• Chiara Costa-Virtanen

Are you forgetting something...or someone for your event?

Reflect for a second about the visualization that you brain does, when you think about the word foreigner.

The impact role of the visual perception over the collective image that the society gives to a certain group of people, is definitely huge.

Among the fifth senses, the visual impression has the highest impact over the attitude towards the "other". If the "other" is around you mostly painted as a negative factor, then there are very few chances that this visualization can be positive.

The kind of image that the media shape, is definitely one of the biggest impact factors over this collective image.

Maybe the image of a highly skilled person with an immigrant background is less juicy to the public, but as matter of fact rarely you can hear an international expert speaking on TV or in advertisements.

Luckily though, not everyone is the same and a lot of natives have a different visualization and perception of the “other”. Many Finns are also involved in matters of anti racism, social exclusion and human rights regarding the foreigners living in Finland.

This is a powerful way to demonstrate solidarity, and an effective way to try to build a bridge among the hosting country and the foreigners living there.

Unfortunately this also brings cases of advocacy work done on behalf of the minority members themselves, cutting the actual real targets away from the conversation.

Many seminars and workshops over multicultural and intersectional topics see only native speakers invited, giving the message that only the members of the majority are expected to have the necessary skills to work over the matter. It`s instead important to see the international Finnish community represented in academic events or seminars, and definitely not only on those whose main theme is multiculturalism.

I swear, foreigners can be experts in many other fields as well!

Getting back on the first point, the role that the panel / seminar / workshop organizers have over this visual perception and collective image is huge. They have the power of making the international voices to be heard, and this is only possible by giving them space of expressing themselves.

Attendees from diverse background should be able to attend and speak themselves, without mediation. Also, having all Finnish panelists and a facilitator with a foreign background is not enough.

When diversity is just done for appearance’s sake, nothing about the conference’s issue has actually changed.

People who are underrepresented in professional life, are also often the same that suffer of more unstable position. Not letting them express themselves, only reinforce these issues and don’t give the chance to improve their condition.

Ensuring that the people active in different working fields is essential: Invite inspirational foreigners to speak at your event, and make sure that all the members of the society can attend—not just other foreigners. Empower foreigners by giving them a voice and making sure they are heard. Make it an opportunity for new speakers to give their first talk.

Advocation and support is a wonderful thing and a compassionate act, but the real social allegiance is to use the majority`s privilege to give voice to the minorities, not to speak on their behalves. Even foreigners cannot speak on every foreigner`s behalf. Internationality comes with intersectionality. We all have different struggles and backgrounds.