Posted by: thisiskv | September 21, 2013

Africa through Blue Eyes and Europe Through Brown Eyes…

Black & White

 

As small as it may seem, such an experience is never pleasant. It is however still common in some places. Like I said, there are some places where they really aren’t used to seeing black people. Some of the people who come from such places can’t really help but be somewhat discriminatory, though often not necessarily in a hostile sense. They will definitely do some staring, with some being more subtle than others. They may even try to talk about the black person, wondering what he is doing there and where he is from. Basically they will be curious and a bit wary, but this is pretty natural and not particularly discriminatory. Treat them normally and be friendly, and you will quickly disarm such people.

The discrimination really begins with those who try to treat a black person differently, treating them as an outcast or as though they aren’t welcome. They may give you cold looks, and be unfriendly if you have to talk to them. You generally get the feeling that they are looking down on you. The worst part is when they actually try to treat you differently or make a fool of you. That is certainly an unacceptable form of discrimination. These are the people who you should indeed confront, but not always. It can be dangerous in some cases, so be careful.

Discrimination is alive and well, but these days many people are wary about being called racist. It is therefore more hidden than it used to be, but in some places it comes to the surface. When people strongly identify with their nationality, race, or religion for instance they may be dismissive, unfriendly, and even hostile to people who differ from them. They feel threatened or uncomfortable, and they will immediately make judgements until they are proven wrong.

We live in a world where we divide ourselves in many different ways, such as nationality, race, religion, political views, hometowns, language e.t.c. This comes about for many reasons, but the important thing is that we identify with some of these things, and sometimes we identify very strongly. These divisions and how we identify ourselves, is the root of all discrimination. Without the delusion of colour, gender and national identity crudely camouflaging the cruel logic of racism and such horrors .

With that in mind there is another side to the story. These days there are more and more places in the world where cultures, views, and people are mixing and from these places tolerance, acceptance, and openness flows and grows. The internet is also a big help allowing people of different backgrounds to connect and realize that at the end of the day we are all human regardless of our differences. There are however a lot of people who are lagging behind, and for one reason or another still discriminate… and sometimes they do it quite openly.

My own experiences are a bit special. As you know I’m mixed race which has shaped my life and experiences in many ways. I tend to ignore the looks people give me because of my colour, and can’t really remember it happening often here. I’m sure it has happened though, especially in certain neighborhoods and towns or villages. Depending on the situation I probably ignore it, or give the person a look of my own to let them know I noticed their unwelcome attention. Otherwise I treat people normally until they give me reason to do otherwise.

Since I was a baby I have lived with a black father and white mother, so I have probably experienced such things more than the average person. When I was with my father in England, and when we used to visit the Netherlands on holiday we got a lot of looks because at the time, black people were still uncommon around here and it showed. I have learned from a young age not to pay such looks too much attention, they were expected and natural at the time. These days it depends on where I am, but I may still ignore it… or I may indeed return a look.

The other side of the story is when I am in Africa with my mother. There I also got and still get many, many, many looks and people try to take advantage of us haha… though they fail since we aren’t tourists. But yeah, when you get looks from both sides you realize that neither side is really all that different. The one big difference is how they perceive themselves in relation to you. White people in some places in Europe tend to assume that you are “inferior” in some way… usually in terms of wealth, education and stuff. Black people on the other hand tend to assume that a white person is rich, well educated e.t.c These beliefs change how they treat you.

White people will sometimes look down on a black person until given reason to do otherwise(particularly if they don’t know black people themselves)… while black people will tend to look up to and be friendly to a white person(In some parts of Africa), though they sometimes assume that the white person might think themselves superior, in which case they won’t be very friendly as you can imagine. Both of these cases usually only occur in places where black or white people are not seen often.

At any rate, here in the Netherlands I have heard stories of people being turned away from clubs or swimming pools because they were black. It happened to me once or twice as well. I have also heard about people in rural areas of the Netherlands being cold and sometimes even unpleasant to black people. Looks are definitely common in some places. On the one hand, I think you get used to it, on the other hand I think people will treat you differently depending on how you treat them.

There will always be douchebags who think it’s fun or entertaining to screw around with somebody who is different. It isn’t always best to confront these people, but their behaviour certainly isn’t acceptable or appreciated.

There will also be many who are at first wary if they are not familiar with black people or haven’t really spoken to many of them. This is natural and you shouldn’t pay it too much attention. The trick is to just treat them like you would treat anyone else, treat them normally and they will very quickly do them same. In that way you avoid problems, you counteract their discrimination, and you show them that their assumptions are wrong in a good way. This is how racism is best dealt with in such cases.

These days all kinds of people are mixing; and when we realize that we aren’t that different from each other, we are less likely to discriminate and instead appreciate each other and our cultures.

So as long as people aren’t being rude, hostile and offensive, treat them normally until they give you reason to do otherwise. That way the next black person will have slightly easier time, and you yourself will immediately get better results. You will have a ripple effect on those who are touched by it, challenging stereotypes, prejudices and racism, and calling individuals and families to positive action in whatever area is right. Of course, if they are being unfriendly or hostile or whatever, then it may be appropriate to confront them.

At any rate… Be the change you wish to see in the world. Everyone out there is somebody trying to get by in life. How people live their lives of course varies from person to person and culture to culture. When you look at someone else, especially someone you perceive to be different, it can be difficult to remember that they are people with dreams, challenges, hopes, and fears just like you and me. In the same way that Europe is new and strange and exciting to you, to some people you meet here you are similar strange and a new experience as well… keep this in mind and you’ll do fine.

Africa through blue eyes and Europe through brown eyes.

 

 

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 By Midian Kajwahula & Kaveto Tjatjara

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