Yes, you are incredibly wealthy and economically advanced. Your education system is incredible in a lot of ways. Your manners and social etiquette are almost flawless. Your food, though a bit bland, is enjoyable. You have financial stability and an amazingly low unemployment rate. But please hear me out as I offer my two cents to a problem I’ve noticed all my life growing up in your country.
First of all, a large amount of the people I’ve encountered are racist. Blame it on whatever internalized superiority complex you want, but don’t pretend like the stares I get everywhere I go aren’t intentional. Your policy on immigration, equality in the workplace and feminism is pitiful. Why is it that your leading party, the SVP, is the equivalent of a hate group, determined on banning all refugees? Too many times have I had to silently nod and smile whilst I listened to some entitled idiot complain that immigrants “refuse to adapt and can’t find jobs”.
Your teenagers know a lot of about historical events, yet they squirm when terrorism is brought up whilst a Muslim person is in the same room. They laugh whenever they see someone struggle to speak Swiss-German, when they can’t hold a conversation in French after having classes for six years. The white privilege oozes off of my male classmates whenever they make sexist and racist jokes. It is almost as if they ignore the oppression and the underlying issues of your country whilst they laugh at memes. I am disappointed to even have to bring this up in this day and age, after all, you’d expect these issues to slowly cease to exist as the generations change. But alas, the bias is persistent.
And trust me, I’ve tried being open to the opinions of xenophobic, sexist scumbags. I’ve challenged their views and been kind and educational. Sadly I do not have the patience anymore to endure it when my co-worker won’t stop patronizing me when I clearly know what I’m doing. It has become a daily challenge to prove my worth and intelligence to the people around me. Having to pretend like it doesn’t bother me that my nationality is the most interesting thing about me gets tiring. I’ve tried blending in, and believe me it doesn’t work. I’ve manipulated the way I talk, sit and dress just to be more “like my white friends”. My self-expression has been limited to monotone clothing and minimal makeup in order to not attract any unnecessary attention.
Because god forbid you look different. My true personality stays hidden, only for me and my closest friends to see. My inner fear of being rejected by my social group is so big that I’m afraid to speak up and defend myself. The joy I feel when I spot a fellow person of color in my white classroom is unlike any other feeling. It only becomes an annoyance when said person of color constantly gets compared to me and vice versa.
Newsflash: people are all different, despite looking “similar.” Apparently having different names doesn’t exclude the chance of being confused with the one other brown person in the room. But of course, it’s not all white people. You continue to fight for the already established privilege not to be taken away from you instead of letting me and people alike live with the same rights as you. Oh, think of how much discomfort it would cause you not to assume what kind of person I am with the stereotypes you’re familiar with. The constant nagging about the fact that I will never experience a day where my heritage isn’t apparent to me will never feel completely normal.
I have always been afraid to voice my opinion on these issues in fear of being called “an angry feminist” or “ungrateful”. And I admit, whining about how difficult it is for me to co-exist in a country where I have a roof over my head and the opportunity to get a higher education seems uncalled for. People have it so much worse in other countries. Although it might not be the most important matter at hand, it is still important to me that other people won’t have to go through similar experiences in the future, which is why I want to fight back.
So yes, call me “an angry brown bitch”. I am aware of that being your method of shutting me down, and I’m not having any of it. I encourage everyone that has had a similar experience to do the same. Even if you feel like your arguments aren’t being heard or considered, even if you feel like you won’t make a change. Even if it feels like this system won’t allow you to even have enough power to influence the people towering above you, waving their power in your face. Start with small actions, shut down sexist jokes. Don’t engage in bullying of people that look different. Report problems to the authority, even if you know they probably won’t take any action. Make the problems obvious by playing by the rules of the oppressors. Try and change their minds by being vulnerable, but don’t let their rejection get to you. Let them know you are the bigger person and are strong-willed. There will always be douchebags around us, but it is up to us to at least attempt to show them how wrong they are. Be living proof that you have a right to be equal to everyone else by simply existing and being you.
Dear Switzerland, you might not be supportive of a multicultural, diverse, intelligent and hard-working folk living amongst you but it won’t stop us from fighting. So deal with it.