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Finland renames ‘Negro Island’ amid global anti-racism protests

Finland renames ‘Negro Island’ amid global anti-racism protests
Despite lacking a history of colonialism or slavery, Finland has nonetheless decided to do its bit in the anti-racism drive gripping the Western world, by changing the “racist” name of a small island.

The landmass in the Pyhaselka Lake in eastern Finland bore the name Neekerisaari – which translates as “Negro Island.” It has been designated an “exceptional case” by the state-run Institute for the Language of Finland (Kotus) due to its “absolutely derogatory” name, as official maps must not contain “racist expressions.”

The name is now being removed from maps, and the island will be marked under by its older name, Seppanen.

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Despite the unusual name, the island never had any connection to black people. For decades, it has been owned by the North Karelian Association of Journalists, which has a summer lake house there. The group’s chairman Taru Vaananen told YLE news channel that the island’s name derived from an old-fashioned term which translates as “journal negro” – a reference to journalists’ faces and hands often getting stained with dark printing ink.

The association had already legally re-registered the piece of land under the name Uutiset (News) and wanted the National Land Survey to use it on new maps. Ironically, it was Kotus that blocked the change last year, arguing that locals best knew the area as Neekerisaari.

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A number of western countries have been gripped by anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests, triggered by the death of black civilian George Floyd in Minneapolis. In the US, the protests have been marred by widespread looting, arson and violence, while historical landmarks and monuments linked to colonialism and slavery have been targeted in several countries.

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