Racism may manifest as intentional and conscious acts between individuals and groups, for example, or as unintentional racialising behaviour based on fears and prejudices. Racism may also manifest in structures, such as discriminatory operating methods and processes in working life, education and services, in which organisations, companies, institutions and bureaus discriminate against certain groups of people either directly or indirectly.

Racism is a system, in which politics, institutional practices, culture and other norms maintain racialised social power structures. It is a part of the social, economic and political systems, in which everyone is involved. 

The people targeted by racism can perceive the extent and severity of racism best. There are also many studies that tell about the prevalence of racism. Racism may manifest as hate speech, discrimination, violence or apparently neutral practices that in reality exclude a part of people. Discrimination and hate crime must not be seen only as individual cases; the structural racism and discrimination behind them must also be identified.


Racialisation is a process, in which the society links certain people with hierarchies, assumptions, stereotypes and prejudices in relation to, for example, their abilities, customs and ethics because of, for example, their skin colour or assumed ethnic background.

Racialisation occurs in cases such as when a person born in Finland experiences daily or weekly moments of exclusion even in everyday situations due to their appearance. It is born of the idea claiming that individuals with certain characteristics would be fundamentally different from the majority of the population. People racialised as non-white often cannot even recognise themselves in many of the stereotypes linked to their identity. 

The process of racialisation leads to racist and discriminatory actions, meaning that people are treated unequally either consciously or unconsciously based on stereotypical definitions. In fact, racialisation is first and foremost a social process that produces racism as its end result.


A microaggression is an intentional or unintentional act or comment that maintains and reinforces racist or otherwise discriminatory stereotypes while othering people. For example, praising the Finnish language skills of a person racialised as non-white shows that the person giving the praise believes that brown people cannot speak Finnish as their mother tongue. Even though the questions or comments seem harmless, they can be cumulative and insulting to their target.

Whiteness as a norm

Whiteness as a norm does not refer to skin colour as such; it refers to the invisible social hierarchies and power structures, in which being Western and European are seen as norms that define social structures. The normativity only becomes evident when it is made visible or when people deviate from it.

Different forms of racism

If you encounter racism

  • If you encounter racist discrimination, you can contact the Office of the Non-Discrimination.

  • If you encounter discrimination in working life, contact your employer first. If contacting your employer does not help, contact the occupational safety and health representative or shop steward of the workplace. If necessary, you can contact the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman or the occupational safety and health authorities of the Regional State Administrative Agencies (tyosuojelu.fi).

  • If you have become a victim of a racist offence, contact the police. A racist offence means an offence, in which the perpetrator has a racist motive.