It has been over a year since the brutal murder of George Floyd. A tragedy that put the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement on the worldwide map. The BLM movement has been around for quite some time. It was founded in response to the acquittal of the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in the street in 2012. The BLM movement grew after unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner were shot and killed by white cops in 2014. The BLM movement has increased worldwide awareness about the racism that still takes place today. Since the Black Lives Matter movement, I have started to educate myself about racism, and I have decided to speak up more often. For example, I wrote this article, in which I mentioned the following:
“We can no longer ignore or downplay the problem that racism is. It is time to talk about it on a larger scale. Racism is learned and that means that you can also unlearn it. Let’s educate and inform ourselves and the people around us. Let’s focus on solidarity, mutual respect, and equality rather than division, conflict, and hate.”
It is crucial to keep talking about these issues, not just when it is a hot topic. Don’t be afraid to speak up. That is why I would like to share some of my experiences:
My (colored) boyfriend and I can often be found on the terrace. On a hot summer day in July 2020 (shortly after George Floyd’s murder), my boyfriend, a girlfriend, and I were drinking beers on the terrace of our favorite pub. The waiter, a middle-aged white male, served us while also clearing tables. My boyfriend decided to go home after a few beers, and I stayed behind with my girlfriend. At one point, the waiter stormed over to us, after which he informed us that he had lost a few beer glasses. They were gone, just like that. We could understand his frustration and told him we felt for him. But, to our shock, his response was: “That immigrant friend of yours must have taken them. They steal all the time”.
How can you say such a thing? How ignorant are you when you still think like this, with everything that has happened over the past year? Full of disbelief and astonishment, we addressed the waiter about his behavior. Previously I would have left it at that. I probably wouldn’t have told my boyfriend about it because it’s just too painful. But doing nothing is also doing something. So I called my boyfriend and asked him to return to the pub. I had decided to educate and inform ourselves and our environment. And that is what we did that day.
My boyfriend and I like to socialize and travel. We love the sun, having drinks on a terrace, eating good food. Last year we decided to go to Milan. While I visited some shops, my boyfriend was walking around the famous and impressive Duomo. There he saw a man who made portraits of people. It would be nice to have a portrait of us both in Milan, he thought. The man wasn’t working on paintings of others at the time, and my boyfriend decided to walk up to him. To his surprise, the man didn’t make any eye contact and completely ignored him. Nevertheless, my boyfriend decided to ask the man how much it would cost to make a portrait. The man looked at him with a disapproving look and said, without hesitation: “No”. When my boyfriend told me about what he had experienced, I couldn’t believe it. It made me nauseous and filled me up with anger and sadness. How was my boyfriend supposed to feel?!
I was curious how the man would react to me asking for a portrait, and I decided to approach him by myself. We quickly made contact and I asked him how much it would cost to make a portrait. He happily told me: “For you only 20 euros!”. I became furious and almost had problems restraining myself. Instead, I signaled to my boyfriend, who then walked up to me. The man’s face instantly turned white and he quickly turned his back to us.
What did I learn?
The moral of the story, you may not be able to educate everyone, but it’s worth speaking out! Some may slam the door which can be very frustrating, but doing something is better than doing nothing!
Yet, I see a change of attitude, not only in myself (from passive to active reacting to racism), but also in others. I notice that more and more people dare to speak up when they witness racism or injustice. For example, last year, a lot of people on my Instagram feed actively supported the BLM movement. And, more often than not, you hear that people joined the protest against police brutality and racism.
I will continue to use my voice, will you be joining me?