“Neekeri!”

6 Sep

The Finnish word: “NEEKERI”: Negro, has been an offensive one to blacks and non-blacks alike when visiting or living in Finland. It actually means: NEGRO. So in the original meaning of the word, it is not a negative one, simply stating the race of someone. It is found in many children books, as well as adults here.

It “sounds” however,like a very negative word, in the ear of a foreigner, as if to say: “Nigger.” Many Finns have been greatly embarassed to find this out after having saying this without meaning any harm at all.

The Finnish word for the deflammatory American slang : Nigger is: “Nekru”. But you can keep that to yourself (Hope it is not more information that what you need!)

However, like all words, it depends how one says “Neekeri” here, as to how it is actually meant or taken, like in all languages.

If any dark-skinned foreigner is called that here from now on however, it carries with it a stiff penalty from the police, and the Courts.

Many foreigners have been shocked and deeply offending when visiting our country, or for those that are refugees, or simply living and working here as residents. I have just written a 4-part series about Racism in Finland, for my column, in our local Swedish-speaking newspaper. It continues to be an on-going problem, though many in smaller towns and villages, are either oblivious to it or, simply ignore it. Then there are some that are trying to deal with it in it’s reality, in a very positive way.

The series is in Swedish for the moment, and we are hoping to get it published in the Finnish papers and magazines later this year. It is also now available in French, and of course in English should you be interested.

To my knowledge, I am still the only black resident in the city of Karleby/Kokkola, and though I have not experienced any racial backlash here, in other cities where I have gone to minister over the years, it has not always been nice hearing vulgar and rude outbursts, when just simply walking down the streets, or quietly having a meal in a restaurant. I can say though, that these things are rare, at least for me, but others have been brutally attacked, etc… as reported in the major newspapers and magazines, just because of their skin color.

Racism remains a problem throughout the world. It is sometimes a difficult subject to discuss even amongst some my close friends here, Either they never ask me about how I am coping with these things, or if I bring it up, some have said quite bluntly that I am: “lying”, “exaggerating” and that: “these things don’t happen in Finland…” That ‘s like me saying it doesn’t happen in France or elsewhere in the world.

As a missionary and clergyman (simply as a human being)- Racism in any form, is not easy to swallow, But such negatives statments coming from other believers is indeed hard to take. But when we are not well informed, then we remain ignorant to the truth. When we know the truth, then we can begin to make a change, and it sets us free from the lies of the opposition.

I continue, as I have over the years, giving lectures and seminars about this, throughout the country. This started several years ago, when I was invited by the Cultural Department of the City of Helsinki, to lecture on the topic: “What Is It Like To Be A Black Man In Finland?” The place was packed, (we really did not know if any would come in fact). But the lectures went on not for just the one day only I was to have been there, but for three consecutive days, there were so many that came…

I have suggested this here in our city, over the years to the churches, schools and various local organisations, but so far, the opportunity has never presented itself during the 6 years I have lived here.

Personally speaking, I like meeting foreigners, people in general. I think also, that many students, and in particular elderly people, are very interested in meeting or hearing people from other lands. (We in this area of Finland, are very slow in taking action. But when we do, then look out for it is full speed ahead!) I am sure that many here would like to ask questions directly, to have an open forum on such an important topic as Racism, not just here in Finland, but in the world. So there is a thirst in this country in general to know. Knowledge is power and with power, directed in the right way, things can change for the better.

Thanks for your prayers and support over the years. It is appreciated more than you know.

“Risto-Kalle”
Christian-Charles de Plicque
Angel House International Association r.f.
Karleby/Kokkola Finland
September 6, 1999

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