COMMENTARY: New analogies – Roma beggars and trash
By Kimmo Oksanen
Again I had to close my eyes, because I couldn’t bear the sight of what I was seeing.
“Roma and trash to be sent away from Kalasatama”, the headline in a free-distribution newspaper declared.
“City uses skip to speed up departure of beggars”, was another headline that hit me in the face.
Don’t these editors and journalists think at all? For decades, the media in Finland has not had anything to say about Finnish Roma unless a crime has been involved. “Roma = crime” the headlines proclaim.
Now it seems that Roma equals trash – waste.
Hidden racism, the unquestioned point of view of officials, and the familiar, unchecked clichés of Roma beggars build an increasingly robust space for racism, pillar by pillar, and story by story.
In a survey of journalism students these young do-gooders stated almost unanimously that uncovering wrongdoing and fighting injustice were reasons why they went into their chosen profession.
Once at work they do not seem to be interested in any deeper story than whether or not the Roma left Kalasatama, or if they came back, and to wonder what will be seen the following week.
Events at Kalasatama are followed in a detatched manner – quite superficially, without going into causes or effects, and without questioning the writer’s own pen.
One can imagine that a reason that might be given for this would be a lack of time and resources – there isn’t enough time and there aren’t enough journalists. So then, don’t publish anything?
Social porn is distributed in buses, the metro, and at transport hubs. One instalment follows another, and the papers do not bother to put a single question to themselves, or to their readers.
The fate of the poorest people in Europe is offered to the readers as if it were a soap opera. The misery of the Roma has only entertainment value.
Racism is spreading its mycelium and Europe remains silent without blinking an eye.
One word would be enough: Stop!
Let’s put that in our minds, and in the headlines.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 13.8.2011
Previously in HS International Edition:
Helsinki not helping accommodate itinerant foreign Roma (14.6.2011)
Helsinki politicians debate issue of housing for Roma beggars (8.6.2011)
More Roma arriving in Helsinki from Bulgaria (13.5.2011)
Roma camp at Satama social centre to stay for now (15.6.2011)
KIMMO OKSANEN / Helsingin Sanomat