I live in a country hailed by UNICEF as the best country for (white) children and teenagers to grow up in, a curious nomination as I traverse the halls of its educational systems every day. I live in a country where recently the government stepped down because they had to admit that for years the tax department targeted and labeled low income families with foreign sounding names and/or immigrant backgrounds as fraudulent and gave them unfair harsh treatment, with incredible results. Some lost homes, families broke up, some even had their children removed. We are talking about 26000 parents.
There was a “scathing” report in which there was admission of having targeted ‘groups of people’, but they refrained from using the term ‘racism’, because well… So the government stepped down, while leaving the perpetrators on their jobs, well, stepped down…. It is Corona after all, so they will continue to keep working and receive a paycheck. Oh, and in two months there are new elections, so you can vote for them again. The main guy in charge, publicly cried mea culpa but stays on as leader of the party and hopes people will vote for him again in two months to become leader of the country, again. He feels bad about the whole affair, but it all wasn’t really his fault, and he will learn his lesson. This is the same guy who in 2008 was convicted, then secretary of state, of ethnic profiling Somalian families. He is still learning his lesson apparently. But the Dutch government has promised to do a study on institutional racism. Perhaps they are better served with a study on integrity and accountability. And those families? They now have a better leg to stand on if they choose to sue the government. Because that’s how it works in the happiest place to grow up.
I have worked in the city of The Hague, the international city of peace and justice, where recently a new conglomerate came to a fall. A partnership between private and public companies came together to start a program for unemployed and young people to help them gain access to employment. That same guy opened the program with much fanfare. Two years in the money is gone, mostly into the pockets of the organizers and the service deliverers. Hardly anybody has found a job, and nobody can explain why the money never reached the people it was supposed to help. Another mea culpa and oh well. This new model of working, this public-private partnerships ‘so we can have broader impact’ is also the new model in higher education and one of the main reasons why I left, exactly because of what happened here.
I hail from a country where not all Republicans are racist, but many racists and white supremacists have used the Republican party to live out their angst and fragility about…. about what really? And between these two countries, where white supremacy reigns, poor and brown people remain engaged in an ever ongoing fight to be more than an ‘oh, well’ side note, and inclusion seems an ever illusive ideal, it is hard not to get discouraged at times. And then there was the inauguration. It really started the day before with a memorial for those who lost their lives to the pandemic and honoring those on the front lines. It started with a moment of silence and some respect.
The inauguration itself was opened by a performer who has always used her art to touch many and speak her truth. There was the black female brigadier who used sign language, because you know, it matters. There was the Puerto Rican singer, justice Sotomayor, Biden, Harris, Garth Brooks, and more, and it mattered. We were treated to vision and purpose, and some much needed first steps in healing. But the biggest medicine came from a 22 year old, dressed like the sunshine and with the grace of a ballerina. Her words brought much needed medicine. She was a reminder of why we need to uphold our young people, of their promise. About how we need to work to make our countries be places for real to be legitimate places where they can be happy to grow up. I cannot speak for others, but for me a little bit of the cynicism was lifted, I became a little more hopeful, and can dust myself to go at it again.