Let’s Take What Matters Beyond Last Week’s Hottest Hashtag

Change starts with continued, shared and operationalized awareness

Black Lives Matter Social Justice beyond the hype 2020

A part of knowing yourself is knowing how history shaped you. Another part is choosing how you want to shape your future.

I was thinking of postponing the launch of my book, Life Beyond the Touch Screen, for another week or so. And then finally launching it.

With everyone working from home all of a sudden, it seemed to me to be pretty much the perfect time to launch a book about the way we want to consciously shape the relationship we have with our technology.

And then George Floyd was murdered and the whole world caught on fire.

How could I as a human being and a writer; a person of color no less, at this point in time not be speaking out and using the humble voice I have for social and racial justice and equality?

How could I, as a brown man in love with a brown woman, the father of a white son and a black daughter, not say anything?

How could I be crying, daily, from seeing the saddest of division, violence and brutality – but also the most beautiful unification, solidarity and brotherhood – and not say anything?

Turns out, I couldn’t.

Most of my life I’ve been mostly silent. About matters relating to relationships between blackness and whiteness. I’ve spoken to how I feel Golden Brown and fit in nowhere and everywhere in between at the same time, giving me a unique perspective that allows me to see from more sides — than most.

I am Cape-Verdean, which means I come pre-mixed. I’m Dutch which means I was born and raised in one of the most open-minded and forward-thinking societies on the planet — in which racism does still exist.

I am very grateful for the fact that in The Netherlands, though, racism is relatively light, and thin — hard to really describe and hard to find very dangerous —

Let alone to be killed for the color of your skin.

But make no mistake, it has been known to happen.

And let’s not forget the Dutch impact on the standard American accent.

But even this modern, light Dutch racism is injustice, and it is in the system, it is in our culture and it is in our genes.

And please, let’s finally forget about Black Pete. I think it’s about time.

People say we should forget about history. I’m saying we can’t and certainly should not try — it is in our genes and our memes.

It’s in our culture, how we move, the way we think, and speak — the way we dream, the way we eat, and the way we live and breathe.

Or can’t.

You know what else is in our memes and our genes? And by ‘our’ I mean to say ‘all human beings’ –

A predisposition to hate all of ‘them’, and to like all of ‘we’.

When I was studying psychology, I wrote a scientific essay on ethnocentrism – liking and trusting the perceived own or ‘In-’group more than others – and xenophobia – the distrust and disliking of or even hatred towards perceived ‘strangers’.

The dominant school in psychology at the time was evolutionary psych. Where the idea was that whatever worked, survived.

I remember there were three main lines of argumentation that I used to support my thesis – being that racism is natural to all human beings:

  1. You can find ethnocentrism and xenophobe notions in every known culture across the globe.
  2. Socio-psychological studies have shown time and time again how easy it is to get people to think their perceived ‘own’ group is superior to others. Even when the differentiator is something as stupid as eye color. Or your date of birth being an even or uneven number.
  3. Even a mathematical model with agents, some of which are programmed as ‘racists’, will reliably end up with most of society governed by ethnocentric individuals.

Just like in this mathematical model, in evolution, what works, survives.

The quotes you see online are right.

We’re not born racist. We’re born with a predisposition to be easily made racist.

Funny how next to intelligence, love, altruism, curiosity, creativity, empathy and innovation – our shared humanity makes us share a penchant for discrimination.

A part of knowing yourself is knowing how history shaped you. Another part is choosing how you want to shape your future.

You are not your genes. Neither are you your childhood or the culture you grew up in. As soon as you are old enough to think for yourself, to a large extent you get to choose what to do with what has shaped you.

My split racial history

For the African part of me it makes no sense to hate or blame the European. All tribes of all nations and all creeds have suffered and tried to suffocate one another for eons before Europeans made the whole rest of the world bleed on their knees.

They just happened to have their military, trade and religious trinity fine-tuned and ready for large-scale hostile take-overs — at exactly the right time in history. The part of me that’s European should not say ‘they’; it should say ‘we’.

Does that mean we should forget, or act like we do not see?

The European part of me should not take for granted the wonderful opportunities history planted for me.

Your — and I should say our because it is we that live in these Western, modern, somewhat democratic societies, and somewhat free —

Our modern freedom, luxury and welfare did not come for free.

History never left, it’s still here as a debt, waiting to be repaid or resolved, finally.

And whenever we cry for the importance of Black Lives, remember — it was on black lives that our current credit was built. And it is black skins, that have been paying that debt ever since.

Of course, blacks are not the only ones that suffered; the richest 1% don’t seem to care much about your color as long as you’re in the 99% and poverty and oppression are by no means a black or even brown monopoly.

But at the same time, there is no equivalent to four hundred years of slavery and the subsequent social, psychological and economic repercussions of that – in all of modern history.

Continuing on into our present, if we just stand by and let it.

Blood diamonds, blood gold, blood precious metal on the inside of whatever device you now hold — your reading these words makes both of us an accomplice. To an extent.

We should all be much more self-conscious. To be able to transcend our evolution of millions of years.

To transcend the last four hundred years.

To transcend your and my personal and cultural upbringing.

A part of knowing yourself is knowing how history shaped you. Another part is choosing how you want to shape your future.

And that change starts with an awareness.

Please, do your own research and expand and heighten your awareness.

And please, let’s take this heightened awareness, and our understanding of what’s wrong and where that might come from – our understanding of ourselves and our own predispositions and possible flaws – and keep them alive.

And act differently:

  • Speak up when you see or hear something racist or discriminatory – instead of keeping quite to keep the peace, because you’re unsure what to say or to be polite. ‘I don’t know exactly how to say this, but this is making me feel uncomfortable – because…’
  • Strike up conversations with your friends or family members – specifically those of another skin tone or different persuasion than you, and seek to come to better mutual understanding.
  • Support the Black Lives Matter movement by talking about it, posting online and donating if you’re not comfortable picketing and protesting, like me.
  • Most importantly; check your own unconscious biases about people of different colors – but also about yourself or about anything you come across. Practice self-awareness.

Let’s keep the awareness alive beyond the touch screen, and beyond the hype of last week’s most popular hashtag.

This year could be a catalyst for positive change. But only if we make it so.


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