Unintentional racism: I don’t hate you, I hate the symbol

Untintentional racism, black white, ying yang

Often when it comes to pointing out unintentional racism people think they’re personally hated. It’s not you, I hate, it’s the symbol you display.

I have seen many discussions, and for a couple of years now I’ve convinced myself not to interfere, let it be, see where it goes. Too much of a hassle, the idea of speaking against people who don’t wanna hear it. And every once in a while a good train of thought pops up in my head, keeps me awake or busy and I just have to write. I know it has been a while, but I believe it to be one that needs to be written down. And fairly I have to have the energy for it nowadays. Sorry for being away for times in a row! But my energy is most important 😊

I’ve seen many people try, and this yesterday morning again, a man named Mounaim. The hurtful comments flew around his ears, even if he was so peaceful in making his stand known and that he felt sorry for people that they weren’t able to see and so worked up about it. So worked up they threw in his religion, his origins (my heart cries when you open up the internet cesspool of hate, my lord), everything will be thrown into battle to hold on to Black Pete so fiercely, afraid to lose something they have always.. so loved. Their childhood friend.

Not in control of change, tradition is not holy

Because that’s what it is and how I see it and why I think it is so hard for them to let go of. Aside from many things changing nowadays, seemingly out of their hands, they try to grasp on to one thing to keep. Just one thing, not realizing change can also be good. But we humans are known to go bad on change, especially if you’re a nation hung up on ‘tradition’ as something meaningful.

I never cared for tradition, only things that make my life better. That’s why I keep on working on learning and letting things go, never knowing where I will end up, but if I see a chance of something that will improve my life and also make me lead a good life – which I feel is what I am alive for (we all need a why) – I grab it by the balls and I go through it. That goes with many flaws sometimes resistance, because doing what is good for you his not always easy but that’s ok, as long as you try to keep going.

Losing a childhood friend

And you know what… Give them the time to grieve, to process that what they feel so nostalgically, something so beautiful and harmless, is gone. Don’t forget they learn and experience this as a child, so it runs deep. A child probably believes their mom and dad, who believed theirs, learning that there was no harm in it, just beauty. They did not willfully and intentionally act on racism. The ones who did not willfully do it and continue to have the courage to not become ones who wilfully do it and adapt would probably be praised for the heart they show. At least I think I would because I know change is hard and if you go through it any way that deserves a little celebration!

Unintentional racism

Because can you be racist without knowing it? Of course, you can.  It’s like making jokes that are hurtful to someone else, that you don’t feel are hurtful because you’ve never experienced where the hurt comes from. (and if you think well ‘those’ people nowadays haven’t either, think again because it is more present then ever, just not to all eyes).

The conversation, feedback and a request

Someone might say: “hey, you know, that thing you’re doing, the thing you say. It is actually hurting me.” And because it’s your fellow human being you probably feel a bit awkward, maybe even ashamed and say: “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that, and I surely didn’t mean it, at least not meant to intentionally hurt you.” Then the other says: “ah thank you, I feel better knowing you didn’t mean to, but could you in the future not do it again?”

Normally you’d think of it as not such a weird or horrid request and you’d say: “of course, I’ll pay attention to it.” Because you and your fellow humans know you’re living together on this earth, and maybe you’re even friends. You’d accept to change something bad, although you did not realize it at first. You’d look for a way that both would make you happy. Going at Mounaim’s origins, because you don’t agree with his stand, and trying to hurt him, is willfully acting on racism because then you do know.

A responsibility to show what touches you

Of course it comes with the obligation to tell and educate from the side that has been hurt, otherwise, you cannot expect someone else to comprehend and understand what the hell you’re trying to say. 

That why I go by this ‘motto’ I thought of myself because this isn’t the first time I’ve seen struggles around color and comprehension or mental health. Even in the curly scene people fall out to each other by the structure of their hair and the use of black white, dark and caucasian. It all comes down to the same:

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This week I will publish the first story in a series called Matters Of The Mind. Mental Health and taking care of it is an important and normal thing that unfortunately isn't always treated as such. Little we learn while we grow up. With this series I hope to give an insight and space for stories that need to be told. And most of all a feeling that mental health is a normal subject. Nothing be ashamed or scared of. #awareness #mentalhealthadvocate #mentalwellness #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #mindfulness #conversation #talks #depression #anxiety #borderline #highintelligence #personaldevelopment #growth #words #blog #blogsociety #thoughtoftheday #psychology #mindandbody #mindset #mindbodysoul #inspiring #innerpeace #interpersonal #empowerment

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Explaining it like this a compromise to find a way to make both sides of the Black Pete ‘war’ happy, should be easy right? But how come it isn’t? Pulling eels apart was a tradition, but we realized it is wrong and made a change. Just because something is tradition, does not make it holy, untouchable or mean it comes with the quality of being good and fair.

Too hurt and emotional to truly listen

Because we fail to listen, because we’re hurt ourselves, and scared that we might lose something beautiful we always shared. But you know. POC aren’t asking you to get rid of Sinterklaas and the one that helps him. They’re asking you to compromise on the hurtful element that is the blackface, that you don’t feel like its racist doesn’t mean that it’s not. You just might see it through a different eye, that of your childhood and the joy of your children, who love the saint, the patron of children.

But could you understand that your children would gain that same nostalgia? Because it is happening in their younger years, with all the presents and the helper. But the helper does not have to have a black face unless the person really is a black person.

Do you think it’s new or even the only known issue? Welcome to the world of cosplay.

Let me help you out with this concept of blackface that a lot of people don’t seem to yet understand, although its been forbidden forages now. In cosplay, POC make a point out of this rule: blackface is forbidden, you can cosplay a character as detailed as you like, but you never change your skin tone.

It is very simple. Black people who cosplay a white character don’t airbrush themselves white, white people who cosplay a POC character don’t airbrush themselves black. Unless the character is an alien with the color green or purple or something, people don’t usually paint themselves into another skin tone! It is just not done, an logically so.

Pete as cosplay

Strangely, they still have to make a point out of it, because some white cosplayers don’t stick to the rule. Mostly with this argument: BUT COSPLAYING IS HAVING TO MATCH THE CHARACTER. The same goes for Black Pete, when he was introduced in a book by a Dutch writer, he was introduced as a man of color. So what happened? We tried to match Pete in our cosplay and decided to go for blackface.

EEHHHH (this is the ultimate buzzer sound). Wrong! You can cosplay Pete and you can cosplay him going tot he chimney (which don’t make you skin all black and change your lip color), but you stay the person you are.

BUT MY CHILD WILL RECOGNIZE PETE AS OUR NEIGHBOUR!! Oh lord no. Seriously how wrong is it to say: “yes, that is Jan from next door! When he can each year when Sinterklaas calls, he loves to help him out. You know many of the grown-ups do! Sometimes they come along from Spain (the grownups they don’t know) sometimes, uncle Hans helps them as an extra.” I personally think that would be a wonderful and loving story, but hey.

No one likes bullies

The point is you don’t paint your skin to another race. Whether your intention is good, and you just ‘wanna match’ (also unintentional racism), you don’t do it, because it is blackface and thus racism. When you come to learn and still go on, then you’re willfully being racist and harming. And the last time someone said “please don’t say this to me or do this to me” and the other one said “well FU, I’m gonna do it anyway, na na na na naaaa“, In my book is still called bullying.

To the argument but black people do it too! I only have to say, then good for them they don’t feel the hurt, because you know, some people don’t, And you know, maybe they’re used to it for so long now that it should be something to find normal, that they also don’t feel anything else by it. But I can’t speak fort hem. Does that mean you have to exclude the ones that do feel hurt? No. Listening tot heir words is not being shoved their opinion down your throat, it means acknowledging their feelings, which is a present pain. And what is so whiny and not a fair request, but to take out painful elements?

Use the reason you’re gifted with

I was a child that enjoyed the festivities and I laughed at Oh mother, ain’t half hot ( I did not even know). But I am also a grown-up who has developed the abilities to see further than my own feelings and nostalgia. I do remember a child on my primary school that was hurt by seeing Black Peter. That you would say to a grown-up to suck it up, but would you say that to a kid? “I say it is not racist, don’t feel hurt, suck it up.”

What about them

Yes, we can ask POC to look further than their feelings and that we don’t mean it so bad, but because we’re neighbors, we both have to compromise and since blackface is forbidden anyway it seems like a reasonable, easy and a logical consequence.  We can dig into history as far as we want to prove it is not racist. But it is finding the arguments for a result you already know: it is not racist. And so will POC. Find all the arguments on why it is. We can’t fully blame you for ignorance. We do for lacking the courage to listen and love thy neighbor. For what is being asked is not unreasonable.

It’s not the people who are hated, it’s the symbol

BUT WE DONT HATE THE GERMANS ANYMORE! Why do you still argue about black Pete with us then? We are not our ancestors!

True true… But don’t you also not wear nazi uniforms, draw swastikas, read Mein Kampf, or name your kids Adolf… And surely POC should not do either! We don’t hate you because you’re white (as you might feel),we hate the use of blackface, that is the uniform of oppression, as a Jew start is of fascism. You wouldn’t hate Germans because they’re German, you only would if they’d use the signs correlated to the events. You’re just learning now that the black tone of the skin is that element; not the festivities… Why would we hate the patron and people who help?

It’s about understanding that a face painted black is just as much as a symbol of oppression, as a swastika or jew star is for jews. And neither of us has to tell you that it is a symbol of hate in the Western world. When we’d ask you not to use it, you’d completely understand.

This is the same question ‘Will you please stop displaying the symbol of hate? I know you mean well, but it is a constant reminder in our face’

Let’s paint a picture

Could you imagine Petes with swastikas on their foreheads if it would be introduced 1000 of years ago when it still had a good meaning and then Sinterklaas would have helpers with these on their foreheads? We’d say, ‘oef’… I know this is a kids friend and it is meant well, but this is now perceived as a symbol of hate after WWII, and we’d like it not to be seen on our streets.

It never was about fascism, it is about lifeforce, happiness and sanctity. But now we dont even argue about it to see it in our streets. No way we’re gonna expose our kids to this as if it’s normal. Why do we do it with the blackface (soot or no soot, it evokes something). We rather teach our kids about the wrong use of this symbol and history. Then also please do with this. Don’t teach them it is ok to ignore your neighbors as you please!

Blackface is that symbol and they please ask you not to use it. And I believe they would be grateful, and wouldn’t you rather receive that over using a symbol? You might not BE a racist, but you’re using a symbol that IS.

Wouldn’t it be weird if we said: “if you don’t like my fascism, then go back to your own country where they don’t celebrate that.” If you can you might have a greater fantasy than I have.

Say no to a request? A How-to:


Oh that is true, so here’s something that helped me a lot in keeping my boundaries and learning when to say no. Let’s see if that fits here.

This is one of the most helpful interpersonal communication tools I have:

1.1 Yes or No?

Y = Yes
N= No
0 = Neutral (normally not present)

More Y is lower intensity, more N level up the intensity:

Say no when you have more N
Say yes when you have more Y

Do I have what the other wants? Y (well, yeah you kinda do)
Is it a bad moment to say No? I’m gonna leave this one 0 for your cause, but in my opinion, it’s 2019 and there’s a race involved so Y.
Is the request clear? Y. please don’t use the blackface, as it is a hateful symbol, even tho you mean nothing by it.
Does the other have authority over me? N, no one has. Although depending on where you live in The Netherlands Black Pete isn’t allowed everywhere. So then there is an authority.
Do I violate human rights? I’d say Y, but since it is the question here whether it is racist, I will leave it a 0 for you.
Is the request fitting? Y. If someone asks you the stop with something hurtful, in any relationship that is kinda fitting.
Do I owe something to the other person? As this is the question of the whole debate, I’ll give it a 0
Will saying no obstruct a long term goal Y. in this case a good relation
Does your wise mind say Yes? Questionable. Mine would say yes. I can’t speak for you. But would you feel bad in the long run if you’d say No?

1.2 Relation, Goal, Respect

Relation: fragile, reduce the intensity (this is a world in which you live together, your relationship is very fragile)
Goal: important level up the intensity (your goal of preservation seems to be important to you)
Self-respect: has to be in line with values (so no bullying)

1.3 Outcome

In this case, there are 4 clear Y, 1 clear No, and the rest is up to you. But since Y is more presenr, you could say that saying Yes on a request like this is a good step.

As we look at the intensity, we already know it hangs between yes and no, but because the relation is fragile, and you don’t want to be a bully you should lower the intensity. But as it means much to you and your goal is important, it can up a bit.

Both 1.1 and 1.2 lean towards a low intensity. So where you think we’d end? Well. It is a tough question if I’d look at it from a pro point of view, but according to tot he questions above it is definitely NOT the highest intensity in which I see people react. Declining, no budging, no matter what. But a lower intensity is at least the lower half of the table, whereas 3 is your middle starting point.

High intensity: change the situation

6 Decline, don’t forfeit at all
5 Decline, resist
4 Decline at first, reconsider
3 Show your unwillingness
2 Show your unwillingness, but say yes.
1 Show hesitation, say yes
0 Do what the other wants without questions

Low intensity: accept the situation

“She wouldn’t leave if I’d still do it, but why do it if I hurt her”

This example from the Volkskrant is a great example of someone who loved being Black Pete, and now just goes as Pete with soot wipes. Observe his process and thoughts, I say well-done sir:

“I went outside and felt a criminal. What I have been doing for years is no longer allowed. “And he may find that the most difficult thing about the whole discussion is that he is forced to think differently. “You think Zwarte Piet is friendly? Well, it’s just a great racist.”

[note from me here: this is where it goes wrong. Just because the other party sometimes is uneducated and unintentionally (in their mind) racist, you can’t just yell out he or she is. The symbol he uses is. If he intentionally wants to hurt you, then well yes he is a big ass racist. So be careful don’t pull a WIR HABEN ES NICHT GEWUSST here.]

It evokes emotions, just as elsewhere in the country. With the Castricum Saint Nicholas, for example, who is not a member of the local Saint Committee. Last month he shared a photo on Facebook of a couple of jet-black servants. “If you don’t like Zwarte Piet, you go to a country that doesn’t celebrate Sinterklaas,” it said.

Question marks

Hazeleger understands that sentiment. In fact, he thought so himself. Until he got a black girlfriend. She dropped after the entry that she had trouble with his face painted. She was sometimes called Black Pete on the street. “I didn’t understand, because nobody means that. But when I saw it touched her, I started to delve into it. “Black people who work for a white man, he now has his doubts about that.

Lambert seems to be hearing the story for the first time. “Would she blame you if you kept going black?” Hazeleger: “No, she said you must know for yourself. I’m not leaving you. But I felt it would hurt her. “What he says there, Lambert finds terrible. “I would have so badly wanted to remain Zwarte Piet, in all my innocence. But I am very sorry that people are confronted with it in such a way. I’m not going to stop it anymore, that’s why I stop. “

Read the full article here (in Dutch)

An attempt

So, will I rally down your house for your thoughts? No. Will I peacefully speak my mind and hope to open an eye. Yes. I can’t force you to do something you don’t want. That’s not how I hope change to work out in this world. I acknowledge and understand, but I will not condone. I will, however, accept the idea that there will always be folks around with bad intentions, or ones with good intentions that will not understand in this lifetime. Otherwise, you will stay angry, and you can’t live. But when it comes to wrongful things, that your heart knows is wrong… Well, you know what Fever 333 says. #standupordieoryourknees

But I will stop you if I see you willfully hurting someone else.  

We’re all just wanna be heard and seen

But POC… ‘rally’ where the grown-ups are, the ones who make the decisions, not the kids. Don’t hurt anyone or make extreme chaos, think of the consequences with every move you wanna make and remember to educate without yelling because they’ll become deaf before they can truly hear and then it’s a lost cause. You can’t try again. It will be harder.

I have the best of both worlds being a mix, but boy do I also experience the anger that comes up with these questions. Sometimes, you’re just done and I get that. For the ones who know them and even if you don’t, if you need to release some tension with this, you might wanna listen to some Fever 333 afterward. Or if If you feel through music, it might bet the best way to experience the hurt that is not yours. I know I can.

Fever 333 – One of Us.

No one is whining, dear people, all we long for in life is for someone to just ‘hear me and see me’. Because who would we be if we would not exist in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Free will is not just unlimited

If you still think after reading this, yeah well I may think what I think, and say it. Free speech, free will land all that. Then remember you’ve been given free will land speech, but it never comes without responsibility and a choice you have in the actions you take.

Let’s not bet hat hard society in which we learn every kid: does something bother you? Suck it up.

No, you say I hear you when you say it is bothering you, I’m sorry you feel that way. What do you need? And this goes both ways. If both sides truly discover what they need, which I believe is a loving Sinterklaas with a team that makes kids happy (a recipe that doesn’t necessarily require a face with red lips, earrings and a black painted face, Santa doesn’t need it), I’m sure you will work it out. Because you value one another.

Then quid pro quo

And you know sometimes you don’t have to do things quid pro quo. Favorably even not so, because when you do something for someone else, you do it with the kindness of your heart, not expecting any favors in return.

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