The Real UWC Challenge: Don’t be Scared to Speak Up


by Anahita Saleh, United World College Maastricht
29th May, 2020


Estella is an 18 year old Norwegian/Tanzanian first year student at UWC Maastricht, and an illustrator in the Flying Dutchman. She believes the current #blacklivesmatter movement is succeeding in tackling the issue of police brutality, but wants to see more people having open discussions on the topic and actively taking action.

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UWC education has a large focus on global issues and activism. Joining the climate march has become a part of our school culture, but when it comes to issues involving race, there’s a lot more silence. Why do you think it’s difficult for people to speak up?

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It’s hard because race is a taboo subject. Your race is such a vital part of your identity that it’s hard not to take personally. It’s a lot more personal than environmental issues. People are afraid of saying the wrong thing and getting “cancelled”.

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Is this a valid reason not to speak up?

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No. Or maybe! I don’t want to force people to put themselves in a position they’re not comfortable in, but I also think it needs to be spoken about. But at the same time, it’s not about you anymore. The issue goes beyond you. 

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Have you seen people on social media or in real life showing their support in the ‘right’ way?

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Yes! Lupita Nyong’o posted books by black and white authors about how to understand the black struggle and speak up about it. I like that it’s a proactive way of dealing with the issue. Rather than all this outcry saying police brutality is wrong, we should be talking asking how do we actively make it right?

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What are you doing to show your support?

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Personally, I don’t feel like I’ve been doing enough. I’ve been vocal on social media, sharing posts about celebrating black culture but lack of support for the community. I’ve just been trying to shed light on the issue to make sure it’s not forgotten about.

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The media’s attention toward this issue will eventually pass, but do you believe people’s outrage will subside?

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The idealist in me wants to say no. For many years police brutality has been a prominent topic in the media. But seeing how many times black people have suffered at the hands of the police and then people forgetting when the next video goes viral… I’m not too sure. However, this time could be different. Seeing the mayor of Minneapolis speak- I felt like man, the authority gets it. He wasn’t dismissive. During these corona times, everyones at home watching the news. This time I feel like it’s been getting the attention it needs. But globally is it being covered enough? Especially in countries like Norway where people don’t see this as “their” issue or relevant to their society, it’s not. I genuinely wonder how this affects how active Norwegians are when it comes to racism.

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Moving forward, I want to see more people talk about their perspectives on this issue. Having open discussions would help people empathise with one another, even if they don’t see eye to eye. That’s my point. Don’t be scared!

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Special thanks to Estella Tenga for the interview

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