Lately, racism has been in the news quite a lot. Finally. So, since I can finally teach again, I had another talk about racism with my students. We talked about white privilege and what’s been going on in the world, and I will talk about all these things on my blog as well. It’s time I turn my passive not being racist into an active being anti-racist. Today though, I wanted to focus on my students’ experiences. Why? Because some people believe that the problem called racism is only a thing in America. Or they say that it’s not that bad here. Not that bad means that it’s still bad. Maybe people with a different skin colour aren’t killed here, but they’re not treated fairly either.
Not that bad means that it’s still bad.
Experiences of my students
Let’s start with going to the supermarket. It’s something we all do weekly, right? A student of mine went to the supermarket with one of his white friends. He was followed and closely watched the whole time he was in the supermarket, just to make sure that he wouldn’t steal anything. His white friend was completely left alone and could basically do whatever the hell he wanted. Fair? I think not.
Next up: talking with friends outside. I assume that we have all talked over things after school when we were younger. I know I have. On multiple occasions actually. So, let me set the scene for you: one group of white people laughing and talking, one group of people with different skin colours laughing and talking. Who do you think apparently looked suspicious and thus had to be asked what they were up to by the police? Fair? I think not.
Another time one of my students was walking and talking with a white friend. The police went up to them and did a body search on my student. They asked her name and checked to see if she had a record or not. The friend could just continue. Fair? I think not.
Finally, I want to share something that happened to one of my white students. She was on the bus on her way back home, when all of a sudden a woman told her to zip up her handbag full of school books. Why, you ask? ‘You never know with all these Muslims around.’ Fair? I think not.
Racism during classes
Just to show you how much racism is still alive in Belgium: racism was even a topic during my classes on applying for jobs. My students were wondering if they really had to put a photo on their CV, because they were scared that if their employer saw their face that they wouldn’t be treated equally to all the white people applying for the same job. Same goes for their native language. One of my student’s native language is Arabic. She didn’t know if she could put that on her CV, because you are meant to speak Dutch in Belgium. Why would she have to leave that out? It’s her native language, it’s her culture. She should be proud of it, not scared. My students are bilingual: they speak Dutch fluently and they speak their native language fluently. How many people can say that?
They should be proud of who they are and where they come from, instead they’re scared. Scared to be different, scared to be themselves, scared to be judged. Fair? I think not.
So, no, racism is not just a thing in America. It’s a problem here as well.
Use your voice.
I will use my voice and my platform to share what I learn about racism and our history. And I will continue to share the experiences of my students as well, because I think it will help raise awareness. Now, I’m still learning about everything and I’m bound to say or do something wrong. Please, if you can find the energy to do so, correct me. I want to learn and be more anti-racist.
x Evelien x