Dr Olivia Rutazibwa -- Let's talk about racism

Born and raised in Belgium, Dr Olivia Rutazibwa chose an academic career in the UK. She keeps confronting the white West with the daily racism that exists -- particularly in Flanders -- and the path to equality that is taking too long.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Dr Olivia Rutazibwa -- Let's talk about racism - NewsMavens
Dr. Olivia Rutazibwa, Vimeo video

Why this story matters:

She used to be proud of being a "Bounty" -- dark outside, white inside. But now, Dr Olivia Rutazibwa wants to get rid of the white world she grew up in because that world systematically judges and excludes some people. Giving people time to get used to diversity, she says, is not always the solution. She's working on a book that will be called: "The end of the white world."

What is so interesting about reading Rutazibwa's vision is how she tackles the very particular, virulent strain of racism that is inherent in Belgium, even in words. Even when we think that the color of the skin is not an issue anymore, Rutazibwa proves the opposite. She holds a mirror up to society and even to the press.

The core problem is inequality, according to Rutazibwa. It can seem a bold claim, but in the interview recommended below, she compares drowning refugees in the Mediterranean Sea with the Holocaust: "In both cases there is a...ranking of the value of human lives, with extreme, deadly consequences."

Rutazibwa demonstrates how racism also manifests itself in Belgium's abysmal racialized poverty, unemployment rate, and in education and housing statistics, which are the worst in Europe, as well as in the unyieldingly monochrome and monocultural centers of power in Belgium.

Details from the story:

  • Dr Olivia Rutazibwa (b. 1979) is a political scientist with Rwandan roots.
  • Rutazibwa was born in Brussels and raised in Antwerp by white foster parents.
  • She is a former journalist for MO*-magazine and now working as a senior lecturer in International Development and European Studies at the University of Portsmouth.
  • For the last fifteen years, her research interests have focused on the motivations and effects of western ethical foreign policy in the Global South.
  • In 2015-2016, she spent a year at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research in Duisburg, Germany to work on her book project: 'On Ethical Retreat. Decolonial Reflections on International Solidarity through Agaciro, Black Power and Autonomous Recovery.'
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