Growing up as a non-white European

I would be flat out lying if I’d say that I have never experienced racism and/or discrimination. I would also be lying if I’d say that I have never felt out of place, like I didn’t belong anywhere and, at some point, wished I looked different. I would be lying if I said that being different didn’t shape me, and made me the person I am today. Loving, accepting, determined and confident

Last month the Royal Wedding opened my eyes. Me, an individual that wrote her final dissertation about the underrepresentation of women of colour in television finally realised how underrepresented we actually are. In the weeks and days before the wedding it seemed so unreal to me that a mixed race woman would become part of the British Royal Family.  It’s the stuff of fairytales, yet even Disney didn’t dare to go down that road. 

Call me dramatic, but I honestly didn’t believe this was reality until Meghan got out of the car and the world saw her stunning dress for the first time. I was speechless. This is real, this is happening. Then, the entire ceremony was somewhat of a celebration of black culture. I was speechless again. 

The wedding made me realise how underrepresented we, us women of colour, us mixed race people, actually are. Yes, I wrote a whole dissertation about it. But the way I felt about Meghan walking down that aisle is a feeling I might never be able to explain. Seeing women like you in such roles in real life, not just in fiction where most of our attention is when it comes to underrepresentation, is so damn empowering. 

I was born and raised in The Netherlands, a fairly open-minded and accepting country when compared to others. In that sense I have been really lucky, yes I have experienced and continue to experience discrimination, but it was never out in the open. The Netherlands, from my experience, is still struggling with institutional discrimination. Something that took me a while to realise. 

Photography Anuschka Giersthove

Yes, I was often pointed out for looking different. But that was not always necessarily negative, but more done out of curiosity and maybe even envy. The latter I only realised now that I am confident with how I look. Being routinely called out for your different physique can be discouraging, especially when you are young. Now, I like to stand out. Therefore I try to encourage people to wear their hair naturally and to embrace all that makes you unique. 

Institutional discrimination can both be positive and negative. I have probably experienced both. My name and birthplace are not really indicators of me looking ethnically different, and in the time before adding pictures to your resume was the norm I could sometimes tell job interviewers were surprised to see someone like me walk in. I instantly got those jobs, as they were probably looking to hit a certain percentage of minority ethnic employees. 

We are halfway through 2018, we have made progress, but a lot more progress has to be made. 

Lots of love,