I had originally written an entirely different text to accompany this photo I wanted to share today. I wanted to share my complicated relationship with my body image. I wanted us to talk about the ups and downs that come with not fitting into certain molds; of tying your self-worth to societal constructs. I wanted to tell you about how this photo made me feel empowered, even though I am not a size zero. I wanted to tell you about (finally) feeling comfortable in my own skin. Hmm. Skin.
With recent events in the United States being what they are, that story does not feel aligned anymore. When I look at this photo and see my clenched teeth, when I remember the power I was trying to push through that arm and those legs, the photo takes on new meaning. This photo represents body image, but also so much more. As a woman, a person of color, a member of the queer community, there is a lot to unpack here.
In a lot of ways, this year has felt like a constant fight. But the truth is that this year is no different from any of the years passed. We have been fighting for a long time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And sometimes, I am tired. We are all tired. But there is strength in numbers. There is strength in alliances. There is strength in knowledge and understanding.
There is a lot that I don’t know. There is a lot that in some ways feels disassociated from my own existence. There is also a lot that hits incredibly close to home. There is a lot that I am learning. So let’s do that. Let’s learn. As much as we can, as quickly as we can. Let’s make sure that we all join the fight. Because no matter where you live, institutional racism exists. It is complex. It is deeply rooted. And it is so very global. This is not a US-centric problem. This is not a moment to sneer at other countries and maintain that “we do it better.” Racism is a disease that afflicts us all and to deny that is to keep on the blinders that privilege has given to so many.
Today I will be heading to the Dam Square in Amsterdam to participate in a peaceful solidarity protest. Today we will stand with the protestors in the United States. Today we will stand up against the institutional racism that exists in the Netherlands. I will be honest. The prospect scares me. I haven’t been to the city center in almost three months. COVID-19 is still very real. But I find myself, yet again, unable to remain silent. In a country where blackface is a yearly cultural ritual, in a country where racial profiling continues to permeate society, I cannot remain silent.
If you are based in the Netherlands and would like to protest, check out what the possibilities are in your city. As I understand it, various cities have organized peaceful protests. Do not travel for a protest. Stay in your own city and see what you can do. Go to the protest by bicycle, car or on foot. Wear a mask, carry hand sanitizer. Wear gloves if you have them. Maintain a safe distance. Our fundamental rights of freedom of speech and assembly are essential, but the actions we take in protecting those who are immunocompromised in our country from COVID-19 are as well.
If taking to the streets scares you, I see you. Protesting is not the only way to take action. There are different courses to take, and we need all of them now. Knowledge is an important one. I’ll share some resources I have encountered that I am using to inform myself on how to be better. If you have a look at them and commit yourself to learning and becoming more actively antiracist, you are fighting too.
Together, we continue the marathon. Let’s get that damn finish line into our sight.