Anyone else feel like people think you got your shit together and work consistently and in perfect paralel on all of your projects, all the while you are actually jumping back and forth peaking randomly, which is usually not when things need to get done but when time is running out or your inspiration was sparked on a very inconvenient time, and then you find yourself cancelling stuff that was planned months ago because you are stuck in your flow?
Selecting and following Instagram accounts of powerful black women and men, institutions and organizations (examples: @dustinthierry; @hasnaelmaroudi; @dionneverwey; @sagidcarter; @kozwartepiet; @colorofchange; @the_blackarchives; @thewhiteshift)
Re-reading ‘Roofstaat’ and buying more books alike (ordered: Hallo witte mensen; Small Island, Woman, Race & Class; Girl, Woman, Other)
Selecting books to buy next for my son where he doesn’t just see white boys or hero’s, but also black and female (put on my to-buy-next list: Black Girl Magic; Elke dag iemand anders; Ada Dapper, wetenschapper)
Adding movies and documentaries about race and racism to ‘My List’ on Netflix (added: 13th; Dear White People; See You Yesterday; American Son)
Selecting 10 articles to read in the upcoming 10 days (saved i.a.: Antiracist checklist for whites; Principles for White Affinity Study Groups; When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels; Why White People Freak Out When They’re Called Out About Race)
You can’t expect things to change,
if you’re not willing to put in the work.
Get to work!
Investigate yourself? Resources for anti-racism work:
Have more tips to read, watch or listen to? Let me know!
Illustration: Mikyung Lee for Guardian US
6 min read –
I always hated my other half for criticizing my feminist views such as getting more women seated at the table. For instance, he argued that it makes no sense getting more women seats based on gender alone. One should be getting a seat only because they are capable and equipped for the job. Moreover, he judged my defensiveness toward him. He felt I was wrongfully accusing him of not backing me and all of the women in the world for giving us a fair chance. I got really angry and frustrated and started questioning if I really liked this guy who is soon to be my baby’s daddy. – before you start questioning our relationship, read on, it’s called a build-up to a story with a turn of events, in case you are a millennial scan reader with a short attention span.
I strongly believed that for women to get better chances and to be heard, the first order of business would be to actually be able to be heard. Meaning: we need to be given more opportunities; equal opportunities. What I didn’t realize at the time was that in my head I somehow made it the responsibility of men to give us a voice. Like they were the ones getting in our way and failing us. But men aren’t failing us (most of the time, only when not picking up on obvious hints). My partner is not failing me. It is mostly me who is failing. We are failing our generation of women. And it is not really our fault.
Before I dive into how we are getting that seat at the table, let me show you a typical example of letting my emotions cloud my judgment. It is some time after dinner and I’ve started scrolling through my Facebook timeline. A video auto-plays titled: ‘LADIES, CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS GUY?!’ and it instantly ignites my recently refueled feminist battle heart. #metoo – the war is on! Completely biased I unlock the audio button and start to listen in on this interview between a calm and confident researcher guy I don’t know and an interview lady who quickly turns out to be just as biased as I am and is visibly ready for a fight of words. The discussion regarded the wage gap between women and men. Now, I won’t put all of the details in here, but in short, he stated that we – women – are the main reason for the existing gap, we are not capable and equipped and it does have everything to do with our gender.
I’ll quickly pause here – I’m sure you can imagine our interviewer’s face catching fire, ears spewing hot steam, fists tightening. To be honest, I caught myself looking at the screen eyes wide, jaw-dropping, not believing what I’ve just heard. And this, dear readers, this is where 21st-century ‘news’ on social media channels has such a dangerous way a fooling us. Because we just get that 20-second excerpt of a guy calling us women unfit and incompetent. What we don’t get is context. Because if we did, we would learn 1) he is right, and 2) he is providing us the correct framework for understanding the problem and therefore he is well on his way of providing a solution.
Alright. One more story before I really take off. Hang in there millennial, nearly there, don’t scroll down yet. And please promise me you will not hate me just because I’m calling out on our weakest generational behavioral trait that is: getting what we want now. A quick fix. This situation and subject is not a quick fix kinda thang.
Let’s picture a table in a room somewhere. Seated at the table are men. They all look very knowledgeable (as far as that is something visible, but just go with it) and serious. Now picture me, a 28-year-old ambitious woman wanting a seat at that table. I’ve got enough knowledge and experience to be in my rightful place at that table. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and feel confident. However, I will still patiently wait for a seat to be given to me. And once that seat opens up and I am invited, I will hesitate, doubt and make sure I am not taking the seat instead of someone else more knowledgeable than me. And when I finally sit down I wait for my turn to speak. When I do get to speak my words are chosen carefully as to please my audience and not to offend. And when someone questions my arguments I take a step back and reconsider. When I’m invited to speak again I now sometimes decline when I’m not feeling totally confident, avoiding another possible attack on my opinion or unnecessary arguments. And when there is a knock on the door and a fine looking tall gentlemen with a serious facial expression walks in and demands a seat at the table, I stand up and politely offer him my seat.
Not getting that seat or giving up my seat has nothing to do with the men at that table (what I always assumed) and has everything to do with the fact that I am a woman (what I painfully denied). Because there is not a single man at that table who minds me or any other woman to join them at the table by a form of principle – assuming we are indeed past an age of men feeling superior to women. They are not unwilling. What they do fear, however, is losing their own seat. And so they are protective of it, by all means, if necessary.
Now, one of the stronger traits men possess is self-confidence, not taking things too personal or at least not minding too much of the fact that other men don’t like them. Especially when they have an agenda or specific goal in mind. I, on the other hand, as a woman, do take stuff personally. Which in a positive light enables empathy and a nurturing role but also make me more prone to wanting to ‘solve’ the bottleneck rather than pursuing my own agenda. I will get that stinger out. And to quickly resolve that situation is to identify me as the stinger and get me out of the situation.
I am very aware of the fact that I am generalizing here, and while that feels wrong it is exactly what you should do. For the simple fact that there is no denying biology and history as culprits here. Women have come a long way in a very short amount of time in terms of getting a voice and a seat at the table. But women’s suffrage dates back only a century ago, just over 100 years. We are blessed to live in an age where governments and corporates are voluntarily and forcibly doing their part in creating space and opportunities for women. But in truth – and this is going to sound awful – us women have been gaining headway more quickly than women ánd men can handle.
Men have been fighting for seats and maintaining seats for centuries. They have led army’s, corporations, businesses for more than 1000 years. Sure there are exceptions, great women who went down in history for being on the front lines and men not suited for the job. But lets for a moment focus on the traits needed for such a role. Unlike caring for children, scheduling the many family activities, keeping a clean house, entertaining guests and supporting the other half in his endeavors, women have not been trained nor naturally evolved to the same male command and control traits. When talking with women who worked their way up and have taken up a seat, these biological differences are exactly why women tend to stop trying or drop out eventually. Vice versa men have dealt with men for centuries and are used to other men actively branding themselves, letting others know their strengths and accomplishments and fighting for seats. Put a woman in a room where men had a male way of dealing with stuff for centuries and you get communication errors.
That doesn’t, however, solve my initial argument with my partner. Understanding the fundamental origin of our challenge doesn’t provide a quick and easy answer on how to solve or change this imbalance and misunderstanding. Do women really need to take on a ‘male-attitude’ to be able to land a seat or thrive in such a job? Doesn’t that make us lose any traits that are beneficiary and complementary to the male approach? In that light, isn’t it fair to say that women do need to be given a seat at the table based on gender alone, in order to maintain these traits and put them to good use? But how fair would that be to competent and experienced men who are denied a seat simply because they were not born with a vulva? Which by the way is the official and correct word for what we somehow have started calling a vagina. Wait, I’m sorry, that’s a discussion for another time and place.
Let me end with this: We know what makes us different and unique. That makes us gifted in many ways and enables us to do great things. But how can we be great together?
3 min read –
And how to get back into the game.
Summer holidays are over, it’s back to classes and homework. That includes me as well. While I’m preparing classes for students at Hogeschool Inholland Haarlem and Herman Brood Academie, I would like to share with you some of my core views on using social media as an artist or artist manager. Consider this part one. I am sure I will return with more insights, do’s and don’ts, reminders, hacks in the near future.
Let me start at the point where it should start:
I work on social media strategies with artists on a regular basis. When taking off on our soon to become strategy I always ask: how do you feel things are going at the moment? What would you like to achieve? Based the answers they give me I can pretty much tell why they feel disappointed with the results of their current strategy — if they even had one. And it’s often not necessarily because of the strategy itself. Let me show you.
‘We would like to get more likes on our posts’
‘We want to sell more concert tickets’
‘We want people to share our video’s’
I’m pretty sure all artists (and companies) use social media to reach their target audience and to sell their products. What most neglect to see — and more importantly neglect to take into account when firing up a strategy — is that Social media platforms are not billboards on the side of the road or advertisements in the newspaper. Sure, there is huge potential for selling. But the question you should be asking is:
How can I build a solid and trustworthy relationship with my audience?
But why? I want direct results and instant conversion. Well buddy, I hate to break it to you: there is no such thing on Social Media. You have come to the wrong place. Please read on.
Fun (and honestly quite scary) fact: The average attention span for watching videos on Facebook is 8 seconds. And counting. Down. If you know what I mean.
Some insights that might help
‘Social Media’ are platforms where the user is the curator, not some board of editors/directors. To make effective use of #SocialMedia you have to understand that the users did not come to these platforms to buy stuff. That is what Webshops are for. No, they come to be entertained. To make connections. To identify themselves with others, or not at all. To step out of (or escape) their own life, and dive into another’s. Now let the latter resonate when I continue with the following. Most of your ‘favorite’ platforms — like Facebook and Instagram — use algorithms to make sure that the user sees what it wants to see. Or to put it more personally: the algorithm uses your click/like/search information to determine what you will (and won’t) see in the future. That means:
The quality of content matters.
The relevancy of content matters.
The context of content matters.
In straight talk that means:
If what you’re posting doesn’t strike a chord with user X → user X and Mr. Algorithm will make sure that user X will not see any more of your content in the near future.
This is where building a relationship with your audience is so damn important. They need to feel important, involved and entertained. That’s when (and where) the magic happens. That’s when content is liked, videos are shared and tickets are sold. So take some time off from looking at the numbers. Focus on quality, relevancy and context. Something as simple as asking yourself the following questions before you post anything, will help you increase the possible success of your content:
– Is this entertaining, informative, funny or interesting?
– Is my image/video high quality and/or striking enough?
– Am I directing this to the right people on the right platform?
– Am I asking too much of the person reading this?
– Is the text or video too long?
– Are the hashtags relevant, memorable or too much?
– Do I sound authentic and sincere?
– Will the content resonate with the reader?
Let’s finish with a couple of important DON’TS:
1. Like-baiting. The word ‘bait’ already emphasizes the negative side of this 21st century phenomenon. What is like-bait? -> ‘Click like if you’re also having a shitty Monday morning’. It will extend the reach on that particular post, sure. But it will diminish the reach on your upcoming posts, all thanks to Mr. Algorithm (he doesn’t really like click- and like-baiting).
2. Platform copying. We all know that guy/girl that auto-posts Instagram to Facebook and Twitter. What you will see on Facebook are @tags that don’t work and a million hashtags that Facebook users don’t like (pretty sure Mr. Algorithm feels the same). On Twitter the @tags are clickable, but might lead to nowhere or someone different (don’t we all have different page names? Damn you other girl who took my Username!!). Further more photos are not directly visible, you need to click-through to see and read the full post. Who’s got time for that?! Especially not for someone who doesn’t even put in a little bit of effort for his Twitter followers. Tragically missed opportunities here people.
3. Repeated content. If you’re afraid the morning people didn’t catch your video from last night, don’t post it again. For starters, Mr. Algorithm will recognize and immediately diminish your reach. Secondly, not very sympathetic now is it? If you do want an increase in reach, put your money where your mouth is. Boost that post and set your target audience right.
Remember: you’re selling a good night’s sleep, not the mattress
Wait, what? Paying for reach?! Have they gone out of their minds?! Well, they didn’t. You just did. Social Media may not be a billboard or newspaper ad, but is convincing people to come and buy from you any different than any other kind of advertisement you need to pay for?
Well. That’s it for now folks. We will be announcing a Social Media masterclass going into depth about all of this somewhere between now and I’m not sure. It sure doesn’t hurt letting me know you would be interested.
3 min read –
When was the last time you embraced learning like you did when you were in school?
When was the last time you embraced learning like you did when you were in school? And I don’t mean through studying frantically and being psyched to attend classes. What I mean is embracing the fact that you’re not as good as you can be, yet, and it will take hours and days of trying, learning, failing and repeating. I’ll answer my question for you: you probably haven’t embraced learning for a long time. Here’s why and how you need to change that.
When we grow up and pass a certain age and it feels society is pressuring us to get our life together we tend to dive into what is called a performance-zone. We are scared shitless about making mistakes and tend to avoid situations where we need to try new things, things that we may not be able to execute perfectly yet. Even though we fully understand we learn a lot more from failing than we do from succeeding we just can’t shake this feeling of: ‘but what if I fail?’
Rest assured, it is not only your own head that makes it difficult to surpass this feeling. We put our kids through schools that evaluate succes based on grades and we hire people based on resumés indicating degrees. It is damn hard to find the time, momentum and proper support to learn safely without killing your chances or reputation. But in order to really grow and reach our full potential it is absolutely vital you create a learning-zone next to your performance-zone. But how?
Here are a couple of ways to make sure you can get back to learning once in a while.
1. Surround yourself with people that are likeminded and actually want you to grow Spend more time with people that motivate and support you when it comes to trying new things. Or better said, stop spending time with people that discourage you and make you feel like you need to perform all the time.
2. Find small and hobby-like projects to practice safe learning Don’t try to reinvent your current job all together (high-stakes) but focus on smaller projects on the side (low-stakes) that will help further develop your overall performance. For instance writing or acting classes or mindfulness and yoga.
3. Ask for help It is never easy to admit that you’re struggling. So don’t make it any harding than it needs to be. Find someone outside of your current workplace or group of friends that you are comfortable sharing your doubts and needs with. They may even give you new insights that you wouldn’t have gotten from the people you already surround yourself with.
4. Change your environment Home-traffic-work-traffic-home-sleep -> repeat. Does this look like your life? Change it up! Get some fresh air, work outdoors in a city park for a few hours, talk to strangers, go down to the petting zoo and pet a goat or bunny rabbit. Your brain needs fresh new impulses to get new ideas flowing and it needs some alone time to calibrate experiences.
Is your boss not too keen on ‘working-at-home’ days? Quit your job and find a smarter boss that recognizes the necessity to provide a playing field for her/his employees in which they can grow and be productive.
Last but not least. It all starts with actually wanting to learn. Focus on your wish to learn — not on your wish to succeed. What you feed will grow and if you don’t work towards a safe and motivating learning environment for yourself, others won’t either.
That’s it for now. Let me know what project or hobby you have taken on to boost your learning zone. I’ll start: I’m working on getting better at writing, specifically copywriting. I’ve been reading a lot more books lately trying to find patterns, styles and best practices. I’m quite sure I’ll be writing the President’s speech one day. Oh wait. I shouldn’t focus on succeeding. Right.. well. Good luck!
6 min read –
Ten daily routine rules I wish I learned when I was propelled into a fast moving high-performance expecting world.
I clearly remember the moment I was looking at my screen, my eyes were itching, my butt sore from sitting for hours on end and my head pounding like a wild river sucking along all my creative thoughts. And I thought: ‘Isn’t there another — more healthy and productive — way of working?’
After years of trying to figure it out I have found the answer to that question. I also found that I wasn’t the only one struggling with that same question and moreover, when I started teaching the next generation I discovered that I wasn’t necessarily to blame.
We teach students what the industry looks like, what kind of work you will need to perform, we go through theory and practice. We tell them to be go-getters, to never hold back and climb your way up. But we don’t teach them how to maintain a healthy day-to-day routine, how to deal with stress and conflict, how to read the signs and say no whenever needed.
So what follows next are my 10 daily routine rules I have found to bring forth a more healthier — and therefore happier and more productive — work life. Some days I get them all right and thrive, sometimes I feel empty and tense and notice I have been failing on a few for a while.
Whatever you decide to do with these ‘rules’, experiment with them and find your own sweet spot. Most importantly: don’t beat yourself up when the going gets tough. Take a deep breath and work your way back to that sweet spot. Good luck!
Pick one medium to communicate important/work matters
When you get information, questions and/or info through different services/devices like email, sms and WhatsApp, it is really hard to keep track and errors are inevitable. Further more it prevents you from having some me-time, because work is everywhere on all services and devices.. Aaargh!
Choose which service you like to work with and have a standard answer ready for communication on other services/devices: “Sounds cool, can you send me an email with the details so I can confirm?”
Be careful with making promises
Never offer ‘Yes, sure’ as a standard reply. It will set expectations you can’t keep up and it prevents you from looking at the task in an objective way. When you’re not directly claiming ownership you’re distancing yourself from the task long enough to be able to analyze it properly and respond in everyones best interest. Try responding by asking more questions so you can determine urgency, responsibility and main objective. It may even turn out not to be your responsibility at all. Lucky you! A couple of examples of counter questions: “When do you need it?” or “Do you need this today?” “Can I get back to you about this?” “Can you send me the details, background and objective in an email?”
Questions you can ask yourself: “Do I have time for this within the given timeframe?” “Am I the right person to handle this right now?”
Make a time efficient week planning. Think of what needs to be done that week and schedule accordingly. Cluster meetings into 1 or 2 parts of a day and leave plenty of room for undisturbed working. You might not be able to follow through on everything but it will help you stay disciplined and it creates headspace for executing tasks without being distracted by thoughts about what still needs to be done.
Start the day with a realistic day planning. And by starting I literally mean it needs to be the first thing you do in the morning. Don’t open your mailbox yet! Check your week planning, specify tasks/calls/etc. and think about timeframes. End your day by checking what you finished and what needs to move to a different day on your week planning.
Set a timer and honor breaks. Did you know that when you sit your blood starts to flow slower, causing your brain to get less fresh blood and oxygen, which are needed to trigger the release of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. And that’s only the effect it has on the brain, I’m sure you can imagine what sitting does to your muscles and organs.
Schedule your activities in bits of 20 minutes and set a timer to let you know times’ up. Get up, stretch and get yourself a new hot cup of tea. It will also provide an insight into how realistic your planning actually is and you will be able to change accordingly resulting in a more effective planning and use of time.
Start the day with the difficult tasks, end it with the pleasant ones. And start the first activity before you open your mailbox in the morning. Your mind will be at its freshest in the morning and more capable of handling something you don’t feel like doing. Because surely you don’t want to do that awful thing anymore when you have been at it for a few hours already, right?
Limit distractions during focused work. Science taught us that it takes the average person 20 minutes to fully get back to a specific task after being interrupted. Apart from a lot of time lost, interruptions can cause stress and change your mood. If you need to focus, find a spot where you can work undisturbed or put on headphones and tell your colleagues it means you wish not to be disturbed.
p.s. Don’t forget incoming email and phone messages (even app notifications) create similar distractions and anxiety. Shut down and/or enable flight mode.
Categorize tasks and cluster the ones that are connected. Just like interruptions can disrupt your productivity and creativity, so can changing from one task to the other. When you’re working on different projects, try clustering the different activities and work on one project at a time. Although the specific activities may vary, in your mind you’re working on that one project and it doesn’t feel like changing attention.
Reduce the static in your inboxes. Get a lot of non-urgent messages? Do you really need to be on cc? Ask your colleagues to only pop you an email if the matter cannot be discussed during contact moments face-to-face or via the phone. Sometimes just one or two contact moments per the week (say for instance Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon) can cut down 50% of email traffic.
While we’re at it. That same rule applies to you. Do you have two or three things to ask someone? Write down for a contact moment and continue focusing on the task at hand.
Check your email twice a day for just one hour each. And close it down during the moments in between so you can no longer feel drawn to checking new incoming mail and directly answering it. When going through your email, determine your course of action based on these three ways of handling: / urgent — needs an answer now (write a reply but don’t send it right away)
/ urgent — needs research to answer (reply you’ll get back, flag it, write on to-do list)
/ not urgent — can answer later (flag it, write on to-do list)
Reduce unnecessary follow-up communication. Nothing takes up more time and energy than rectifying and explaining yourself. When you write an email or reply, ask yourself the following questions:
/ Have I given all of the necessary information? (Did you answer all questions asked, is a little background story needed for the receiver to understand and take proper action?)
/ Are my questions specific and detailed? (think about what you want from the receiver, when you need it and how you would like to receive it — for instance: .pdf, via mail, etc.)
At first this seems like a lot of work. But if you make it a ritual you will notice you will ask these questions automatically while writing. If you still notice a lot of questions coming back to you, the best way to check your wrong-doings is by not sending your email right away. Write it, hide it, wait, re-read and then send.
No wait, one final advice I’ve come to cherish: However tempting it is to work towards becoming irreplaceable, the moment you strive for the opposite is when you will be most comfortable, creative and productive.
3 min read –
A world full of opportunities at a standstill.
For the past year I have been trying to steer clear from Social Media when it comes to personal moments of endless scrolling. Which is a pretty hard thing to do when 75% of your job and side projects need you on Social Media. And I’m not saying this is a typical ‘I hate Social Media’ and ‘It’s such a waste of my time’ phase we all know and go through once in a while.
I found that if I want to stay mentally healthy, keep up my mental strength and self-confidence, there is one thing I don’t need in my life: happily smiling beautiful looking women stating ‘this is your moment!’ and/or ‘don’t let anybody steal your dreams, you can make it happen!’.
Back in 2014 I had to accept the fact that I’m not invincible. My head was a mess, I couldn’t remember simple things and I started doubting everything — mainly myself. It felt like someone took off my rose-colored glasses and now I had to face reality. I hated the new me. I wanted back my old-slightly naive-down for everything-not afraid to ask. But she never came.
At the end of 2016 I finally felt like a snake that completely shredded it’s old skin and I felt comfortable in my new suit. I even tried some new moves, testing my new shoes and without realizing it the doubting stopped. In the beginning just for short periodes of time, but as I seized more control over the new me the doubt vanished for days and even months at a time.
However the doubt is still there, hidden inside of me. And once in a while it takes a walk outside. It knows my weak spots. When I’m tired from work, when I’m just about to have my period, when I’m confronted about something. And then I go through the phases I’ve become so familiar with:
– First comes a feeling of paralyses
– Second is a strong urge to flee and hide
– Third is me realizing what is happening
– Fourth is me being mad for allowing ‘it’ to happen again
– Fifth is me remembering it’s not the end of the world
– Sixth is acceptance and rest
– Seventh is the feeling of gaining headspace again
– Eight is figuring out a game plan and returning to the scene
The first time this happened it took me a full month to go from 1–8, but nowadays I go through the motions faster. Not because I’m not allowing myself to give every move a proper check, but because it naturally happens faster. Now I can hear you think: ‘so if you got this down, what has Social Media got to do with it?’.
We live in a world of balance. We — as the world, our society — have gained so much from our individualism, automation, feminism and education to all. But it has and is costing us greatly as well. My friends and I grew up with the opportunity to follow a higher education and get a job that women before me couldn’t. I didn’t have to take over the family business and it is not expected of me to be a stay-at-home mother.
But these so-called ‘opportunities’ are putting a paralyzing pressure on our generation. I am a 27 year old woman that has been working as a freelancer for over 7 years. In the early days I felt like I could make a change, I’m special and I could do whatever I wanted. Over the years that feeling turned into a misplaced feeling of responsibility. A big part of that feeling comes from within, but the other big part comes from society — more specifically from Social Media.
If we want young women to thrive we need to stop promoting ‘this is your moment!’ and ‘you can be anything you want, don’t sit around and wait for it!’. It may get them up from their seat, but it will backfire once they hit a challenge. If we want equality and fair chances we need to accept that we shouldn’t be pushed. We need to be understood, accepted and supported.
But until that happens, I will steer clear from Social Media on my weaker days. I draw strength, motivation and inspiration from having dinner with friends, walking the dog, going to a petting zoo, calling my mom, reading a book and movie night with my man. And maybe a little bit of wine and chocolate…
3 min read –
Like every teenager, I dealt with my fair share of exam stress, wardrobe panic, gossip talk, body changes and all of the typical school insecurities. But other than that I was a very happy kid and had not much to worry about. One thing always did bother me though. And it never really faded. On the contrary, it still bothers me today and even angers me greatly from time to time. And I feel it’s time I open up and start to act on it.
I am born half Dutch, half Greek. Many of you know this because I once told you. But you wouldn’t know if I didn’t. Because apart from the brown eyes, brown hair and the amazing bronzing capabilities of my skin, I look just like my fellow white Dutchies. I now know that this ‘look’ has made my life a lot easier. Sure you work hard to reach your goals, but my life would have been very different and a lot harder if I was half African and my skin was black.
When I was still in middle school I was introduced to this dark truth. My class combined more races than a G20 summit and I had a bunch of friends whom I hung out with that didn’t share my white look. I remember we would go to the supermarket during lunch break and I would hear other people (grown-ups) whisper insults, point fingers and even swear at my classmates or deliberately push them. They didn’t do anything wrong or said a single bad word. I was 13 years old and shocked and confused.
Fast forward to University. I was conducting my graduate research at a foundation organizing Hip-hop events. I love Hip-hop and grew up rapping along with J5, Talib, KRS and Dilated Peoples. Many of the people I worked with, including the artists, were black or looked like what the media depicted as the face of a typical suicide bomber. Walking through town together I couldn’t help but notice people avoiding our paths and tightly holding their bags. My friends looked like they didn’t see it but were probably pretending. It made me feel sick and strangely ignorant.
Today. I have the amazing pleasure to still be surrounded by and work with extremely talented artists, musicians, and inspiring people. Almost all of them showing the world a beautiful dark skin color. The only difference with back in the days and now is that many of them became a public figure and are popular by demand. And somehow that changes the ‘rules’. They are praised and applauded, role models and award winners. But when the night falls and we walk to our car after a show, and security is closing down the building and doesn’t recognize the guy who just sold out the venue, we still hear the whispers: ‘maybe he doesn’t carry a guitar but there is a gun in his guitar case’.
I am privileged. And I’m fed up and angry about the fact that my friends are not and have to deal with shit like this on a daily basis. To this day I regret not standing up to those security guards. I shouldn’t have listened to my friends who were careful to not rock the boat or make a fuzz and asked me to let it go. We do not just need to acknowledge that we are privileged. If we want change we need to actively make an effort to support change. So I’m making a promise to myself that I will call out on supermarket whispers, I will confront people that show disrespect and misunderstanding and I will ask what exactly scares them and show and tell them that it’s an illusion we are maintaining ourselves through these bad behaviors.
I am not just taking a knee, I will not be silent and I will make an effort.
This piece was inspired by a powerful article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson. Read it here: My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest.