Monday, August 29, 2011

Gabriella Naseem Akhtar van Rij’s "With All My Might"

Bookmark and Share


Gabriella Naseem Akhtar van Rij’s With All My Might chronicles the many instances of racism that she has encountered throughout her life as a woman born in Pakistan and raised by adoptive Dutch parents in the Netherlands.  When she was a child, a Frenchwoman asked her why she was dirty and had not washed herself properly because of her brown skin, and as an adult, the ignorance did not improve much, even living in different times, when race relations have ostensibly improved.

At the airport in Brussels, she learns a very important lesson about pride and not being ashamed of who she is.   Security personnel told her she was in the wrong line, not bothering to look at her EU passport; she notices a foreign looking man in the EU line who stands his ground in a “dignified” manner against the racist security guards, asking to see a supervisor, showing his army credentials that he is a colonel of the French army, and defends van Rij’s rights, telling them not to give her any trouble.

When he asked her if this happened to her often, he says, “he was ashamed that people would treat others like that and told me to stand up for who I was…And I always did after that!” She describes the experience of being “attacked for something you cannot change at all,” like the color of your skin, which “you cannot even begin to try to change” as a “crippling feeling.”  From this negative experience, van Rij gained valuable insight and learned an important lesson, that “we need to stand up for who we are and defend our rights.”  She discovers that “my pride is all I had” and that “no human should make us crawl and feel inferior because of race or colour.”

Although the tensions of race relations have superficially loosened, since 9/11, race has again become a heated issue and many Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent are treated with the same cruelty, ignorance, and prejudice with which blacks were treated before the Civil Rights Movement.  With All My Might offers readers important lessons about the value of courage, pride, and not allowing people to make others feel inferior; only in defending rights can the marginalized factions of society gain acceptance and respect and change the attitudes of the prejudiced.

Contact: Gabriella van Rij -

No comments: