Discrimination: Don’t let society decide who you are.

Mazlum is three times a minority, yet he doesn’t feel like he’s a victim of discrimination. He is a young man who lives in the Netherlands but has Kurdish heritage. Being woke as he is, he has already experienced and seen a lot. He, however, doesn’t choose to sit with discrimination and its disadvantages. Mazlum challenges them.

Over the years he has become aware of his status and how people perceive him. In some situations, he is the potential ‘foreigner’ who people don’t want to hire and in others he is WhatsApp Image 2017-11-24 at 23.05.55the loyal family man. But hiring him could be a good move. From what I’ve experienced, he is a guy who takes care of people around him and has his heart in the right place. This is also noticeable if we look at his graduation project. He wanted to do his final research on discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, his school didn’t like the idea at first. They were stuck in their white frame of reference and seemed to be slightly offended by it. It was challenging their white norm. Sounds like a case of white fragility to me.

‘’Don’t play the part society wants you to play.”

The research project he has chosen now is rather Continue reading “Discrimination: Don’t let society decide who you are.”

Wearing a hijab: ‘’I’m now more concerned about how I act and come across than what I look like.”

‘’I’ve become more feminist through my faith’’ Zaheda said. Something you may not have expected to hear from a woman who’s wearing a hijab. This 23 year-old from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, spent the first 9 years of her life in Afghanistan but had to flee the country because of the ongoing war. Now, she’s a motivated medicine student who at the same time tries to fight the bias against hijabis. Because what do you think when you see a woman covering her hair? Do you see oppression or freedom?

Zaheda’s story of Zaheda benchwhy she chose to wear a hijab might be one of many women. Initially, she was afraid to wear it and of what people would think of her. Even her father discouraged it because he too was afraid of possible discrimination she’d suffer from. And she does face this discrimination. For example, in her field of medicine, the chances of becoming a surgeon are really quite small for her because the specialization trainers choose the people they want in their team and they tend to want people who fit into the group. People who can ‘’let loose and maybe just take off that headscarf’’. Think about it, how often have you been treated by a doctor who’s wearing a hijab? Luckily, Zaheda wants to go into pediatrics or urgent care so she can avoid the bias, but still it’s sad that it’s happening and it shows the presence Continue reading “Wearing a hijab: ‘’I’m now more concerned about how I act and come across than what I look like.””

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.”

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.””