You knew this was coming right? 😉
So I really had some trouble writing about this subject and that’s probably because it goes so deep and it’s so painful that I usually kind of just push everything away (in my head) and live life like the experiences I’ve had weren’t really there and that I have always been dramatic about everything that has been going on…..WRONG.
Due to the recent events regarding George Floyd and the worldwide protests, I’ve been thinking and talking with the people around me. I came to the conclusion that there are two main reasons why I usually try to avoid participating in this conversation;
- I am afraid that I am not going to be able to express myself the way I want to because my emotions get the best of me. I am a very emotional person and racism can get me very heated, angry, and sad so I tend to distance myself or just listen but not interact when people are talking about racism or situations regarding racism/racists that lead to them giving their opinion.
- I am afraid that I am not educated enough on the topic to give a factual, well-structured answer without getting too much into my emotions.
So why now?…. I think you know why…
Many of us have been through, watched, and heard of racist situations and heard of all that has been happening since before we were born. We’ve been dealing with racism silently trying to justify “that remark” or “that joke” because surely they didn’t mean it like that. Silent because we think we’re over-reacting, silent because they probably meant to say something else. Silent because we are afraid of the aftermath of an escalated situation.
But then the media started showing police brutality. Then we saw “When they see us“, “Fruitvale Station” and “Just Mercy“.
We felt the ‘that could have been my son, dad, brother, grandpa, cousin’ when we read about Antwon Rose, Eric Garner’ and Philando Castile‘ feelings in our souls, and even that could’ve been me when we read about Rekia Boyd, Breonna Taylor, and Sandra Bland.
You (stupidly) convince yourself that Mitch Henriquez was an isolated incident here in the Netherlands and try to stay positive when meeting people, applying for jobs, and still have a mini heart attack every time you see cops passing you by.
But the George Floyd case happens and girls are picnicking in a park in Rotterdam one minute and get beat up by the police the next. The rage you feel is unreal and then you go through your social media pages. People speaking up, people reaching out, people getting together to do something about it. With tears in your eyes, you watch a video your friend sends you about a protest where they shout George Floyd’s last words, and you dive into the history of racism.
Protests everywhere. The world is listening…..all 50 United States and more than 15 countries.
So no, it isn’t just you.
No, you weren’t making shit up in your head. There’s a real, structural problem in this world. There’s a real INSTITUTIONAL problem in the Netherlands. Many people from Dutch descent acknowledge that racism exists but they don’t grasp the extent of it.
Yes, we know you are aware of the “zwarte piet” discussion (even though too often we still have to explain why it’s considered racist) and yes, we know you acknowledge the facts that those millions of comments on social media and the occasional face to face situations you’ve heard about are racism. But there’s so much more.
First of all…where does it come from…What does that mean?
Racism is the legacy of a colonial past
History leaves traces. Our culture, our habits, everything we are is because of our history. Now focusing on my own roots (but I’m sure many colored people have a similar history in their country); If we look at the surinamese language, stories, food, music, dances, etc. we clearly see how much our history has an impact on the way we live today. On top of that; We are DAMN proud of our culture so we will always try to preserve it. So why would we try to keep connecting with for instance our music, but not with the fact that some of it stems from music that was used to communicate with each other without the slave owners knowing what was being said?
In 1863 slavery was abolished in Suriname but as we all know, this did not mean that former slaves were magically seen as equals to the ex-colonists and their offspring. Now I won’t write our whole history down because you’d never stop reading but simply put; racism is learned behavior. So if you just put 2 and 2 together you know that if Jane Doe is racist she likely learned it from her environment. The people who taught Jane learned it from their environment and so on. In most cases we learn from older generations, people we look up to; usually our ancestors. So does it seem more logical now why we still refer to slavery and the colonization of our countries? Because that’s where it comes from.
So in conclusion, if Jane Doe is a racist she probably got it from her daddy, her daddy’s daddy, and so on.
Now, looking at the dutchies; just like how we -Surinamese people- have our history, so do the dutch people. And to quote Jessica De Abreu; It’s interesting to see how the Netherlands was built by colonizing and taking from other countries but tries to develop a society that leaves this legacy behind like it never happened because the effects of this period of time are super intense. So I think that dutch “natives” should know more about dutch history in their colonies as well. They should know what their ancestors did so they’d appreciate our culture, our ways of living, and the reasons why everything is the way it is.
So continuing to more recent years, I think many countries have the same systematic problem when it comes to racism (please correct me if I’m wrong). Colored people systematically live in certain neighborhoods because of the lack of opportunities (available to them) when they came to this country (or in colonized countries; when they were finally “free”). Schools in these neighborhoods were often underfunded which meant that the kids were not able to get a quality education. Development in these neighborhoods was lacking. If you’re not being stimulated chances are you will not be able to comprehend the benefits of higher education. Therefore, your focus will be to be able to work asap just so you are able to help provide for your family. So in short; circumstances are different by far, which means futures are obviously just as different or with a littttllleeeeee (sarcasm) extra work, the future can be comparable (never! the same).
Now if that’s not enough we have implicit bias; white people can’t dance, black people are always late, Asian people can’t drive. So even if we get the chance to have a significantly better future, (degree, good job prospects because of that degree) we need to prepare for the next step. Now we have endless convo’s with friends whether or not we should put our picture on our resume, because we would really like to be considered for jobs obviously. Research has shown that racism is still a huge problem on the work-floor (or when getting a chance to get on that work-floor lol), Then you finally get the job and you have to deal with remarks about how educated you are, how pleasant it is to work with someone like you, that you’re different from the last black person they’ve worked with, etc.
And we can go on and on but I think you catch my drift right?
So when I hear someone in my social circle say something about “those colored people being so loud” or you have to discuss institutional racism when a colleague suggests that more color is needed on the work floor because of the lack of focus on that target group and someone else defensively answers that it is not true and that we do try to attract colored people, it’s just that the ones that apply, arent what were looking for, I usually count to 10 take a deep breath and continue. Partly because these remarks usually come unexpected so I’m not prepared and partly because…well I’m black…I wouldn’t wanna be out of line or create an issue.
Being of color, you CONSTANTLY are aware of how you act, how you speak, how you react, and how you handle situations.
So let’s just leave the “you are not like most black people”, “you are so educated”, “you come across very well-read and very smart”, “you are different (and let’s not get started with the “you’re pretty for a black girl” and the ” you’re so pretty, you don’t have the features of a black girl”) comments behind and move forward, please.
And let’s be clear; this is not a jab to white people and I am not calling everyone racists.
I just want EVERYONE to try to understand each other, try to help us get the message across that black lives matter because black lives are in danger right now! Let’s work together when it comes to getting rid of racism.
And let’s be clear; I am not a part of the “I see no color” movement and I don’t expect anyone else to be. I am part of the “be proud of your color, culture, and past movement” so we can create an awesome future TOGETHER!
*Takes a deep breath and a sip of gin tonic*
Feel free to let me know your thoughts 😉