I wrote this before and will repeat it. The fact that I don’t discriminate does not mean we don’t discriminate. So when people talk about their experiences, listen first. Hear them before you start defending yourself or things you don’t know. 99% of the time they are not talking about you! People know who their allies are. If you can’t empathise without the need to defend yourself, then just scroll or walk away. Everyone has their way of handling trauma. But most people just want acknowledgement of their pain. Like the lady in America said, people should be happy black people are not looking for revenge but equality.
When I posted the picture of the Dutch marching in of support the #BLM in June and supporting #ZwartePiet in December, it is not about you! Unless of course you are one of those who think black people only have pain in June! In which case you just wasted everyone’s time by standing where someone who understands how institutional racism works should have stood. Or you are that ex- friend of mine who stood there marching in Nijmegen the other day for #BLM? This is even though they had told me privately they would personally beat up Sylvana Simons. That she must go back to her own country! Why? Because Sylvana Simons wants to get rid of their Black Pete tradition!
I have said it before and will repeat it again too. I thank, honour & appreciate everyone who is standing up again racism & inequality. Without you the momentum of the past weeks would not have been possible. But this is a marathon not a sprint. What people are fighting for today others have been fighting for, for 500 years. It will not end after 500 hours of marching. One must recognise to also recognise that many who have been silent for long now have energy to speak out. When they do, they are not talking about you. People are talking about their collective experiences. They are talking about their own traumas. They are not accusing you. Black people are asking you to listen to their pain. Most of the time they are talking about their fear. (That #ZP vs #BLM picture is an example of fear and apprehension even if people missed that nuance). People have seen their hopes dashed many times before.
Is it not telling that close to 10% of the Dutch population is black but there is currently no single black member of parliament? By my calculation, there should be at least 7 of them there based on the percentage above. You think they don’t want to be there? Don’t get me wrong, they are always on the electoral list. On number 37 or 45! For decoration! I know you can give me 1 million other examples of things that are right. It is about the system that means the 2nd biggest political party in parliament is one that says some people don’t belong here because of their races and/or the nationalities of their forefathers. It is about the fact that the political party current gaining foothold and momentum in The Netherlands right now is one that has repeatedly and loudly said the European race is the superior race.
The struggle is about Pete getting ahead of Kwesi because someone does not give Kwesi a chance because of his name and background even though Kwesi has the same skills as Pete. Going out every day with a smile even when you are sad. It is having to feel happy and relieved at Schiphol every time you get through security without being picked out. Having to hear that you are the good black person when your colleagues are denigrating other black people in your presence. It is having to grit your teeth when they say those things because you don’t want be the angry black person when you object. In many cases you don’t want to lose your job because you know what effort you had to make to finally get that job.
So if the black person says things that you find strange and maybe accusatory in the present time, let them vent. That is part of acceptation. It is part of understanding. They have been keeping so much down for so long. Let them talk. Let them clear their minds. It is the rule of therapy. Once people are able to have their say, they always feel better, strong and collegial. It is like your family and mine. If you structurally refuse to listen to your child when they are angry and continue to make it about yourself, they will end up hating you. On the other hand, how many times has your child vented their fury on you only for them to kiss you moments later and tell you, you are the best parent in the world? Why? Because you heard them and they felt acknowledged.
If I post a picture about racism and you feel the need to start defending yourself, you should start asking yourself serious questions. Why do you feel spoken to? Hopefully we can all continue to build big coalition blocks so that this tyranny of inequality and discrimination can end. I am not under any illusion that it will end in my lifetime. However if we all come together and call the beast by its name we might give my children and yours a better chance in life. It is not about you. It is about something bigger. Thank you for reading! 😊