Don’t Let Racism Thrive in Switzerland Or Anywhere

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Photo credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger for Unsplash

About a month ago, I published a story about my Personal Experience Of Racism In Switzerland. The story got thousands of views and I received many messages from readers expressing sympathy for the hard and sometimes tortuous emotional journey racism has put me through in this country.

Some readers also had the courage to personally write to me to share how they had become aware of their white priviledge and felt deeply ashamed. Others asked me about how they could teach anti-racism to their young children. Black people living here and around the world, thanked me for having the courage to speak-up because they didn’t dare to.

Overall, I was surprised by the number of reactions that I received. But now, a month later, with the media spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement slowing down here in Switzerland, everyone is going back to business as usual. And for me, this is very scary.

It is scary because racism is not something disposable, it is not the “flavour of the month”, a temporary situation that can be thrown out the window once it is out of fashion. It is something that needs to be addressed and eliminated. What are we teaching future generations if by our very behaviors, we simply move on to the next “fashionable” issue? What does that say about our values, our morals? Let us hold the mirror up to ourselves and take a long, hard stare. Who are we, what world do we want for us, for future generations, for our children, our grandchildren?

I understand that racism is a disturbing and heavy topic that many don’t feel comfortable addressing day in day out. It doesn’t make for pleasant dinner time conversation, I agree, but we can’t simply give up on something because it makes us uncomfortable.

We have to have the courage to continue speaking about it, to continue demonstrating, to hold our communities, our governments accountable for making anti-racism a permanent issue on the national agenda until racism exists no more.

We need to continue taking action to bring about change. If we stop talking we become complicit with racism, we allow it to thrive, we allow it to take root, and we allow countless other George Floyds to die in vain. Is this what we want? What does this say about our humanity — individually and collectively? We must remember that silence and racism are complicit. Together they are stronger, pernicious — they wreak havoc and destroy lives. And each time they do that, they alienate us further from our common humanity.

Many of you I am sure will agree with me, but then ask, what can you personally do to drive anti-racism. I would say, educate yourself. There are so many ressources a simple Goggle search away — at the touch of your fingertips.

Even though James Baldwin relates to the experience of being a black man in America, his story, I Am Not Your Negro — currently playing on Netflix, can help educate you about the struggles that black people face. Go ahead, watch it.

If you are a parent, come together with other parents to ask your schools to develop an anti-racism workshop, to build a special section in the education curricula around racism, and the contributions that black and brown people have made to the world.

Did you realize that Alexandre Dumas, the author of the famous French novel: The Three Musqueteers, was mixed race. Garrett Morgan a black man invented the three-light traffic system, Patricia Bath, a black woman invented one of the first laser cataract treatment devices. Frederick McKinley invented the refrigerated truck, and Alexander Miles invented automatic elevator doors — both were black. Be curious and courageous. Read, do research, educate yourself. There is so much you can do — take a step outside your comfort zone.

As the mainstream media turns the spotlight away from the Black Lives Matter movement, it is up to you, to us to continuously blow fresh air into it, to keep it going until we bury racism once and for good.

The time is now. Never in the history of the world have we had such a moment: a strong awareness of the fragility of our own humanity through the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on our societies, and a strong will from human beings for change — demonstrated by the thousands of Black Lives Matter demonstrations the world over.

We have the tools that will allow us to keep this movement going. These tools, like social media, are readily available and free: Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, Whatsapps, and many others. Use them, exploit them. If Mark Zuckerberg allows Facebook to carry the messages of the alt right and white supremacists, you can use his invention to counter these messages consistently and systematically.

Let us keep the wind in the sails of this movement. Let us be the first generation that can take a peak beyond the curtain and imagine a world where the colour of one’s skins does not determine one’s path and fate in life. In the words of William Arthur Ward, one of the 20th century’s most inspirational writers and poets: If we can imagine it, we can create it.

Let’s get to work!

Write to me at rstevensalder@protonmail.com if I you would like some more ideas about how you can take meaningful actions to drive anti-racism in your communities.

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I write about racism, but there are so many other things I would like to write about instead. Help me dismantle racism so that I can get to that.

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