The Black Lives Matter movement is not something we talk about a lot in Finland. Before the murder of George Floyd surfaced, I had not heard anyone even mention it. Now, especially the younger generations are talking about it more, and there are more recent news articles highlighting the protests and the riots, but the movement is not quite as prevalent here as in some other parts of the world.
I do not remember thinking much about the Black Lives Matter movement when I first saw the words. I knew at the back of my mind that systematic racism and police brutality are very real things and major issues in the US, but I did not really comprehended how dire the situation actually was until the video of George Floyd’s murder surfaced on the internet.
I remember feeling appalled and shocked that a police officer would so blatantly abuse the power and trust placed in his hands. I have grown up in Finland, in a country where people place immense amounts of trust in the hands of the police (most of the time justifiably so), and so seeing this kind of abuse of power is unfamiliar to me. The Black Lives Matter movement has opened my eyes to the gravity of the situation in the US and to some issues here in Finland that I previously believed were mostly non-existent.
The movement has sparked conversations between me and some of my immigrant friends about the racism and discrimination they have faced here. I know that not everyone has positive attitudes towards immigrants, and that sometimes my friends may hear some rude comment on the streets, but I did not know how often it actually happened and that even government officials have let their negative opinions on immigrants affect their treatment of my friends in official matters.
That is why the Black Lives Matter movement is internationally significant. There are many people in Finland, and probably in other parts of the world, who may feel sympathetic towards the movement but do not think that it affects them or that it should be significant to them. But racism is not an American issue, it is an issue that exists everywhere, even in the most tolerant of places. And even if racism was minimal or non-existent, human rights are not the issues of individual countries – they are issues of the world.
I know that a lot of people do not really think that they as an individual can make a difference but talking and spreading information and telling people about your experiences are so important. Change cannot happen unless people know what needs to change. And it gives me hope that this movement has managed to unite all kinds of people from all over the world behind the shared causes of justice and equality. I hope this can work as a springboard for other current and future human rights movements and can show people how powerful we truly can be when we work together.