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Hosts of 'Olukorrast riigis' discuss perception of racism in Estonia

"Olukorrast riigis" Source: ERR

Journalists Harry Tuul and Andrus Karnau who host the "Olukorrast riigis" talk show debated over perception of racism based on EKRE chairman Martin Helme's speech from Saturday.

"It is truly unfortunate that there is a culture of arrogance and ignorance in Estonia, that we do not want to get to the roots of things," Karnau said. He went on to explain that many Estonians do not want to think about expressions that are considered racist elsewhere, which is why they are reluctant to adopt global norms. That if we refuse to acknowledge the meaning of the OK sign made with one's fingers, it somehow gives us the right to do it," he said. "But we do not have that right because we are a part of this world!" Karnau found.

Co-host Harry Tuul found that a big part of recent attitudes toward the topic of racism is due to modest awareness. He said no revolutionary change can be achieved in Estonia. "Because people really are in the dark, they are protesting against what they feel is being imposed on them," he said.

"I agree that this kind of gesticulation is not polite, but that doesn't mean we don't have those kinds of people. We do and most likely will in the future. It seems to me that if we label certain groups racist, it manufactures the association of Estonians as racists," Tuul argued.

"But that's just what it is! If we do not protest Martin Helme's utterances, that means we agree with them! What are we if not racist when we do not stand up and say that such utterances are not okay," Karnau countered.

Tuul said that topics that have to do with nationality will always include a measure of us versus them. "It's built into it," he said.

"We need to consider that our small cultural environment does not attach meaning to such activities – that personifying Michael Jackson with a face painted black is not okay because it might be offensive – there's nothing we can do about it. Also, if someone finds that having a cake that is called blackhead (moorapea) is offensive, it also needs to be considered and respected," Karnau found.

The journalist concluded that Minister of Finance Martin Helme's utterances that can be interpreted as racist could harm Estonia's reputation and allied relations.

Tuul and Karnau also discussed the Conservative People's Party's (EKRE) leadership change, allegations of sexual harassment against National Opera Estonia Director Aivar Mäe, the government's decision to hire a U.S. law firm to help investigate money laundering incidents of Estonian banks, freezing of II pillar payments and the Konstantin Päts monument design.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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