By Marvin Hokstam, Director Broos Institute
Truth can sting, especially when it has always been right there in your face and you never recognized it as truth. And I may have rubbed some people the wrong way last week when I told them my truths: that the fight against racism has been columbussed and watered down, and that the entire world is a safe space for white people. Hear me out.
I knew from when I walked into the training “Rethinking Anti-Racism in Adult Education” in Dublin, that it was going to be interesting. On the flight over an older white woman had already tried to compliment me by saying that my tall, large frame made her think that I was some famous footballplayer; but let’s skip the conversation that ensued.
The training room where we were to discuss racism for the next three days held 40 people, all allies, about 34 of them women, 31 of them white. One Black lady. I was the only Black man.
A room full of white people was going to talk about what white people do to Black people and there had narrowly been no Black people there to contribute how Black people felt about what white people do to Black people.
So I started dropping my truths left right and center. I wouldn’t have back in the day, but not anymore, not anymore …
“You know you’re hyper visual here right?” one person would tell me later. I think I responded “yes. purposely.
When I’m in the minority in the room, I know I represent the majority that’s not in the room.”
When the facilitator, the excellent Zoryana Pshyk, announced that she would like me to share some of my experiences with racism, it surprised the others, but not me. If you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready, right?
It hurt the room when I unloaded the stories about the ex who -right after sex -still lying in bed pleasured, sweaty and funky and stuff- told me she would never want a child with me because mix African/Indian children were ugly; about teachers who told me to know my place and always behave according to my skin colour; about teachers who told me not to expect to ever become the best at what I was studying to become -because of my skin colour- and so on.
I gave them a history lesson about my ancestors being released from slavery and being basically instructed by Government proclamation to strive to be the best (white) people they could be … in a world that was going to tell their descendants consistently and harshly that they were not white people.
But reliving my experiences also hurt me, I found, as I withheld my own tears.
Nonetheless that pain served a purpose; I used the platform to talk about the need to create safe spaces in Europe where children/people of African descent can study and grow without the ever-lurking, discouraging threat of racism. That the reports of underperforming children of African descent do not address the reason for said underperformance: that children/people of African descent do not recognize themselves in the education system.
“It is too Eurocentric, which doesn’t mean that I have a problem with Eurocentrism; not at all! My problem is that it is so dominating. Think about this:
In a room with only people of color, without white people present, white people are still present. That’s how dominating and invading Eurocentrism is.
In school Black children are taught every day that their ancestor’s killers and enslavers were heroes. Even in schools in former colonies.
Consider how strange it would be to teach a Jewish child that Hitler was a hero. I know a Black person who lives on the VOC street! People of color drive through the Coen Tunnel every day; do you know who Coen was? What he did?
Last year I was tagged in an article about the first afrocentric school in Africa! In 2022! So I asked the journalist how he would feel if I would write about the first Eurocentric school in Europe! I was sarcastic of course, but He got offended: “all schools in Europe are Eurocentric!”
This is problematic!
Don’t be fooled by how easy Black people make this life seem. This world is not a safe space for Black people.”
I told them about The Broos Institute, that is about ready to launch masterclasses on Afrocentrism through its virtual campus, the first of its kind in Europe.
“We are leading the way to implement decolonized education in Europe in the next couple of years, where Afrocentric views will be taught alongside Eurocentric views. Not just schools for Black children, but also children from other backgrounds to learn about Black views. We wanna create holistic children.”
It was during the Question and Answer session that followed, that I pondered that the entire world is a safe space for white people, because my truth holds the same stories many Black people could tell about their experiences with racism. About discouragement. Institutional.
A discussion erupted, but before I could quote Sojourner Truth (pun not intended), Zoryana jumped in and ended it.
I smiled. “Truth rubs, I know. But this is not about you; all of you beautiful people are here in this training on Rethinking Anti-Racism in Adult Education because you are allies.
You know what, let me hurt your brain a little more: what’s there to Rethink about Anti-Racism?”
I didn’t get a response.