Finnish Celebs Want 'Sambo' Image Ban

Miss Finland Lola Odusoga '95
Dan O'Brien Olympic gold medallist
Dionne Pounds
Raymond Ebanks
Lola OdusogaDan O'BrienDionne PoundsRaymond Ebanks

Famous 'Black Finns' have lent their weight to a campaign to ban racist images on the packets of popular Finnish sweets. A former Miss Finland, Olympic gold medallist, top US basketball player and international pop star have joined Euro MP Claude Moraes who has urged Finland's powerful consumer watchdog to hurry up and outlaw the offensive pictures. Finland took over the Presidency of the European Union on July 1 and Moraes wrote a letter to the country's leadership to coincide with this.

At the centre of the row are two of Scandinavia's biggest food firms.Claude Moraes MEP says in a letter that urgent action is needed in order to protect Finland's good name in race relations. Nothing has been done since an official complaint was lodged with the Consumer Ombudsman in February. The watchdog has told  The-Latest that it could take up to 21 months to resolve the issue.

The first Black Miss Finland Lola Odusoga, Dan O'Brien, the 1996 Olympic decathlon champion, basketball player Dionne Pounds and lead singer of Bomfunk Mcs Raymond Ebanks - all of whom have a Finnish mother and Black father - have expressed their opposition to the racist images.

SamboBut the defiant chief of one of the sweet companies at the centre of an international row about the offensive stereotyping of Black people on the packaging of one of his most popular products has told The-Latest he has no intention of removing the racist image.   Fazer managing director Jesper Aberg, said:  "I feel that we have been wrongfully accused. Perhaps there is something about how other cultures perceive these images that we fail to understand. We are not racist."

And the boss of Brunberg, another controversial Finnish confectionery firm that was recently forced to remove the words 'Nigger's Kiss" from one of its brands, is still refusing to withdraw an outdated colonial image of two Black caricatures on its sweets. Managing director Tom Brunberg claimed that 90 per cent of the 500 people he surveyed said the images were not racist. Brunberg said:  "I am astonished to have this put against us after all these years and we will not stop using these images because we don't feel that they are racist in any way." Astonishly, he added:  "You may think that the images are black, but of course they could be white people painted black." (See picture below).

But the two besieged companies, who are Scandinavia's biggest sweet manufacturers, were dealt a major public relations blow by new findings that show that, contrary to what they have been boasting about public opinion being on their side, many Finns actually oppose the racist images of Black people that they use on their products. This follows a decade-long campaign inside and outside Finland against the 'Sambo' cartoon-style picture shown on Fazer liquorice and Brunberg's 'nigger's kiss' sweet packets. Both companies have stubbornly refused to remove the controversial logos. Yet, more than 70 per cent of contributors to a lively debate on the issue carried by the popular blog Finland for Thought opposed the continued use of the pictures. Twenty nine per cent were in support. This explodes the myth, put about by Fazer, Brunberg and their apologists, that the Finnish public either backs them or could not care less.

Politicians in Finland and the European Parliament have joined The-Latest.campaign to remove the offensive images. They include British Euro MP Claude Moraes, a Labour London MEP, who has tabled a question to the European Commission about the two   famous Finnish confectionery firms that have been reported to an industry standards body for using the racially stereotypical pictures.   He said: "This is not about being politically correct. Images are potent symbols which reflect power relations between different people in society. These images are from a colonial past when Black people were slaves and white people thought it was alright to depict them as wide-eyed, feckless, grinning, powerless individuals."

Finland's Ombudsman for Minorities, Mikko Puumalainen, has criticised the companies for offending Black people. And he has agreed to refer the case to the Consumer Agency, after getting negative responses from Fazer and Brunberg during his investigation of a complaint from Black Finn Marc Wadsworth, editor of The-Latest. Wadsworth questioned the message the racist 'Sambo' iimage (pictured below right) sent out   about Black people to impressionable Finnish youngsters.

Fazer sweets are sold in shops around the world, including Britain. Wadsworth said: "To my eye, the Sambo image either creates, or at the very least perpetuates, a negative stereotype held in society that Black people are in some way  "primitive" compared to white ethnic Finns. The same point also applies to the designs used by Brunberg's kisses (Brunbergin suukot), which were called Neekerin pusut (Nigger's kisses) until a few years ago, and also Peliko's Black Pekka children's playing cards."

Wadsworth, founder of the British Anti-Racist Alliance, added: "The image of a Black face, mouth agape, bright red lips and bushy hair, is certainly not flattering and has long been deemed unacceptable in the US, UK and Sweden." The campaign to remove the offending images from sweet packets has won support from high-profile Black people in Finland like U.S. basketball star Larry Pounds who said such marketing would not be allowed in America. Chart-topping Black Finn Raymond Ebanks, of Bomfunk MCs, has also condemned the products. Popular Green MEP Heidi Hautala, Finland's former environment minister, backs the campaign. A spokesman for Puumalainen said, in an email to Mr Wadsworth, that the Ombudsman thought 'the format of the wrapping papers can be considered as doubtful in relation to ethnic equality and that the format of the wrapping papers may offend black people.'

According to the Ombudsman 'the long time use of a certain wrapping paper does not as such make the usage acceptable. Neither does the wish to continue a tradition by using a certain kind of wrapping make the usage of the wrapping in question acceptable in these cases.'

The Ombusman added: "Companies should also promote good ethnic relations in society and the usage of these kinds of wrapping papers does not do that."

Wadsworth has campaigned against the offensive imagery for many years and stirred major media and public controversy in Finland as a result. He said: 'These images are racist, outdated and an affront to the progressive, englightened culture which makes my mother proud rather than ashamed to be Finnish."

Cloetta Fazer, created in   a merger between the Swedish company Cloetta and Finnish firm Fazer, is the Nordic region's largest chocolate and sugar confectionery company. In its literature the firm boldly claims: "Cloetta Fazer's mission is to create fun and enjoyment. Everyone, regardless of age and preference, can enjoy the company's wide range of chocolate and sugar confectionery products."

But they clearly don't care about the feelings of Black consumers. Riitta Mannio, from Cloetta Fazer's marketing department, was defiant when she said:  "Fazer has no plans to change the pack design of their liquorice in the near future." According to her:  "People are used to this style of packaging in Finland; it helps to make the brand recognisable." Mannio admitted that Fazer had received complaints about the image used on its liquorice packaging in the past, but claimed  "they have been rare."

Firms accused of using dubious stereotypes to sell their products often pretend that their branding merely reflect existing attitudes and values within the society. Logically, firms want to avoid using images in their marketing that are out of step with society's values because of fear of damaging profits.

A spokewoman for the Consumer Agency, which has yet to make a decision, warned that the matter was too important to be left to Cloetta Fazer and Brunberg themselves. The Finnish Ministry of Education recently carried out research to assess the extent to which racist attitudes prevailed in schools in Finland. The results were worrying. A third of the 15-29 year-olds interviewed said that they were against any further immigration. Yet Finland has one of the lowest migrant populations of any country in the European Union whose presidency the country takes over in July.

Wadsworth also complained to the Ombudsman about off the cuff racist remarks made by senior Finnish government minister Antti Kalliomaki. Former Olympic pole vaulter Kalliomaki referred to 'mambo sambo' and 'mumbo jumbo' in a parliamentary speech. The Ombudsman won an assurance from Kalliomaki that he would not use the offensive terms again. Finland prides itself on giving generous support to developing countries like Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

Finnish companies, like those in other countries, have a financial responsibility towards their shareholders to deliver high profits and fat dividends. However, they also have social responsibilities to live up to. In this case, a need not to use images in advertisements and on products that encourage the negative stereotyping of racial minorities within society like Black people.

* See attached excellent research document on Racism in Finland by academic Milla Hyttinen, of Tampere University. You need to be logged in as a member to read this.


9 Responses to "Finnish Celebs Want 'Sambo' Image Ban"

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contribs editor

Sat, 02/25/2006 - 23:59
<p>Countries like Finland who adopt a laissez-faire attitude to dealing with&nbsp; the issue of racism, racist imagery and&nbsp; literature in their own backyard&nbsp;should be named and shamed by their European partners not rewarded with the presidency&nbsp;of a community which reflects a diversity of&nbsp;cultures and ethnicity. The idea that it is ok to perpetuate racist stereotyping because of a lack of demonstrable protest against it is irresponsible and dangerous. Yes, it is a great shame that the black mostly immigrant population in Finland have not been proactive&nbsp;in confronting the offenders. Mr Wadsworth has tenaciously taken on the challenge. What about registering a complaint through a British MEP and take this to the highest international level?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>


Tue, 03/07/2006 - 21:54
Isn't it strange that foreigners living in Finland, which has one of the smallest immigrant populations in Europe, face racism despite government attempts to stamp out discrimination? According to a new report on racism, one in three immigrants in Finland has run into discrimination over the past 12 months, with problems most prevalent in the capital, Helsinki. The study funded by government agencies and the City of Helsinki found Somalis and Arabs believed they faced the most discrimination, while Russians and Estonians the least. Half of the 3,595 immigrants surveyed, including Estonians, Russians, Somalis and Vietnamese, said they had at least once failed to get a job because of their ethnic background and almost as many had been harassed in public. One in four had trouble getting housing. Still, some 71 percent of all racial crimes or discrimination went unreported because the victims doubted action would be taken or because they believed the offence was not grave enough, Professor Karmela Liebkind, who led the new study, discovered. "Compared to the number of immigrants, we have a lot of racism," said Liebkind. Finland has fewer immigrants than most European countries - just 1.7 percent of the population. The low number is a legacy of decades of immigration restrictions tougher than those any of its Nordic neighbours. That's why I applaud your campaign to tackle the popular Finnish sweet companies, Fazer and Brunberg, for their racist portrayal of Black people.


Fri, 03/10/2006 - 17:09
<p>It is hard to imagine that in this century, black and ethnic minorities still have to battle against such stereotyping. I am disgusted with&nbsp; the two companies involved&nbsp; and shocked because Finland&nbsp; and other Scandanavian countries are known for their political correctness. I agree that these companies should be named and shamed so&nbsp; that decent Finns&nbsp;can boycott this offensive product.</p><p>One of my best friends, who is black,&nbsp;is involved&nbsp;with a Finnish man&nbsp;and they share a son. He travels regularly to Finland, fortunately&nbsp; he is only 6 years old&nbsp; and cannot understand the derogatory images. Imagine if he could?</p>


Tue, 03/14/2006 - 20:15
<p>When I was a child, I often laughed at the 'Sambo' image on the Fazer liquorice sweet packets.&nbsp; The abmormality of the large&nbsp;picture seemed hilarious to me.&nbsp;</p><p>I never saw it as a&nbsp;black face, because I am black and it resembles none that&nbsp;I&nbsp;know, &nbsp;but more like a disfigured object.&nbsp; So laughter seemed to be its purpose.&nbsp;&nbsp;As&nbsp;I grew up, I realised&nbsp;the 'Sambo' picture&nbsp;is supposed to be a black face, like mine.&nbsp; And all the times I laughed with my white friends, we must have been laughing for different reasons.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Why not draw a face in it's original state?&nbsp; Children should not be made to believe what adults believe in, because everything a child sees becomes true.&nbsp; Let them grow up to make their own decisons about who they choose to mock.&nbsp; Companies like Fazer and Brunberg should be banned from selling products to children.&nbsp; Adults are in a better position to reject, or fight back at&nbsp;the messages these companies are trying so desperately to put forward, but children cannot.&nbsp;</p>

Mikey Camel

Thu, 05/11/2006 - 22:24
<p>And yet. And Yet...Finland is among the highest contributors (percentage-wise) to international aid to the very poorest countries in the world.</p><p>Some would and have argued about the alleged dependency on foreign aid this creates, and about the mentality behind it (which has been criticised as somehow patronising)...</p><p>The Finns have the least income inequality, some of the best gender relations, and one of the most successful socialist/social-democrat model societies in the world.<br /><br />It's not their fault they haven't been exposed to more foreigners. How many refugees or emigrants would make Finland, with its extreme climate and obscure language, their first choice of destination?</p><p>Hopefully global warming will make it a nicer place to live, and as a side-effect, expose the Finns to more foreigners.&nbsp;</p>


Tue, 01/16/2007 - 10:31
Since it seems most comments came from non-finns, it&#39;s understandable that you may not get the big picture.&nbsp; Makes&nbsp; very&nbsp; good&nbsp; journalism&nbsp; when&nbsp; a&nbsp; distant,&nbsp; badly&nbsp; known&nbsp; country&nbsp; has&nbsp; &quot;horrible&nbsp; racist&nbsp; pictures&quot;&nbsp; on&nbsp; candy<br />wrappers. But before you all drop your jaws off from all the scolding, hear me out.<br /><br />First of all, the images have been around for ages. Then some French MEP decides to meddle into affairs of others and suddenly everyone&#39;s outraged. I didn&#39;t realize that we need the french to &quot;help us&quot; in our &quot;serious problems&quot;. Besides, having lived in France for 2 years, I can say that he should be more worried about their problems, instead of finnish candy wrappers.<br /><br />Second of all, what do you want? Replace the pictures with blue eyed blondes? I think that would be a good idea. Remove all&nbsp; pictures&nbsp; and references to&nbsp; black&nbsp; people&nbsp; and&nbsp; see&nbsp; how&nbsp; that&nbsp; would&nbsp; work&nbsp; out.&nbsp; I&nbsp; mean&nbsp; these&nbsp; days&nbsp; you&nbsp; can&#39;t&nbsp; use&nbsp; a&nbsp; picture&nbsp; of&nbsp; a&nbsp; black<br /> person for anything without having it construed as racism.<br /><br />I&#39;m not a racist, I just object the notion that whenever racism is an issue, everyone becomes defensive and seemingly retarded, so as not to seem racist themselves.<br /><br />But go ahead, you want to feel better about your own countries where there are no horrible candy wrappers with&nbsp; black&nbsp; people&nbsp; on&nbsp; them.&nbsp; It&#39;s&nbsp; true,&nbsp; the&nbsp; candy&nbsp; wrappers&nbsp; cause&nbsp; racism.&nbsp; It&#39;s&nbsp; all&nbsp; their&nbsp; fault.&nbsp; That&#39;s&nbsp; why&nbsp; the&nbsp; finnish<br /> society will never be equal...because of candy wrappers. Oh why I must live in this horrible country...<br /><br />Yes, the ending was sarcasm. Now keep moving.<br /><br />Regards,<br />Jussi<br />


Fri, 05/13/2011 - 00:41
<p>I think the images are racist. However, your translation in relation to what brunberg's chocolate kisses used be called is not entirely accurate. They were called 'neekerin pusut' which translates 'negro's kisses', not 'nigger's kisses' that would have been 'nekrun pusut'. The conotations in using words 'negro' and 'nigger' are different and translating Finnish word for 'negro' as 'nigger' smacks at best of ignorance, at worst as intentionally misleading.</p>
MelitonG's picture


Thu, 09/29/2011 - 09:28
<p>Racism has also been a long time issue in US. The most recent if the bake sale in Berkeley. California's SB 185 is a bill that could permit California public schools to think about non-academic variables in admissions. Though the law is meant to boost diversity in education, some are concerned it will even increase discrimination. Article source: <a title="California political debate spawns racist bake sale" href="">California political debate spawns racist bake sale</a>.</p>


Mon, 11/21/2011 - 12:42
<p>It is very interesting and informative post. Your work has been really appreciated.&nbsp;</p>