2020.07.27 Your place in BLM?

Many expats ponder "What has Black Lives Matter and the demonstrations to do with me? This is not my history."

If you grew up somewhere else, you already know deeply how necessary it is to learn to maneuver the subtle signs of your new culture. Normal behavior here is not what you learned back home - wherever here and home is. I bet you never were as aware of your own culture as you became once you moved abroad.

Some differences you have to think about. Some differences feel like a relief. And some things are learned almost "by osmosis".

Just like you did when you were a kid, children learn cultural normalcy through watching and listening. "More is caught than is taught."`

Regardless whether they are white, brown, or black, the message children take in is that it is better to be white. Not just that it is easier to be white but that white is better. Even children living in wealthy black households where their professional parents and their teachers try everything to build up the children's self esteem subconsciously get this message from the broader culture.

If that is not what you want your children to learn, you must actively counter the input they get from movies, news, games, the language, and from just living in this world. You must be intentional about how you behave because they learn from what you do more than from what you say. They learn from what you say to others more than from what you say to them.

What we all can do - right now - is to listen to the stories people with different backgrounds share. Accept what they tell of their reality - even if it is not our reality.

From moving to another country you already know that other people can have a reality different from yours. Some immigrants had/have culture shock before adjusting so yes, expanding your horizon was/is often hard work.

This time the expansion also requires heart work.

I have found this series of difficult conversations answers a lot of question of why people of color and particularly African-Americans feel the way they do about how they have to move in the world. But it is just an introduction. The google docs below have many more links and suggested readings, watching, and listening.

Back to the opening question: Is this really not your history?

It is my history. I had ancestors working in the government administration back when Denmark had colonies in India, Africa, and the West Indies. While I am not responsible for what my ancestors did, I can't wash my hands of it.

If you are Danish, this is also your history - even if they didn't teach us much about it in school. If you are German, Dutch, French, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, English,... this is your history, too.

You may not like it. I know I don't. But we can't change things if we won't recognize where we are. That is willful ignorance.

Our education about the history and workings of the society we live in is our responsibility; while we should be grateful for lessons they may teach us, we shouldn't put it on our friends with darker skin tones to open our eyes.

More readings, movies, and other resources: