Let’s Talk About Racism

Awhile back, I participated in a four days workshop in Suwon, a small province located in the south of Seoul about Korea community development movement which is called Saemaul Undong. The training was held for foreign students from across South Korea. We were taught in the workshop about Korea and how they developed in a short time and went from agriculture to industrial development.

There were a lot of interesting encounters in the workshop and I had the chance to meet many people from different parts of the world. But, there was a very interesting encounter I had with a specific person.

So here is what happened…

In the last night of the workshop, we had a cultural night. The idea was that we present something either about our cultures or our talents. I decided that night that I was going to play some Kurdish music and introduce Kurdish dance to the participants since few of them only had information about Kurdistan. And so I did. I gathered my courage, went on the stage and played Zakarya’s song, Halparke Garma asked the audience to join me and we started dancing  on the stage. Soon later, we found ourselves playing and dancing to different musics. I can tell you it was one of the funniest and most beautiful experiences I have had so far in Korea. A few hours later, when my friend Chamali and I were heading out of the hall a group of guys walked over to us and congratulated me for introducing Kurdish music and dance. It was in that moment when I had a small conversation with one the boys that I realized how much hatred, racism, and resentment some’e heart can hold.

With an angry look, he comes closer to me and he asks me where Kurdistan is located. I smile to him and I tell him; “Well actually Kurdistan is not a country yet, it’s an independent region..” In which he interrupts me and says ” No excuse me, where is Kurdistan on the map? there is no such thing as Kurdistan”. Looking shocked by his rude attitude,  I hold myself, smile and tell him “Listen to this well, whether you like it or not, admit it or not, Kurdistan does exist and it’s going to be a country too, and you my friend will live to see that happening.” He stares at me for a minute, then says bye.

That night, I thought, and thought, and thought. I wasn’t really bothered by him, but I thought about racism, about why someone with so little information about a whole nation tries to fight against their right for existence. Does he not know how many people die everyday for their right of self determination? Does he not know how many years it takes for a nation to rise? And then I thought about all other the people who keep trying to bring others down for no particular reason. I thought about the reason why people become racists. I thought about the amount of anger and resentment this boy held in his heart that night.

What I do know is whatever this boy felt and said that night had nothing to do with me or anyone else, but everything with him. There is no one born racist. People become racists. And I do know he has decided to settle in a bubble of darkness which has blinded him from seeking or seeing anything outside of it. And that’s the thing about people of his kind. You may try so hard to change them, you may try to convince them that the world is not made of white and black and where you stand is not the finish line, but they may never change.

What you can do instead is to open their eyes to your truth. To help them see the world from your perspective. And most importantly to keep your voice loud and alive so that when the world is filled with small voices, when you encounter with those who try to not acknowledge your existence or anyone else’s existence your voice rises and speaks above them.