4 attitudes you need to become the ally you want to see in the world.

The past months I’ve had the opportunity to join a theater research project mainly focusing on discrimination and belonging. This provided all the participants, including myself, with the chance to get to know each other in a very special and interesting way. Difficult topics were discussed and often expressed or acted out through theater. However, the most interesting thing that I learnt wasn’t an acting skill or how to get out of my comfort zone (which were also very valuable), it was learning about actively standing by people and being taught what it means to be a so-called ally. Something many people want to be. But before you decide to become a ‘white knight’, let’s explore what it entails. It would be a shame if you were missing out on the essentials, wouldn’t it?

Being white inherently comes with things that many don’t like to admit. There is privilege and there is the massive lack of skill that is required to appropriately deal with this. The ‘’white fragility’’ people experience when they hear something they don’t like, for example: ‘’What you just said is racist’’, is sadly common. This doesn’t mean that you have bad intentions, but is does show that you’re lacking something which a social justice ally shouldn’t. In order to be that ally you do want to see in the world, there are several things you should do, and they are very feasible.

  1. Do not become an ally to win points.

When a (self-proclaimed) ally is joining in to win points, he or she isn’t in it to fully work towards the goal since Continue reading “4 attitudes you need to become the ally you want to see in the world.”

The homeless with heart

Having to rely on people can be quite hard, especially when the people that could be willing to help you also have to possess the combination of a caring heart and cash money. The latter being something that most people don’t have anymore, since they use their cards for payments instead. This is rather convenient and practical but there is also a layer in this same society that funds their place to sleep with it, the homeless. Not long ago, I met a man in Rotterdam. He asked me for a little something I could miss and gave me his story in return and it has kept me thinking ever since.

steeds-meer-daklozen-in-nederland

There is definitely a stigma surrounding the homeless. The idea generally is that these people do drugs and somehow don’t Continue reading “The homeless with heart”

Meeting Josephine Kulea: She gives Obama hope!

You know how your goals sometimes seem unachievable? Like the road ahead of you seems to be endless and long and you’re not sure if you’re willing to hike all the way up to the top? I feel that way sometimes (read: often) and I truly wonder what gear people use to get up there. Cause how can you be at that point while having started completely at the bottom? I was in luck because I had the chance to meet an inspiration, Josephine Kulea, and now I want to share what I’ve learnt with you.

Josephine is a Samburu, Kenyan, born lady whose culture promotes FGM, beading and child marriage (harmful traditions I encourage you to read more about). It is self-evident that these matters should no longer be obfuscated and that we should fight it. Nowadays she does this through her organization Samburu Girls Foundation which has already helped hundreds of girls but she also started small, in her own home Continue reading “Meeting Josephine Kulea: She gives Obama hope!”

Colonialism still affects our beauty standards.

While reading a magazine or surfing the internet we are exposed to many images, ideas and advertisements. There is, however, something striking about this input; it’s on average dominantly white. To an extent that it’s actually quite hard to find a real black model. And I don’t mean a biracial woman who has both black and white features, but a black woman who has the kinky natural hair, bigger nose and lips. Why is this I wonder? Have we downgraded black beauty to a ‘’black-not-as-beautiful’’?  Why and when did looking white with the light eyes and straight hair become the ideal look for a woman?  Are we even aware of this phenomenon?

Skin color variation
Let’s start off with some biology and why people actually have different skin tones. The color of our skin is determined by the amount of melanin we have which is visible as pigment. Not only does this determine the color of our skin Continue reading “Colonialism still affects our beauty standards.”

”This beautiful melanin that colors my skin doesn’t change the color of my blood.”

Sometimes in life you meet someone who is just a tad more positive. Someone who seems to have a certain strength that makes you look up to this person. A person like this inspired and enriched me with interesting knowledge. Fatuma is her name and she is a very bright young woman who – I firmly believe – will never even consider giving up on others and their rights. I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that she wants to specialize in human rights law as well. She does, however, wear a headscarf and is colored, unlike most Dutch people, which changes a few things. Does this mean that she is treated differently? Different than somebody else even though she has undeniable merit? Sadly, yes. The bias-colored glasses strike again against our beloved equality.

Living in the Netherlands, a former dominantly Christian country, is a different experience for someone who doesn’t fit in according to the norm. But, having moved here when she was still very young made it relatively easy for Fatuma to adapt to the Dutch language and cfatuma1ulture. Zooming in on her credentials, it’s obvious that she did well and that her Somali and Ethiopian background isn’t holding her back, it might actually have helped her to become this ambitious young fighter she is now. Besides that she’s also very proud of who she is, even if it seems to attract certain types of discrimination. She is, however, not very surprised that she experiences discrimination: ‘’I have the whole package for discrimination. I am a black Muslim woman’’ Fatuma says, and apparently that’s all that someone needs to become subject to Continue reading “”This beautiful melanin that colors my skin doesn’t change the color of my blood.””

”People need to realize how powerful their words are.”

Shawn. Call Shawn him or it, he won’t mind either of them. Shawn is a self-proclaimed lanky person who sometimes struggles with his height. Making moving around maybe a bit awkward from time to time, but with having the heart in the right place, who would mind? I mean, someone who loves to take care of animals and wants to make the world a better place wouldn’t be described as being ‘satanic’ or ‘gothic’, right? Wrong.
Not only has Shawn experienced many bias-based approaches, he also had people calling names and refusing to be of service like they would have been to any other person. Why? I don’t believe that Shawn is the reason, but he does like to dress a bit differently than the so-called ‘norm’ and that seems to be an incentive to some (read: many). He chooses to be bold and authentic when it comes to clothes, jewelry and hair. Shawn chooses to be Shawn and therefore has to deal with a bias based on appearance.

shawn

As mentioned before, Shawn deals with a bias based on looks but there’s another one. Shawn was actually born as a girl but is now transitioning to become a man, since that’s what he identifies with. And knowing our modern day society, the responses aren’t too kind. According to a report by the National Center For Transgender Equality and The Task Force 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job. According to the same research report, Injustice at Every Turn (2011), 41% of the respondents attempted suicide, compared to a small 1,6% of the general population. These numbers are shockingly high and prove that being transgender is hard enough as it is. So why would we allow people to call him ‘gay’ or let people yell ‘get a room’ when he’s kissing his girlfriend – like any other person – when the effect is horrible and Continue reading “”People need to realize how powerful their words are.””