The Black Pete Story

I think everyone who lives in the Netherlands knows what it is about with the Black Pete story or better said: discussion. Participant or not, that discussion will always be there a few months before Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is the celebration, the tradition, the annual folk festival, where you can find Black Pete. It’s celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium.

There was a time when I didn’t see the racism in Black Pete. I grew up with him as almost everyone here in the Netherlands. To me he was just a funny guy who belongs to the Sinterklaas celebration. And when Sinterklaas was in the country, I got presents. What child doesn’t love presents? And honestly, I even once played Black Pete in high school. Now I’m a little bit ashamed of that, but I didn’t know better. Nothing or no one indicated that Black Pete has racist elements.

Now, years later, after my facial paint incident my knowledge has broadened. I’ve talked to many people. I read a lot about the history of slavery. I studied arguments from both sides and I thought about it a lot. To this day, I’m still fed with knowledge.

My opinion is that Black Pete has to be adjusted. Instead of a black painted face with red lips, frizzy hair and gold earrings give him black streaks from the chimney.

Unfortunately, that is just one tip of all racism in the world. I think one of the biggest problems of racism is that many cultures do not mix with each other and therefore know nothing about other cultures.

And ignorance gives fear and fear gives resistance and resistance indicates a lack of understanding and so on and so forth.

“More the knowledge lesser the ego. Lesser the knowledge more the ego.” – Albert Einstein

I think we can change that by expanding history lessons in schools and to combine that with teaching about different cultures. In 8th grade (in the Netherlands I was 12 years old) I did a lecture about Martin Luther King, but the racist elements in Black Pete I did not see. And why are so many people afraid of Islam? We simply know too little about Islam.

With knowledge can arise understanding, with understanding and compassion with compassion love.

“There is no wealth like knowledge, and no poverty like ignorance.”

 

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Otterfing

Recently I had something like a blind date in Munich. We had a really nice conversation and laughed so much. She asked me if I want to join to a garden party with friends of her. It was in Sauerlach, a small village nearby Munich. Cool idea, let`s go! As we arrived, there were a lot of observing eyes on me. Who is that guy? Of course, it was a private party in a private garden. It did not took long time for me to get their sympathy because of my Bavarian accent I normally use in villaged regions. Typical questions as usual from all talking partners. Especially the owner of that house we were asked questions like: “How come that you as Turkish guy speak Bavarian dialect?” “Because I was born and grown up in Furstenfeldbruck”. It`s at the west side of Munich. “So how come that you as Bavarian guy speak German?” Laughter. The other party people were done. But this guy seemed to be more interested. He asked me about my attitude to the political situation in Turkey, about Islam, Refugees and… ah, the usual things I`ve been asked as a Furstenfeldbrucker. I always answered in an ironic way. Obviously, he had a lot of assumptions. His friends were little ashamed about his questions and comments. Even my date looked at me like “sooorrryyy”. I continued conversation. He told me things like: “I`m not against foreigners or refugees, BUT…” Breathe, Ercan, breathe. “Yes, I can remember AfD or Pegida-Sympathiser argue like this” I said with a smile in my face. I asked him where he is from, Sauerlach? “No, from Otterfing.” An even smaller village nearby Sauerlach. Absolutely never been there. After a few beer and nice conversation I noticed that I become more and more sympathic to him. As I wanted to leave he told me please not to go: “You are the coolest Turkish guy I`ve ever seen!” He hugged me. “Thank you my friend. And you are the coolest guy from Otterfing I`ve ever seen…” Laughter. See you.

Strategy is up to situation. But here it was to turn back assumptions to the sender on a humorous sympathic way. Laughing opens doors.

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Listening to silent voices

For me, the first step in being able to combat discrimination is to acknowledge that it exists and what are the impacts of discrimination. We live in a global information society, so for me with access to the internet, to personal experiences and an inheritance that comes from discrimination, it is impossible for me now to acknowledge either existence or consequences. I understand discrimination because of the labels I take or am given, however, I am also part of groups in society which benefit from privilege with which I have power and by which I can take control of my life. This puts me in a position where from my place of power I can work to combat discrimination.

Many of us start from a point where we encourage participation and for people to take part in community, local decision making, control of their health and wellbeing, but this can only be half the of the story. It is more important to communicate with those who have power and control to let people in.

My role at work is about being inclusive and giving people a voice. Without a voice, people are invisible and their voices are not heard, so discrimination can take place. People are excluded from taking part in their local communities. The way that I strive to combat discrimination in my area is to listen to people or groups who represent people who are discriminated against and to take this information and knowledge about how people would like to be involved out to my target audience, talking to people, raise awareness and influence and motivate others to be more inclusive in their work and give support around good practice strategies for being more inclusive. I also find that an important strategy is to talk to people what they are missing out on by not removing discriminatory practices.

Not everyone has the same levels of access to the benefits that society can offer. Some have less access to the internet, levels of literacy, second language, wealth, local knowledge, location etc. In this case what we need to have as many access points/types as possible for people to engage so that we can hear as many voices as possible and give everyone the opportunity to take part in what is on offer.

Wait you said what?! Being taken by surprise

The following incident happened to me while I was living abroad for a year in the Netherlands in a shared flat with one roommate. Unfortunately, we also shared the flat with a few mice which we at that moment had already tried to catch but as mice they are really fast in their little holes. In order to close these holes the caretaker of the house had arranged two men from the land lord to come and to take a look on what they might be able to do. Unfortunately they were really unwilling and also the caretaker became smaller and smaller as they talked about it was just not possible to do anything (although he had talked about extra being there as support).

Because I really wanted to end our horror with the mice (try to catch a mouse in a 4m2 room, it’s not possible and in the end everybody including you and the mouse will be in a constant state of panic) I asked them kind of annoyed if they would now go without doing anything and they were like ‘what, are you afraid of those little mice?!’ – essentially not taking my concerns seriously even a bit. As if that was not already annoying enough the caretaker (who wanted to be at my side) added ‘well she has a big (boy)friend to take care of her’. This made me really speechless because I had not expected my gender to be a reason not to be taken seriously.

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The caretaker had seen my boyfriend for a very short moment when I had shown him around and simply assumed that he would find the mice less frightening than I – because he was a man and I a woman in a heterosexual relationship (he didn’t even know that he was my boyfriend, he just assumed that as well). In reality, both my roommate and my boyfriend were way more afraid of the mice and I had already done quite a lot to get rid of them. But all this was ignored by those men using stereotypes and their feeling a superiority to solve the problem for them by calling me hysteric and naming my boyfriend as solution to my problem.

In this very situation I could unfortunately not react approximately as I was really surprised, stood alone against three guys in functions I kind of depended on and, in the end, also slowed by the obstacle of communicating in a language I had been learning for six month then. Additionally I did not immediately understand what was going on. I had the feeling of not being taken seriously and my concerns being belittled but in order to react within splits of seconds I was to slow to realise that they used quite a mean sexist technique to silence my feelings.

Afterwards I thought of quite a number of things I could have said to call them out on their wrong assumptions as asking them how they got to know that my boyfriend and my roommate were not way more frightened or why that could be a reason not to act to my fears. Due to my surprise, I did not ask any of those things but maybe I will be faster the next time although the moment of surprise actually never loses its strength and I know many situations in which I could not react fast enough.

This situation never severely affected me or my life – but I feel like things like that happen over and over again. We don’t expect it, get marginalised, stereotyped, insulted or in other ways suddenly confronted with others thinking in their comfortable boxes. For me it is helpful to talk to others about it afterwards in order to know that I’m not alone, sometimes I know something smart to say, in other situations, depending on the setting, I can even get very insulting myself. Sometimes, if there already is a sort of relation to the person there are possibilities to talk to somebody and to explain why a comment was not okay and what the impact on myself was. But whatever path I choose, I try to make sure that somebody’s ignorance does not affect me and my life in a negative way. By finding a filter for my feeling of degradation, I try my best to feel good the way I am and to leave people, that are seeing me as weak girlfriend and not as independent woman with own fears and strength, behind.

 

 

I am not a butterfly, I am a person

Not so long ago, I was in the subway, reading a book meanwhile getting to my work place. The train was not so crowded, so I could see the face of the people who was seated in front of me.

Suddenly, the man seated right next to me, touched my leg smoothly. I was focused on my reading so I thought it was my imagination. I couldn’t believe that anyone could do that to me without my permission. At very first moment, I doubted but deep inside I had that awful feeling that it could be real, so I decided to pay attention to the man and wait. A few seconds later, he touched me again. At that moment I was sure I was right so I said angrily: what are you doing?

He looked at me as if I was a butterfly flying in the air, and said nothing. He just didn’t care about my feelings. After my question, a man in front of this disgusting man inquired him and said: “man, leave the woman alone, don’t touch her”. Nothing again… so I decided to stand up and go to the other side of the train, to make sure I was safe.

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Strategies:

  1. I talked to the man to stop that behaviour
  2. I walked away
  3. Someone inquired the man

 

Hidden discrimination; self examination worthy

A strong and pervasive head. However evident. The reason for this ‘head’, stems from the exercise: “Four forms of discrimination” from the Can? Do! Project work week in Brighton and Hove. A self-examination and self- confrontation that has made it necessary me to get up. I am aware of its vulnerability. But is this really? In any case, looking away or run away makes no sense (anymore).

A self-study which can be an interesting challenge for a ‘coaching change strategy’. And that is profit!

Parenting

I am a single parent with three children in the age group of 23 to 40 years. From my consciousness as a single parent and educator, I have five pillars education – plus clauses. This education pillars are motivated to keep out a climate of negativity in my family:

1) You are a beautiful person; love for yourself is paramount.

2) You always have the right to speak; provided you also give the space and let the other in his / her value.

3) Get the best out of yourself and make a difference; do more than your best, more than the other! Above all, take responsibility for your own actions.

4) Your personal development is important; Listen to yourself, and then you usually know what you want and can and what you must do to live your passion.

5) “Your diploma is your best friend!” it paves the way for you to economic independence. (The mantra of my Surinamese education.)

This emphasis on school performance, not just come out of thin air. History (read: Slavery) teaches that our Surinamese parents of responsibility for the past (still) the visual field have focused on educational performance of their child (ran). Because that will acquire ‘status’ and emotional independence.

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Raising children is a huge challenge and responsibility. Understatement! It revolves essentially around the influencing and shaping of your child (ran). Central to this is the guide and support his or her development into an independent participating member of society – an important base in education. I am therefore been constantly seeking balance includes: direct control and freely grow at between personal responsibility and make them simultaneously resistant to whom or whatever, and, between the occurrence of pedestrian behaviour and fun crowd friends. A desire balance that contributes to finally live their talent and passion.

Stigmatization and exclusion was / is not an issue because of the colour of our skin. My mantra: ‘in every human red blood flowing inward – look you covered with another colour; How nice is that! Stigmatization and exclusion was / is not an issue because of the colour of our skin. My mantra: ‘in every human red blood flowing inward – look you covered with another colour; How nice is that!

When then came anyway stigma and exclusion raised, then this concerned (mostly) the other (s). Mainly peers who knew discriminated themselves too quickly or who found them a little too often criticized or denied too quickly, and / or was not awarded because of their skin colour. A personal experience with discrimination was (- and still is) my kids ‘skilfully’ parried. They stand above it. As mother taught them. Such an attitude implies arrogance. I realize now … writing this example; I asked my daughter how this education strategy has hindered her in expressing her emotions in an experience of discrimination. They indicated that this attitude has helped her to channel her emotions precisely at those times. Because at home they indeed took discuss this space and its emotions run free and then regroup its focus.

I am proud of my children! For who they are, their life’s their struggles, their dreams and their aspirations to achieve this. Nevertheless, I now know, with the development of this task that in my upbringing method still is home to a form of discrimination. A kind of (0f) conscious prejudices that I have given strategic in secret to my children. What I know now is that I imperceptibly control my children to place themselves above the other, by ‘ making the difference is better than the other. “With the best intentions indeed. Yet.. A kind of exclusion of the other. (So)”

Like any parent, I want the best for my children. I stop in the education or even possible that I have in me to make a beautiful and happy people of my children – not (yet) compared to the other. At least, that I experience now with this self-examination. Mindful awareness! Because inadvertently, I have used in my parenting strategy exclusion of other ‘ as a measure. (Hidden discrimination … ) . At the same time, in the consciousness of mind now, this education strategy (possibly) a breeding ground for creating uncertainty for your child (ren). Unintentionally. That gives me to think; that puts it’s faith in his own talent (s) ‘ an empty shell.

An eye-opener and a wake- up call.

It led me to at least start the conversation with my daughter. I did not run, away. Through this self-knowledge, I am (more) aware of how complex human mechanism works. Anyway. Discrimination is UNDESIRABLE! The conversation with my daughter was substantive and constructive. Together we have shifted our focus to: cooperate. Because you have the ‘other’ necessary to get the best out of yourself. The ‘other’ contributes to the formation of your personality and discover your talent (s) and also to take on difficult challenges.

This, as a ‘we- focus (interdependence) can counteract hidden discrimination. And not least, keep talking to myself and enter into dialogue …

 

 Coaching

In my coaching strategy, I focuses on human capital and the world model of the customer. As a coach I possess include the following core values and competencies: committed, curious, sensitive, creative, motivating, fast switching. Undoubtedly, I know for sure I uses the same education strategy in my coaching strategy.

(Hidden) discrimination is underexposed. Through this self-examination, I ‘m pulling triggered by the acquired consciousness to my coaching strategy. For this it goes hand in hand with spontaneous, social, meaning -giving interaction processes not controlled by outside views , but from inside.

So, in my coaching practice, I will still be me more aware of my ‘influence’ on the customer. Consciousness IS the real change. It gives me create space conditions that support (can) to come on stream the change strategy. If these conditions are present, the chances are that many new voice and coaching dynamics are underway and strengthen those facts. Thus, the probability of shifting mind and mindfulness increases.

A moment of self-reflection after the call, zooming in on hidden discrimination, good breakthrough may have to change in my coaching strategy. From the ‘inside’.