In my opinion | Protesting against racism
Racism is nothing new, but there seems to be something different about it these days, first-year Computer Science student Danang Syady Rahmatullah notices. People from around the world are protesting it, since the recent police brutality against African Americans in the US. Many people have also been taking this opportunity to bring awareness to racism in their local area.
It has been hard juggling the final few weeks of the academic year, to continue fulfilling deadlines, while looking forward to the (short!) summer break. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic simply adds onto the already many things for a student to keep in mind.
Now, we are also informed of the murder of numerous African Americans as a result of police brutality in the US. Although these issues have been ongoing for such a long time, more specially since Martin Luther King Jr., the scale of the issue hasn't really been brought forth and talked about until recently. What is especially different in 2020 is that people from all around the world are also protesting, some may not be American nor have ever set foot in America.
Many people have also been taking this opportunity to bring awareness of racism in their local area. Bulgarian and Romanian students express their frustration with their association with gypsies. My Indonesian friends back home are raising awareness for the injustice and inequality of my government towards the people of Papua.
When talking about racism in the Netherlands, most critics would point out Zwarte Piet. The preservation of this tradition is often the center of discussion for debating clubs worldwide and in Twitter threads, usually questioning whether the value of tradition trumps the impact of blackface.
The fact is that the character denoted by Zwarte Piet is condescending. Despite the friendly personality in parades, the original character was intended to depict servants from Northern Africa. In conjunction with blackface, it creates a dehumanizing image of the dark-skinned populous. Altogether, it inevitably associates black people with slavery. I may not have grown up in the Netherlands to fully grasp the significance of knowing Zwarte Piet, but I also know that a childhood memory does not have to include racism.
Sometimes, we forget racism exists when we don't experience it ourselves. I was recently reminded about how many accommodation listings on Kamernet emphasize "Dutch only" tenants. While I understand some landlords may not be proficient in English, they need to understand people are able to overcome language barriers easily nowadays especially with the help of the Internet.
Nevertheless, it has been an inconvenience to say the least to many international students who are already at a disadvantage compared to those already living in the Netherlands, especially for those who live far from the European Union and aren't able to attend a live house viewing. This problem has pushed many international students away from the relatively affordable housing and consider more costly solutions. In addition, it has brought rise to student initiatives such as A Place For Now to address this issue.
Keeping ongoing world issues in mind will guide you to find ways to help and be a better global citizen
As a first-year international student at TU/e, I have been welcomed to the Netherlands and Eindhoven with open arms. I see that the Dutch have been tackling the issue of racism. They have been tackling questions like whether or not they should rename streets named after colonialist leaders to embrace change or to preserve history. I witnessed Sinterklaas, a fun little moment that interrupted my lectures back in December, all without involving blackface. As recently as the 6th of June, people gathered in Eindhoven to redefine the color of Zwarte Piet.
One often overlooked privilege we have as students and residents of the Netherlands, is that we have the freedom to protest without tear gas being thrown at you. We have the luxury of expressing our thoughts and concerns with the world we live in, thus I feel it is imperative to use that privilege to address the problems we know and have.
Of course, don't feel too pressured to try and fix everything wrong with the world. It's impossible to do this alone, but keeping ongoing world issues in mind will guide you to find ways to help and be a better global citizen. With that, I wish you all the best of luck in your exams.
Danang Syady Rahmatullah is a first-year Computer Science student at TU/e.
Check his personal blog or his videos on YouTube for more.