Nine ideas on how to fight racism in Estonia

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Participants at the Estonishing Evenings event on racism in Tallinn came up with specific ideas and suggestions on how to achieve a more tolerant Estonia that is more comfortable with diversity.

At the end of 2019, Estonishing Evenings, the monthly English-language event series, supported by Estonian World, took a closer look at a more serious topic in the Estonian society – racism and hate crimes.

Estonia’s current penal code is futile against hate speech for its wording requires words to be accompanied by direct danger to one’s well-being. This makes Estonia one of the very few countries in the European Union where hate speech laws are basically powerless, which can lead to more hate discourse and hate crimes. This issue has already been raised in numerous occasions in the last eight years to no avail, mainly due to the ignorant attitude by successive justice ministers.

Meanwhile, there has been an increasing number of incidents, which have also been fuelled by the rise of far-right politicians in Estonia. Estonishing Evenings, in collaboration with the Estonian Human Rights Centre, tackled the topic openly at its event, “How to stop racism in Estonia?”

The evening started with an overview of the current situation, statistics and trends in Estonia by Kari Käsper, the founder of the Estonian Human Rights Centre. The presentation was followed with personal stories by four Tallinn-based expats – Amna Ahsan (Pakistan), Ken Saburi (Singapore), Hafiz Abdul Manan (Pakistan) and Jene Walker (the US).

Then, the audience had a chance to come up with ideas and suggestions on how to achieve a more tolerant Estonia – and these are the nine main ideas.

A media campaign with clips shown during sports games and news on TV, target group age 18-35

Content of the video:

An Estonian and a non-white person both order a pizza with fried potatoes at a pizza parlour
They connect over their common love for weird food
A third person comes in and judges only the non-white person for eating the strange pizza
The Estonian person gives them a slice of pizza to try
Conversation involving all three around a table – where are the insecurities come from
Statistics about racism in Estonia
A web platform for cultural experience, called “a world village”
People of different backgrounds offering trainings and workshops to students as well as company events and elderly centres (such as cooking, music, dancing).

A reality TV show

A reality TV show, involving Estonians and non-Estonians with diverse backgrounds. Would mix humour with seriousness.

Mandatory HR training on diversity at workplaces (start at the top and trickle down)
Diversity and inclusion manager employed by companies
An annual seminar with team building exercises/workshops and speakers with visual aids
An end-of-year review and self-evaluation to include an interactive video software test
An educational programme directed to children in kindergartens and primary schools
Foreigners representing different professions and lifestyles talk about their jobs and organise workshops during which children can participate in activities with them. Example: A firefighter from Pakistan extinguishes fire with children.

The Diversity Pledge

Companies promote diversity within workplaces and to the public by committing to the diversity pledge (companies could use their marketing teams to promote the pledge)
Companies hire more diverse people in the workplaces, which provide opportunities for personal connections, so people will have less fear of the “unknown”
Companies create diversity partnerships with schools. Schoolchildren could be educated at workplaces or those employees who have had diversity education, could visit schools. Students could also have internships in companies that have diverse workforce, therefore providing more opportunities for personal connections
Raising awareness in the education system about racism and a diverse society
Providing educators with tools to address the issues
A single professional educational plan
Roleplays, trainings to teachers
Exposing to differences, lobbying for the changes in the curriculum and policies

Culture houses

“Culture houses” in small towns across Estonia, where the locals and people from other countries could meet, entertain and teach each other. Would involve ethnic food cooking, games, dancing and conversations on different topics.

A diversity conference

A large conference about racism with very personal stories, discussions and panels.

Involve many different companies, have them share stories about colleagues of different backgrounds.
Involve the media, attract a lot of attention, start public discussions and create special programme for schools.

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