These last couple of months have been a lot take in for everyone around the globe. I included. Add feeling disgusted and lost for words regarding the grotesque state of affairs concerning George Floyd, and so many more.
I felt great sadness seeing the news, because it also took me back to my own childhood, reminding me of all the times that I’ve been treated differently. The first time I can remember was during basic school in Great Britain. I went to a rather white school were children continually touched my skin to see if the color of my skin rubs off. Or touching and pulling my braided hair because they don’t understand the texture or the beads in my hair. I was definitely not the only one. I’ve had children call me all kinds of awful names day after day, year after year, and it continued when moving to the Netherlands and I went to school here. I remember being grateful at the time that I didnt understand Dutch yet. They didn’t know better and I had to deal with it.
I’ve also experienced being turned down for international cooperate assignments because they were afraid to have a woman of color as the face for their brand. When I started working as the first woman of color in the PC Hooftstraat in Amsterdam a long time ago, that was the start of a shift. Being called “Black Pearl” might be a compliment yet I felt the need to educate people then and there when I was addressed a certain way and I still do. It’s not always even what people say, it’s how people can make you feel. In the end, it really is all about education.
It’s natural to wish for our lives to get back to any kind of normal, as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of people being treated differently on account of race, ethnic background, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation has become tragically, painfully “normal” whether it’s while dealing with the healthcare system, of jogging down the street or watching birds in a park. Racism happens everywhere around the globe, and the systematic oppression and racism have to stop. It has gone on far too long. Enough really is enough. So educate yourself, get involved. Take that giant leap and talk to people of color, because everyone has their personal story, I can assure you that.
I am hopeful for the future and believe we can do better together in striving for equality. We ALL matter as human beings. Our lives matter, our hopes, and dreams matter.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends“. – Maya Angelou