by young people
Hello, my name is Melanie and I'm 21
years old. The greatest difficulty for me is that
as a person of mixed origin (half Ivory Coast and
half Swiss) I am at home neither here nor
there. Wherever I am, I am regarded
as being foreign, either "white" or "black".
It happens to me when I live in my mother's country
of origin, in Switzerland, and it happened to me when
I was living in my father's country, Ivory Coast.
I would feel at home where I could feel that people
accept me just the way I am!
When you are a small child you first
do not feel that you are different from the others.
But soon the others will make you feel different -
and children too can be very cruel in their behaviour
against the "strange child".
Sometimes incredible incidents happen.
Some time ago I was riding my bike somewhere in a
little place in Switzerland nearby to where I live.
A car drove by, and the male driver opened the window
and yelled at me: "Scheiss-Neger - dirty nigger!"
I virtually froze. I felt helpless and unable to defend
myself. When I looked at the number plate, I saw that
it was a German number plate. This means that the
insulting person himself was a foreigner in this country!
How could he dare insulting me like this? I felt that
I wanted to kill this man. When I recovered I was
able to think about it more clearly. These racist
people are just stupid and do not know anything about
Intolerance really is the thing that
bothers me most. I think that everybody is different
and everybody has the right to be different - without
exception, no matter what the mentality, the colour
of skin or the religion is. But this doesn't mean
that he or she must be a second class human being
because of these differences. Tolerating something
doesn't mean that you have to agree with everything;
it just means that you try to accept it unconditionally.
May people be much more open-minded to foreigners
and their way of life: that's my wish!
Melanie, 21, Switzerland
My name is Nikola Bobann, I'm half
Danish and half Bosnian. I want to write about an
incident I had 3 years ago. I had just finished business
college and was applying for this job in a big, well
respected company. I had all the necessary diplomas
and qualifications and was self-confident. So I delivered
my application personally just to make a good impression.
The company told me that I would have
an answer within a month. I waited two month for a
reply and than I decided to withdraw my application.
I was disappointed but at the same time I had to find
out what the reasons were for the silence.
I went to the company for the second
time and got to talk with the manager. He sat behind
a big table full of papers and he asked me why I had
withdrawn my application and I answered. He reached
out for two piles of papers and asked for my name.
I told him my name and he looked surprised and asked
me where I came from. I had to find out that one of
the piles had familiar Danish names and the other
pile had only foreign names.
At that time I understood his astonished
face - it was because of my blue eyes and blond hair
- he thought I was a Dane, but according to the application
form I was a foreigner for him.
This experience made me realise the
race problem even in well respected companies, which
are supposed to have an intelligent workforce.
Nikola Bobann, Denmark
Hello! My name is Juliana Violari,
I'm from Cyprus and I'm 18 years old and I'm half
Catholic and half Orthodox. But this is not the only
special thing in my life. I'm also a child of parents
who are in the Turkish area since 1974. Because I
have to study I came to the South part of the island.
When I was 12 I left home and went to Nicosia to school.
I could only visit my family during school holidays,
at Christmas, Easter and during the summer break.
This was the situation until last year when I turned
17 years. Since last year I am not allowed to visit
my family. My parents are allowed to visit us, my
brothers and sisters and me, once the month.
When I was 13 years old I went to visit
my parents during Christmas holidays and I really
had a good time. When the holidays were over I returned
to the Greek area to continue with school. But things
didn't turn out so fine. When we reached the so called
"Green Line" the Turkish border police would
not allow us to go to the Greek side. They said that
if we went to the Greek side we would never again
get a permit to visit our family. I felt like the
world was ending. I didn't know what to do and what
to think. How could they ask me such a thing? How
can they stop me from being in my own home with my
own family? How could they? But I couldn't do anything
about it. The Turks thought that this was one way
so they can make us leave our home. But they couldn't
achieve it. After that many problems arose but I have
never felt as bad as on that day. Even after all these
problems my family didn't think about leaving home
and moving to the Greek side. I just hope that I'll
never feel like this again. After all it is one of
the Human Rights to be able to live where ever you
want in your own country. And all that because I'm
Greek and they are Turkish. That's the reason.
Juliana Violari, 18, Cyprus
I am a 24 year old Hungarian Jew living
in Budapest. When I was still studying in High School
I felt intolerance more than ever before and after.
Once we had a chemistry class and we studied the process
of soap producing. At a certain point one of my classmates
in the first row turned around and shouted: "Gabor!
Do you hear this?" In the context it was clear
we he meant. I found also sentences on the black board
like "Gabor! Go back to Israel" or "Stinky
Jew". The word Jew or Gipsy was generally used
as a four letter word. Teachers did nothing on this
Gabor Rona, 24, Budapest
Hi, I'm Anna from Poland and I'm 20
years old. I would like to tell you about a situation
in which I felt really bad. It happened already one
year ago, but I can still remember it very clearly.
I was on a student exchange in Holland. I lived with
a very friendly family, whose daughter Sandra visited
me later on in Poland. Sandra and I met (on our way
home from shopping), a boy from Sandra's neighbourhood.
He didn't say 'hello' to me, but only to her and spoke
only in Dutch. I do not understand this language,
but I felt that he told her something about me. When
I was gone I asked Sandra to tell me what he talked
about. Let me repeat the short dialogue, Sandra had
with her neighbour:
Sandra: "Hi, how are you?"
He: "Well, I am fine. I do not
have any Polish at home."
For me this was really awful - I did
not understand why my friend did not tell him off.
Her mother told me that he was probably jealous that
he was not able to invite somebody from abroad to
his home. I do not know. Maybe the mother was right.
But I think the guy was not even aware about the stupidity
of his behaviour. Such people are deplorable!
Anna Smolen, 20, Poland
My name is Daniel, I am 21 years old
and I live in Denmark. I want to write about an incident
I had three years ago. I was at may best friends birthday
and we were all celebrating. After the party we decided
to got to a discotheque in town. When we got there
the group split up and I went to the bar to get something
At the bar I noticed a man who looked
at me in a strange way. I did not like his looks and
the situation but I did not pay much attention. Suddenly
the man walked towards me and asked me where I had
bought my tie. I thought it was a funny question,
but I did not mind as I felt open and I wanted to
meet new people. I answered his question and suddenly
he took a knife out of his pocket, grabbed my tie
and cut it of. Then he slashed the knife towards my
hips and walked away. All this happened in the discotheque.
I was shocked and first idea was to run away. On the
way to get my jacket I noticed I was bleeding. It
didn't hurt or look serious, but I was frightened.
The police came and I reported what had happened.
Although they caught the guy they couldn't do anything
-they didn't find witnesses or the weapon and the
man was let free again.
Since this happened I had a lot of
difficulties. I was scared all the time and felt uncomfortable
in big crowds of people. I did not trust people any
more - so I lost a lot of my friends. I attended a
therapy group but this didn't work, either.
I often wonder if the person who stabbed
me ever realised what he did that night.
Daniel, 21, Denmark
Hello. My name is Marcella, I'm 23
years of age. I was born in Colombia, but I'm living
in Sweden for 5 years. The reason I left Colombia
is rather complicated, but one of them is the fact
that I'm transsexual. For those who don't know what
that is, I will shortly explain it. I was born with
the body of a boy, but deep in my soul I've always
known that I'm a woman. To be able to live, I'm going
through a long process, and right now I'm in the middle
of it. Yet, I haven't changed sex but I'm eating hormones
and I really look like a woman now. It's very tough
to be Columbian and transsexual living in Sweden.
Often I'm discriminated twice, if you know what I
mean. People have beaten me up, not only physically
but also in a verbal way. Until now my life has been
a mess, but as I have the possibility to change sex
I'm very happy. Someday I hope people accept me for
the person I am. I'm not a pervert, or strange in
any way, I'm just a person who wants to be happy.
Marcella, 23, Sweden
My name is Tedros Tesfaye. I'm 20 years
old. I was born in Ethiopia but now I'm living in
Sweden. I want to tell you a true story where I was
discriminated. In the summer of 1992, I was in Stockholm
with 2 friends. We had been at a gay club, afterwards
we went to McDonalds for a hamburger. At the gay club,
there had been a masquerade, so we were dressed a
At McDonalds most of the people, just
thought we looked funny, but they didn't mind. But
there was this guy who didn't like our appearance
very much. This guy was very drunk and he began to
argue with us. He asked me if I was queer and I said
"Yes, do you have a problem with that?"
Of course he did and he told me what he wanted to
do with me. He didn't like the fact that I was alive.
He wanted me to dig my own grave, and then he would
strangle me he said. I was very upset, and as his
friends arrived, I was very afraid and ran away. The
last thing I heard from him was that I was a gay nigger
with no right to exist. I will never forget this,
but one thing is for sure, nobody can take my dignity
away from me.
Tedros Tesfaye, 20, Black, happy
queer living in Sweden
If you want more material
for discussion about personal experiences of discrimination
you can look in Alien B14 at "Personal
experiences of refugees" and in Alien C15
at the "Critical incidents".
If the group would like
to go on to something more "active" then
a step forward" in Compass is an activity
that uses role play and imagination to promote empathy
with others who are different and raise awareness
about the inequalities of opportunity in society.
In the all different all equal education pack "My
story" and "My
childhood" are activities that encourage
people to reflect on and share the experiences that
have shaped their lives.
Reading through the above
stories raises many questions about identity and how
we all come to terms with a) the way we see ourselves
and b) how others see us. You might find it useful
to look at the discussion and activities around what
is called The Onion of Identity in the Education Pack.