We live in bubbles.
Sometimes I tend to think a certain reality has made progress, that in our era in the first modern world we live in an enlightened, open culture.
Then someone comes with a needle and the bubble bursts.
You would think it is nearly 2017, you would think people have learnt that diversity is an asset and that what matters is people's brains, not skin colour.
A few weeks ago I had the honour to hear Michael Kimmel speaking here in Zurich. He was telling a story of a dialogue he had heard in the US between a black woman and a white woman.
B.W. "What is the first thing you see when you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning?"
W.W. "I see... a woman?"
B.W. "You see, I don't see just a woman, I see a black woman. Because privilege is invisible to those who have it."
Just a few days after hearing this, my little 17 months old got a flu, so we did what we usually do in these cases: call a trusted nanny agency and one day myself, one day my husband, do home office while the nanny is in the house with our baby. So we can work but still be very close in case of need. Here is how the phone call went.
Agency "Yes, we have someone available, but there might be a little problem."
Husband "Oh, I see, what type of problem?"
Agency "Well, you see, erm…, well, the only nanny we have available is, well, she is…black."
Husband "And what is the problem?"
Agency "Oh I see all good then, you know some people have a problem with that…and their kids…you know…"
Well we wish we had not known actually.
We have had nannies with dark skin taking our kids for a walk and being stopped by puzzled strangers raised in the Middle Ages who asked why they, black women, where pushing around white, blond, blue-eyed babies. Were they theirs? And had the parents agreed (to what, to being colour-blind and look for skills, capabilities, experience, brain and affection?) to take the baby out. Nannies who later refused to go out again and be seen with babies of a different skin colour.
In these times of change and political uncertainty where half of the "First World" feels threatened by "immigrants", where the British Prime Minister, whose country heavily relies on "immigrants" for its well-being, says that immigrants are not welcome and "citizens of the world" have it all wrong and that we should all be born and stay forever in our own little town and fear anything different from us, we should not stand still and wait. In this world of pre-chaos and prejudice I find it is even more imperative that the other half who thinks differently and knows how important it is to have an open mind, to embrace diversity of culture, thought, opinion, experience, race, as part of our world, needs to stand up and speak up, to fight ignorance and those who want to burn the witches.
Let's wake up and react, before the dark ages swallow us and our children once again. Let's keep some of those bubbles intact for next generations to turn them into realities. It is 2017, not 1017.