Umut Proud father of 3 sons. Born and raised in Antwerp. Both parents were born and raised in Turkey.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
Turkish culture has many beauties, but unfortunately there are also traditions that are much less. In a generation where women’s oppression was considered normal, my mother managed to rebel against that tradition. My character traits are very similar to my mother’s, but compared to the struggle she gave me, I’m just a chihuahua next to a lioness. She’s my biggest hero.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
I think we have removed quite a few taboos within the family. I have quite a strict mother but I also know that I can discuss everything with her. If I look at the Turkish community I can speak of luck because I have a mother who is strict but ol’ open-minded at the same time although she is quite religious.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I feel much richer. Have always wanted to live both cultures to the fullest and feel perfect as a Turk as well as a Belgian. But that doesn’t mean I won’t criticize if something bothers me. Have quite a sharp tongue.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
Never! For me that was a wealth.
Did you ever had a role model when you grew up?
My top 5:
1. My mom
2. Malcolm X
3. Mohammed Ali
5. Zhao Zhilong
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I think they are much more assertive in the Netherlands than in Belgium. Unfortunately it is a bit weaker here but it also has to do with the local mentality.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’? x
Look at your hands. Every finger is different but you need them all. I don’t believe in that kind of bullshit.
What made you who you are now?
What I have become now is a cocktail of the experiences I have had so far. Never complain when something bad happens to you, always try to learn your lesson.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
Stereotyping has become much easier thanks to the media and unconsciously you participate in it. I used to do that in my younger times too, but luckily I came to realize later that it actually turns out to be not so innocent. Stereotyping is a form of generalization and fuels racism. I don’t really care about that.
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance? Do you identify with that too? How do you see yourself compared to how others see you? What do you feel and how do you feel when people make such comments?
I think I’m one of the biggest victims in that area
Not only was I stereotyped by the white community because of my root and religion but also by my own community itself. Unfortunately, the latter is not taken much into account.
To the white supremacists I was a Muslim terrorist, to the Muslim racists I was a satanist, a devil worshiper, a gentile…
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced? Have you experienced it before? Where, when, how? Which experience do you remember most? So has it gotten worse with the Coronavirus? What do you feel and how do you feel when people make such comments?
From an early age you were viewed/treated differently.
As a small child I saw many angry faces looking at my mother because she was veiled. Even as a child I was not allowed to talk to my best friend anymore. He was not allowed to have any further contact with me because I was a stranger. I bumped into that same friend 4 years ago. He had become a Muslim. Karma is a bitch
And that’s how you keep growing. At school, in the sports club, on the street…
I don’t want my kids to go through all this…
After the corona, not much had changed for me personally, but what bothers me a lot is that I saw people of other ethnicities who were themselves racist against East Asians.
What is a funny trait or tell something that not everyone knows about you
I’m scared of mice and rats
In Asian culture, it is normal as a woman to get married as soon as possible, have children, and become a housewife. Because when you have a husband, you have children, you have “made” it in life. How do you see it?
Bullshit! Everyone can decide for themselves!
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I honestly don’t have much expectations from my generation. I continue to believe in the new generation and I also want to help them in their struggle. Starting with my children, I will still be busy showing them the way.
What do you want to give to the readers?
I hope that one day everyone will realize that we as humanity will achieve much more if we respect each other and hold each other’s hands well. Together we are stronger.
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