Where does youth hostility toward immigrants stem from?

by Anastasia Maillot

Although we live in a highly globalized world where a multitude of cultures, languages and traditions coexist, in the past few years hostility towards immigrants has grown into a frequent and sensitive topic. Not only is it an issue in the US that ironically is said to be the melting pot of cultures, even Europe, the home to a multitude of cultures, has found itself face to face with hatred towards immigrants.

In a way this is nothing new. Xenophobia has existed for a very long time, but the 21st century has given it a new, much younger face. In my home country Finland you can see this change through the emergence of non-official, radical and extreme groups often filled with younger people. Many groups and sub-groups currently exist, both in secret and in public, but in their most extreme and well-known forms these groups consider themselves as Neo-Nazi groups that oppose multiculturalism. Ideas such as “pure, young motherland” are often thrown around by these groups and according to police reports in Finland, members of these groups are most often involved in violence towards immigrants.

Why is this happening at a time like this when the world is so globalized? It is precisely because of globalization, because country borders have become less significant and because right now we are most likely to have at least one neighbor in our neighborhood that isn’t originally from our county. And because it has all happened extremely fast, not all countries and people were ready in the first place. As many usually point out, this hostility is a manifestation of one’s fears and suspicions when faced with a world that is constantly changing at a fast pace.

But there is also another reason, an important reason that I think is far too often forgotten when talking specifically about younger people who participate in violence towards immigrants. This hostility can also be seen as a call for help, for attention. In Finland young people are becoming increasingly more isolated and are greatly ignored in political decisions that are made. This depression has in many cases led to violent behavior, as past cases of school shootings have shown (for more information, see Kauhajoki school shooting in Finland, 2008).

In this time of globalization and multiculturalism, governments tend to forget those who are in need. This has partly led to the birth of extreme mindsets and violent groups among the youth, especially in Finland. In the future, perhaps governments should first resolve domestic social issues before turning their attention towards the international political scene.

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