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May 25, 2016

That's my Face on my ID

I am in a train to Utrecht. It is raining and I am late for school. I'm in no way prepared for this day. With my bare face and uncombed hair I seem to fit right in with the other passengers. They are all having their morning coffee and all anxious to finally get to work and like me they are praying that nothing slows down this train because being delayed is not a good look right now. The conductor announces herself as she comes to check our cards and tickets. My card like the lady sitting next to me in a yellow plastic holder. So if the conductor wants to make sure that I am who her gadget says I am she will have to slide the card up to see my picture. It only takes a second so this should be no problem at all. She takes the lady's card first since she is in the aisle seat, holds it up to the scanner and hands it back to her. She then takes mine slides it up, looks at me and returns it. I immediately notice what has just happened so I keep my eyes on her as she merrily does her job. I look for passengers with card holders and she does not look at their pictures. Finally she leaves the car and I sit and ponder exactly what just happened. I replay the situation over and over in my mind, I remember her cheery voice and her warm smile. She was not a mean person, she seemed friendly so why did she feel the need to double check me? As I sat thinking about it I realized that it is probably because I am black.

The Netherlands is a tolerant country meaning that they manage to get by with knowing that you exist but that's where it ends. My incident is just one of many and they occur more often than they should. When I am faced with a situation that would make any human being lose their cool I am reminded that I cannot because being an angry black woman is not a good look. Often times people tell you to just ignore it or to accept that people are stupid but how do you cope with people who do not know that they are even racist. A person close to me once went to Groningen for his job and a kid no older than three called him a Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). The child's mother was extremely embarrassed and apologized as much as she could but what she did not understand is that her child's ignorance was the problem. Every year thousands of people protest the existence of the holiday character and every year Dutch people claim that is a tradition and tradition is important. What does that really mean though?

Tradition has been an excuse for almost every foolish practice under the sun. "My father, grandfather and great-grandfather were slave owners and I will not give mine up." - Some Southern Idiot
We believe that we have evolved and moved on from such ridiculous thinking and maybe we have. I mean no one really thinks that people should be enslaved but what do we think about race? A recent study showed that when Dutch white parents were asked which race their sons should never bring home a  partner black was on top of the list. If that does not open our eyes I do not know what will. I have yet to meet a person who does not think that my skin is beautiful but the person beneath the skin is what is truly important and what is lost to many.

So coming back to the tolerance level in the Netherlands, the country on a whole is extremely tolerant but is not accepting and will not embrace differences. Basically if you are a Muslim you can be one  just as long as you keep your belief over at your house and do not let me see or hear it and all will be well. That is the Holland we live in and it is time to change that. My face is on my ID but that is all it is, a face. There is one way to know more and that is to close your eyes to my gorgeous color and open your heart.