“Listen and try to understand the other person"

Photo: Joonas Brandt / Suomen Punainen Risti

Not having correct information makes way for prejudice.

“My father used to say that you need to teach a child to eat so that it knows to look for food. Similarly, a person must be taught to read and find information in order to form a view about different issues,” says Ali Saberi, 21.

Ali feels that his father’s teaching also applies to fighting racism: when you gather information about things, they become easier to understand.Not having the correct information often makes way for prejudice.And this can also lead to racism.

Ali offers an example of prejudice from his own life: he was told the popular cliché of Finns being cold people who talk very little.

“When I got to know Finnish people, I discovered that they do want to talk, but not necessarily straight away.When you go and talk to them, they are really happy to speak with you.”

Book against racism for young people

Ali is studying in a class preparing for vocational education and aims to study industrial engineering. He occasionally works at the checkout of a department store in Helsinki and his hobbies include boxing and writing.

He is also working on a book aimed at the 7–14 age group and focusing on combatting racism.

“The book does not use the word racism, but it is a piece of fiction with a message that every reader can interpret for themselves,” Ali explains.

In general, Ali feels that it is no use holding on to racist experiences.Examples of problems and poor treatment are numerous.More important is to listen and try to understand the other person.

Stop, I want to hear what they are saying.

Ali is a member of the Red Cross young influencer team, and he has taken part in many events talking about immigrants. Once, a person who was clearly “a bit out of it” entered the room.

“The guard began to remove this person from the room, but I said stop, I want to hear what they are saying.”

The person asked Ali: “Why don’t you go and build your own country, why are you here?”

“I told them that there is no safety in my country. And that is the first thing a person needs, only then food. After that come a home and well-being.”

Ali says that he got the person to listen to him and that is an achievement in itself.

“We cannot just sit quietly and hide from difficult situations. We need to listen to each other and solve issues by talking.”

According to Ali, one big problem is social media and how it offers you the type of content you are already looking at.

“If you read about racism, you get offered more of it. If you are dumb, you become even dumber.”

Get to know a new, different person

Most people want to belong to a group, very often to the group in charge.Many find it hard to hear different opinions. Even when they do not agree.

“What about joining a new group sometimes?Getting to know a foreign of different person without prejudice,” Ali suggests.

This is also the first item of the Red Cross anti-racism guidelines. Ali browses the guidelines.

“These are great, I like it! However, I would move the last item to number two. Listening, training and learning are key in eliminating racism.”