drawings.

In a 2011 blog post, I wrote about the ugly face of racism at a bus stop in east Helsinki. The bus stop, which is next to Edupoli -- an adult education centre in Hertoniemi, was vandalized with a scary, racist text and drawing of the swastika.

Driving past the bus stop in the spring of 2014 - about three years since the vandalism was first spotted - I noted that the bus stop had been condoned off and work was going on there. A few days later I stopped at the bus stop to see what was happening, and realized that the bus stop had been given a makeover. The vandalized glass at the back had been replaced and everything was looking nice, clean and welcoming to all.

In my mind, I wondered when driving off the bus stop how much the City of Helsinki spent cleaning up the mess left behind by a racist. Although unable to confirm how much was spent renewing the bus stop, I am confident the renovation was not free of charge. The city council must have allocated some money that could have been used for something else - if some disturbed individual hadn't vandalized that bus stop.

Mindful of the fact that racist vandalism is not uncommon around Helsinki, it is plausible to conclude that the authorities spend lots of money cleaning up and making the city welcoming to all persons, irrespective of race, color, religion or gender.

Personally, I think the actions of racist vandals cost the city money and gives it a bad name. I welcome Helsinki city's decision to do away with manifestations of racism at the bus stop in Hertoniemi. Although costly, cleaning up makes the city more welcoming and goes a long way to protect the image of Helsinki - World Design Capital 2012. The authorities should get rid of manifestations of racism in other parts of the city. Vandals on their part should do their city (our city) a favor -- stop messing up public spaces and forcing the city to use resources that could be put to better use.

If racists, who describe themselves these days as "patriots", truly love their country and care about its economic situation they won't vandalize public spaces and force city authorities to spend resources cleaning up racist writings and drawings in bus stops and other public spaces.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Finland shouldn't discriminate in quota refugee selection

Roughly defined, quota refugees are persons recognized as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and submitted for resettlement. Most of them live in squalid refugee camps around the world, and the UNHCR seeks to resettle them in third countries where they can start a new life. Finland annually accepts and resettles quota refugees, irrespective of race, color, religion or other grounds. But there are those who think that Christian refugees should be given preference.

Finland's Minister of Interior, Päivi Räsänen - who doubles are leader of the Christian Democrats party - stated that Finland should give preference to persecuted Christians (presumably over persecuted Muslims) in the selection of quota refugees. She claimed that it is "sensible" that refugees be admitted to countries where they can integrate -- thereby suggesting that Christians integrate into Finnish society better than other religious groups.

According to Finnish Immigration Service, Finland accepts and resettles persons whom the UNHCR has designated as refugees, or other foreigners in need of international protection. Parliament decides annually the number quota refugees to be resettled in Finland. The country has accepted 750 quota refugees per year since 2011.

In my view, the suggestion by minister Päivi Räsänen that preference should be given to Christians is plainly discriminatory on grounds of religion, and could jeopardize chances of selecting Muslims - who are equally in need of protection - as quota refugees. Finland should accept quota refugees based on how many refugees are in need of resettlement and the amount of resources allocated by parliament, not based on religion. In its policy on quota refugees, Finland considers the need for international protection as the most important criteria for selection of quota refugees. It should stay that way. Religion or integration shouldn't be primordial.

It is wrong to suggest that Christians integrate better than other religious groups. The ability and/or willingness integration is an individual issue. Some Christian refugees don't integrate into broader Finnish society while some Muslims integrate, and vice versa. A generalization that Christians adapt better than Muslims or any other religious group is misguided and prejudicial. I have met Muslims who have integrated pretty well into Finnish society.

The way I see it, having a Minister of Interior who makes no secret of prejudice against certain groups - in favor of Christians - could negatively impact Finland's policy on quota refugees to the detriment of non-Christians, mindful of the fact that the ministry of interior is a major actor in Finland's refugee policy.

Worthy to mention that besides negative perception of non-Christian refugees (and perhaps non-Christian immigrants in general), minister Räsänen opposes gay marriage and adoption of children by homosexual couples. Under her leadership in the Ministry of Interior children are detained in prison-like conditions for immigration purposes in Finland -- despite condemnation, petitions and calls by human rights groups like Amnesty International to stop the detention of children.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Donald Sterling claims he isn't racist: really?

Many high profile people who make outrageously racist comments and are taken to task publicly as a result often end up apologizing in public, making excuses and claiming they're not racist in a bid to save face. Such apologies are hollow, and no sensible person takes them seriously.

Donald Sterling, disgraced owner of Los Angeles Clippers basketball franchise, was slapped with a lifetime ban and fined $2.5 million by the National Basketball Association (NBA) for making ignorant, racist and highly offensive comments that were recorded and released to the public. Weeks later, the billionaire apologized in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper --  and claimed he isn't a racist.

The irony is that, in the interview the tycoon went on to make even more racist and unacceptable assertions. He viciously attacked NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson for being HIV-positive and accused the legend and other successful black people of not supporting "minorities" in need. He claimed that unlike Jews, rich black people turn their backs to people in need -- another ignorant, racist statement from someone claiming he isn't a racist.

In my view, the interview with Anderson Cooper gave Donald Sterling more rope to hang himself in full glare of the NBA, the American people and viewers around the world. The interview was meant to be an opportunity for Sterling to "redeem" himself by apologizing and claiming --  as expected from people who make racist comments -- that he isn't a racist. But, surprisingly, he made a complete mess of the opportunity. Rather than simply make what would have anyway gone down as a meaningless apology intended to save face, the 80-year-old made it clear that he has little or no regard for African-Americans and people living with HIV.

It's prejudicial to say that someone with HIV cannot be a model in society. By saying so Donald Sterling stigmatized millions of people living with HIV/AIDS, and attempted to undermine positive actions of people -- like Magic Johnson - who are living positively with the virus and inspiring other infected persons to do the same.

It's plausible to conclude after listening to the audio recording that sparked the controversy and watching Sterling's interview with CNN that the infamous billionaire is racist and has little or no regard for minorities, including People Living with HIV (PLHIV).

Anyone who, like Donald Sterling - picks on people on grounds of race, color, health or other grounds is -- simply put: racist and prejudiced. It's easy to identify people who hold racist views by their words (and actions).

Worthy to mention that Magic Johnson responded gracefully to Sterling's attack. It turns out the basketball legend -- like many other African-Americans -- has contributed fairly to making the world a better place. Donald Sterling's claim that Magic Johnson hasn't done anything to help his community is unfounded.

Friday, May 9, 2014

U.S. criminal justice system can be merciful: case of Cornealious Anderson

A lot has been said and written about racism and discrimination in the U.S. criminal justice system, and how African Americans and so-called people of color are disproportionately -- and are more likely to be -- convicted than white accused persons. While discrimination does exist, the justice system can be merciful sometimes.

Cornealious "Mike" Anderson was arrested in 1999 and convicted in 2000 for participating in a robbery. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was released on bail pending the outcome of his appeal. He lost the appeal, but due to a "clerical error" the state of Missouri "forgot" about him and he was never asked to report to prison to serve his sentence. From 1999 to 2013 -- while waiting to be summoned to prison -- he never tried to flee or change his identity. He build a career, led a law-abiding life, paid taxes and started a family in Missouri.

In July 2013 -- thirteen years after the conviction -- the State of Missouri realized the error. Anderson was arrested and asked to serve 13 years in prison. He was reportedly moved to a permanent prison (Southeast Correctional Centre in Charleston, Missouri) in November 2013 to serve his sentence -- thirteen years after the fact. A legal battle ensued.

But on Monday 5 May 2014 a judge reportedly lauded Cornealious "Mike" Anderson's "exemplary" behavior during his thirteen years out of prison and ruled that keeping him in prison would serve no purpose. The judge ordered his release.

In my view, Judge Terry Lynn Brown did the right thing. Ordering Anderson to serve thirteen years in prison more than a decade after he was convicted and sentenced would have been a violation of due process. Although Anderson was physically a free man for thirteen years, I believe he was mentally not free - with the threat and possibility of imprisonment hanging over his head -- for thirteen years. The fact that he stayed out of trouble with the law for thirteen years, started a career, never tried to escape or change his name, paid taxes, got married and had four kids -- in Missouri -- shows that he is a changed man, which is anyway the desired effect of prison sentences. Sending him to prison, thirteen years after he was sentenced, would have been, in my view, unnecessary and unjust to him, his wife and four innocent kids. It wasn't his fault that the State of Missouri "forgot" to enforce his sentence.

By tampering justice with mercy, judge Brown showed that despite reports of racism in the U.S legal system, the system can be merciful sometimes - even to African Americans.

A petition on calling for the release of Cornealious Anderson gathered 35,000 signatures. Thumbs up to all change agents who signed the petition and to attorney Patrick Michael Megaro who represented Anderson.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

NBA crackdown on racism is worth emulating

The National Basketball Association (NBA) sent a loud, resounding message to people involved in the league and to the world at large that racist, ignorant views have no place in professional basketball in North America. The decision by NBA to ban the owner of Los Angeles Clippers for life is worth emulating by other sport associations worldwide.

On Friday 25 April 2014 a celebrity news website, TMZ, published an audio recording in which Donald Sterling, owner of Los Angeles Clippers, criticizes his [alleged] girlfriend for associating with "black people" and posting photographs of herself with black friends on Instagram. He urged his girlfriend not to bring her black friends to his basketball games.

The audio recording, which sparked widespread outrage and condemnation, culminated in a no-nonsense response by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Four days after the audio recording surfaced, the NBA banned Donald Sterling from the basketball association for life. The impressive sanction didn't stop there. The NBA also fined Donald Sterling $2.5 million, which according to the BBC is the maximum fine allowed by the league.

Personally, I wholeheartedly welcome the decision of the NBA. By banning Donald Sterling for life and slapping him with the maximum fine allowed in the league -- the NBA showed that it does not tolerate racism. A lifetime ban means Sterling is barred from participating in team business, as well as attending NBA practices and games.

Donald Sterling's rant - as revealed by the audio recording - is blatantly racist, narrow-minded and should have no place in any civilized sport.

In my opinion, the NBA showed zero-tolerance against racism in this case. Other sport associations including the international federation of football associations (FIFA) -- which has a long recurrent history of racism -- as well as national sports associations should learn from the NBA. Racism is a canker-worm that destroys the fabric of society. Those who -- like Donald Sterling -- espouse and perpetrate racism should be named, shamed and isolated.

According to TMZ, Donald Sterling has "a documented history of alleged racist behavior". It's a shame, in my view, that someone with such preposterous, 19th century views owns a franchise like Los Angeles Clippers. Perhaps ownership should change hands --  in the interest of the team. You can't have black people playing (working) for a white man who openly despises them. Sounds like slavery to me.

Search this Blog

Related Posts with Thumbnails