I know, the title of this article sounds a bit extreme. What on earth is the correlation between being a woman of color and what I accomplished in life? Well, that is what this article is all about. As some of you guys know, I am half Surinamese and half Dutch and this has had a big influence on the way my life turned out to be.
Technically, I am a half brown girl (and yes, some Surinamese people are brown because part of the Surinamese people descend from Indian people). Even though I am light skinned, I have always been one of the darkest skinned, most foreign looking people in my school. Because of this, I always felt different. I always felt like a foreigner, a stranger, even though I was born and raised in the same country as all the other people in school.
Because of this, I always felt the need to prove myself. I wanted to show people that I was just as good as others, or even better. I wanted to show them that my skin color didn’t define my intelligence or my abilities. I wanted to be able to tell those people that I went to the gymnasium (highest level of high school in the Netherlands). I wanted them to know that I go to a university, and that I am a law student. I wanted to let those people know that I am successful in life, probably even more successful than them. I wanted them to think ‘hey, she is one of us’.
Now I know that there isn’t a lot of discrimination in the Netherlands, compared to some other countries. However, I had my fair share of different treatment. I remember being followed in stores by shopkeepers because they assumed that I was going to steal something. I remember that some boys didn’t allow me to swim in a pool outside because I looked foreign (btw, I did teach those boys a lesson by staying there and talking to them until they were convinced that I am just like them #girlpower).
I knew people saw me as different and I am pretty sure that sometimes, I was treated differently. This negative aspect of being a woman of color turned out to be something positive. Instead of giving in on those negative views, I felt like I had to prove that someone like me can actually be successful in life. I wanted status, prestige, power. And that is what I went after. I work really hard for a lot of reasons but this is one of them. I know a lot of you always ask me why I work so hard or what motivates me and this is one of the reasons I want to be successful and why I am power hungry.
This story is really personal to me and I understand that not everyone that is going to read this is going to understand this thought process. Then why am I sharing this? I remember feeling like I was the only one who got through this. I didn’t know a lot of other people of color, and we certainly didn’t talk about stuff like this. Then one day, I went to the orthopedist and had to wait in the waiting area. I grabbed a magazine and found an article written by a Turkish woman who had the same experiences as me. She also felt that people didn’t take her seriously, and that she had to work hard in order for people to see her value. I recognized myself in that story and I didn’t feel so alone anymore. If only one person sees themselves in this article and starts to feel less alone in their journey, my mission is complete.
This article is dedicated to all the people who feel like they have to work twice as hard for half the outcome. I am 20 now, I have a gymnasium diploma, I am in third year of my bachelor in law, and on top of that, I have my own company. I’d say I’ve done great so far and I am not even done yet. Great things are waiting for me because I turned being a woman of color into something powerful.