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TEDxLund: GROWING DREAMS

TNKVRT

by
Danny Lam

A screenplay for TEDxLund on 10th October 2015


about the project TNKVRT

January 2016

Chapter 1

HOW IT ALL STARTED


1.1

At the bus stop

Not long ago, I was waiting at the bus stop, heading for school. I was standing there,
listening to music and enjoying the sunshine touching my face. A couple of youngsters
came up and stood next to me. They stared at me and started whispering to each
other. I didnt care because I was minding my own business. Suddenly, one of them said
something that did not sound like Swedish. They stared at me. I stared back. Then
they laughed, while pointing at me. I felt a bit uncomfortable, since I knew they were
talking about me. I tried to ignore them and look at the other way, but the sounds got
louder and louder and they used hand gestures. Once again, I stared at them and they
laughed. I got frustrated and took off my earplugs, just to hear them say konnichiwa,
which means hi in Japansese. I thought to myself not again. At this moment, the
bus arrived and stopped in front of me. I sat down in the front, knowing that they were
right behind me still laughing.

1.2

Alien visiting Earth

These kinds of events happen ALL the time. Its not just youngsters that make me
feel unwelcomed. Adults are great at it as well, but they do it in a more subtle way. I
dont know how many times my answer Helsingborg hasnt been good enough when
someones asked where I am from. I dont know how many times I had to say No, I am
not adopted when someone is insisting that I cant be one hundred percent Asian,
whatever that means, just because I am fluent in Swedish. I dont know how many times
people has been speaking English to me, and then second later theyve spoken Swedish
to someone else who looks more Swedish. I feel like I am torn between two worlds
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where I am neither Swedish nor Vietnamese. In Sweden, I feel like I am not considered
a Swede, no matter how fluent I am in Swedish or given the fact that I am born in
Sweden. I dont feel like I belong in Vietnam either since I barely know the language or
the culture.

1.3

Temporary solution

For a long time, I found a temporary solution for coping with racism. I made fun of
myself when the other kids mocked me because of my skin color. When doing this, the
kids started to feel that mocking me wasnt fun anymore since it didnt seem to affect
me. As I kept making fun of myself, the kids slowly started to stop. This continued for
a while and I also began to make racist jokes at the expense of others. I was satisfied
for the moment because it made me forget who I really was. I finally felt a connection.
With the bullies.

1.4

New word

In 2012, I started attending a university in Gothenburg. It didnt take long before I


found a friend that would be the reason to why I am standing here today. He told me
to stop making racist jokes. He told me that its not okay to say things like that. Some
people might get upset. I didnt really understand what he meant, since I had always
heard these jokes about me and everyone always said that it is just a joke. He taught
me a new word. R-A-C-I-S-M.
Racism? How could you NOT have known what it meant? you might ask. OK, so
I knew what racism was. Theoretically. But I didnt know WHAT it really meant. Or
HOW it affects people. He opened my eyes and made me realize that I have been a
victim of racism. A victim for 20 years. It came to the extent that it made me think
that is was normal to be oppressed. That it was fortified in our society and that we
cant do anything to change it. Especially not me as I am a part of the minorities.
So, I began to socialize and spend time with people to whom I could relate. People I
could talk to without being mocked. I got more and more curious and started to listen
to peoples stories about how racism have affected them, and how theyve become the
people that they are today. The more I learned about racism, the scarier it got. How
on earth could Ive not have noticed this before?

1.5

Sharing stories

I started to think about my mom, her stories, how racism have affected her. I thought
about my sisters and their stories. And then I thought about myself. The things I have
gone through. I decided to learn from my mistakes, and stand up for who I truly am.
Then I started to share my own story on social media.
The response? Mostly positive. I was glad that I had managed to reach out to some
people. They thanked me for sharing my stories for making them realize that they are
not alone to feel this way. But I also got some negative comments. Some saying that I
am overreacting and that its not racism that I have encountered. The focus of my story
got lost in the comment section and the essence of it was forgotten.
To solve that problem, I started thinking about how people of color can start expressing
themselves without being questioned. This led me to an idea. An idea that I hope will
bring us one step closer to an equal society.

Chapter 2

TNKVRT
2.1

The idea

This is my idea. I want to create a book with stories. Real stories about oppression and
the racism that people of color encounter each day. I want to give minorities that cant
usually get their voices heard - a chance to raise them.
So one night I came up with an idea. I quickly texted my friend Jenny in the middle
of the night and told her about my idea of sharing knowledge and making people more
aware of racism. She was asleep but I kept texting. I want to create a book. A physical
one that you can read in peace and quiet without getting distracted by the comments
which often happens when using social media. What if you have a friend that doesnt
know a thing about racism or how it affects people? You can just give the book to
him/her as a gift. Are you with me?
I send the message, smiled and went back to sleep.
The next day I received a message from her. Asbra!!! - which is like awesome in
Swedish. She was just as hyped as me. I pitched my idea on social media and got 11
others who wanted to be a part of the project - everything from gathering stories to
design, layout, marketing and publishing. All of us had different experiences and we
started to feel a connection even though we didnt know eachother.

2.2

Where are you REALLY from?

We call ourselves TNKVRT, which means worth considering in Swedish. TNKVRTs


aim is to be a place - a platform - for spreading information and knowledge to people
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who are not familiar with these kind of questions. We want to give them a chance to
gain more understanding and broader perspective on how racism affects people of color.
The book we are about to create is called Var kommer du ifran, EGENTLIGEN?
which translates into Where are you REALLY from?. It is a simple question, but yet
so powerful. The question creates a feeling of alienation and reminds us that we can
never ever be 100 percent like swedes, no matter how fluent we are in Swedish, or for
how long we have lived in Sweden. Our skin color, culture and name determine whether
we are Swedish or not. This is a question we have ALL heard too many times.
But why a book? Why not a blog on the internet? As I mentioned before when I wrote
to Jenny, a book doesnt have a comment section. It doesnt have a SHARE button. Nor
a LIKE or a DISLIKE button. The focus is entirely on the one who tells the story. Us.
You dont see any negative comments. You can just read it without anyone disturbing.
So, we started to ask around if there was anyone who wanted to share their story. We
started a Facebook page and a Twitter account and in only 3 weeks, we reached 900
likes and 400 followers. People supported us, and we started to get stories sent to our
email.

2.3

Mayflowers

Heres one of them:


My ten-year old sister were selling mayflowers with her friend. My sister has dark hair
and dark eyes, while her friend is blonde and has blue eyes. A lady walked by and my
sister asked the lady if she wanted to buy her mayflowers. The lady replied: No, I
do not want to buy flowers from you.. The lady moved on and went towards to my
sisters blue-eyed friend who was standing about ten meters away. The lady bought her
mayflowers. My sister came home and was very sad. She wondered what was wrong
with her. It hurts my heart when she asked: Should I dress nicer next time? And how
should I dress if I want them to buy mayflowers from me?
This is one of many stories that we have received. Some are short and some are much
longer and more detailed. It makes me so sad to hear these stories. But it is also a
comfort to know that I am not alone to feel this way.
Our goal is to have a book with 100 different stories by the end of 2016.

Chapter 3

A PEACEFUL FUTURE
3.1

My dream

My dream scenario in the future is an equal society where we wont need these kinds
of books to understand eachother. I hope that one day we have enough sympathy for
eachother so that we dont see a difference between ones skin color, culture, religion
or even a name. I hope the book that we are about to create, in the future will be an
example of a time when racism was still normalized. A book your future history teacher
will bring up as an example when lecturing about racism.
I am not satisfied until everyone understands that people have their own stories. Stories
that have shaped them into the people they are today. I am not pleased until there is
no judgement, whatsoever, based on skin color. Only then I will be satisfied.

3.2

Thoughtful

And this project? TNKVRT? We are still looking for stories. We want people of color
all around Sweden to know that if you want your voice to be heard, we got your back.
We see this book as an extra chance to express your feelings. It is a great feeling to
know that you are not alone - to relate, and to find people who share the same story
and are also oppressed.

3.3

Challenge

So, all of you who are listening to me. I want to let you know that if you have something
that you are fighting for - show it. Embrace your creativity. Befriend those who share
your values and have the same goal as you. Mobilize and start your own projects. I
promise you, there are a lot of people out there that are waiting for a person wholl take
the first step. They are waiting for a person that dares to take command and lead the
way. You can be that person. A person that will maybe end up in the history books.
Thank you.