Sunday, July 13, 2014

Yle acts irresponsibly by broadcasting racist Finnish movie

In the 21 Century, one would expect a state-owned public-broadcasting company to distance itself from racist content, and perhaps fire employees who promulgate racist and stereotypical views. But in Finland flirting with racism comes with little or no consequences -- that's why a state-owned television channel can afford to air a blatantly racist and distasteful movie, and get away with it --  with some public support.

Finland's national public-broadcasting company, Yle, broadcasted a movie titled "Pekka ja Pätkä neekereinä" on Yle TV1. The title roughly translates to "Pekka and Pätkä as n*gg*rs" in English.

The comedy with a racist touch features two Finnish actors, Esa Pakkarinen and Masa Niemi, with blackened faces. Besides the horrendous title, the movie taps into deep-seated stereotypes about people of African descent.

In my view, the movie is racist and deeply offensive. The title alone condemns it to the dungeons. There are disturbing scenes in the movie like one where the main actors, with their faces coloured with black makeup, are referred to as "cannibals", and their presence in a room reported to a police constable. In another scene, the actors are depicted as embarrassingly horrible drum-playing black tribesmen.

The way I see it, Pekka ja Pätkä neekereinä is a relic of Finland's racist history, which drags on today with misinformed perception of people of African descent.

As if to add salt to injury, Yle aired the movie in a child-friendly time slot, hence children could watch it and be indoctrinated that it is acceptable to, amongst other things, label people of African descent with the N-word.

I have no illusion that everyone agrees with my unequivocal condemnation of the broadcasting of the movie in question. In fact, many people in Finland defended Yle in a Facebook group for airing the controversial movie. It is worthy to mention, however, that most of those who see nothing wrong with the movie are either white or know nothing about being on the receiving end of racism and damaging racial stereotypes. It's easy for people who are part of the privileged majority (or perceive themselves as part of it) to defend the use of the pejorative N-word, and attempt to dictate what should be and shouldn't be offensive to people of African descent and other minorities.

As a person of African descent who has watched Pekka ja Pätkä neekereinä, I submit that Yle TV1 acted irresponsibly by airing it. In my eyes, the offensive "comedy" is as good as a racist joke. Such "jokes" that reinforce stereotypes and offend minority groups are not funny, at least in my opinion, and should not be endorsed or promoted. Yle flouts corporate social responsibility by airing a racially offensive and distasteful movie.

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