Exclusive behaviour

Distance is nice and it sometimes helps recognizing patterns in life. Recently, when I was leading workshops in Holland for a week, I noticed a scene full of stereotypes and exclusionary behaviour among men.

Holland had colonies in the Caribbean and Indonesia. Accordingly, many craftsmen of international origin work for the company, which I accompanied through a transformation. We let the men in the plenum play with typical working situations in order to get to the bottom of the difficulties in working together in terms of safety, care and personal responsibility. Usually this exercise is fun.

But when the Curaçao-born, dark-skinned, muscular Dutchman with a heavy golden chain and a rasta hairstyle is spontaneously suspected of marijuana consumption by another improvised theater worker in front of an assembled crew because of his appearance, the fun definitely stops. This exceeds the limits of decency. This is how bad rumours are created.

For some time now I have been intensively concerned with the patterns of exclusionary and inclusive behaviour.

So during the break I sat down with the Rastamann and asked whether this happened more often and what this scene had triggered in him. He was close to tears, touched his Rasta hair and said: “That’s why! He doesn’t know me at all. I have children, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I’ve never taken drugs. Why does he take the liberty? Yes, right, that is not okay. That was a prejudgement based on stereotypes, which leads to exclusionary behaviour. His teammate joined him and got very excited. We were on the verge of polarization and hostility.

Fortunately, the two men proudly declared that they were not as immature as the other and would handle it with confidence. And then, as a woman, I felt a strangely loving bond with the majority of minorities, who repeatedly feel excluded and belittled by the supposed mainstream.

Column by Esther-Mirjam de Boer, published in the Handelszeitung on 21 March 2019.