Teach them young about being different

Updated: Jan 24

In 1976 my parents moved from the Dutch colony Surinam to the Netherlands. Up to that point I was raised among coloured people. I was five and started school the moment we arrived. I had never seen so many white children in one place before. The first day of school was awful. My mum wondered why I was taking so long in the bathroom. I started crying. 'I keep washing mummy, but my colour doesn't come off. It has to come off, the kids at school say I'm dirty'.

You'd think times change

1984 Secondary school was... shall we say...Interesting. Again I was the first coloured child at the school. I hated PE, not only because my hand-eye coordination sucked. The changing room was hell. One of them came up to me and asked 'Are you brown everywhere? Can I see?' To my horror others joined in. The audacity!

1992 university years were less traumatic. I only had to deal with simple prejudices. 'Show me some moves, your people can dance'. 'I don't want to be in your team, your kind is lazy'. 'We can't study at my place, my parents are racist'. 'Your food is always strange and stinks'. Strange at it may sound, I could laugh it off as for the first time fellow students stood up and reacted on my behalf without asking.

2007 I moved to a small town in the Netherlands. My sister, her daughter and I went for a walk. We enjoyed an ice cream on the Market Square. Before too long my niece and sister went to the toilet. She came back upset, my niece crying. 'The people in this town are crazy and ignorant! I had to stop a little kid from touching my baby asking why she is so brown. I explained to him that there are many different coloured people. Then I told his mother to get him educated and she got upset!'

Not long after that, my son started Primary School. He told me that kids in his class called him dirty and told him to wash. He was the only coloured child at the school. I engaged with his teacher and she organised a school wide project, teaching the children about 'Being Different'. It talked about red hair, freckles, glasses, disability and skin colour as the differences.

Are things changing?

Fast forward to now. I see more awareness and community spirit. I definitely see more coloured and disabled people on TV than ever before. Will it really change what people feel in their hearts? Is the rise of extremist groups not a sign that ignorance and misinformation rule and need to be combatted urgently?

#disabilityinclusion #equality #diversityandinclusion

Portrait picture Aruna

Hi, I'm Aruna

Marketing expert, wife, mother, immigrant, and strong believer in diversity, equality, inclusion, and empathy. I am the sum of more than half a century of experiences. I invite you to walk in my shoes for a moment and see the world from my perspective.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram

Diversity. Equality. Inclusion

These values matter so I am sharing my life lessons with you. Hopefully, my stories will provide you with a different perspective, some food for thought.


Thanks for submitting!