During Mobility Week, the City of Brussels saw various campaigns encouraging people to ditch their cars in favour of more sustainable modes of transport. One campaign, however, has received backlash for creating an environment where children were exposed to discrimination according to what mode of transport they used to travel to school.
The "walk of fame" campaign by five Brussels schools had students arriving at school and draw a star on a dedicated space on the ground in front of their school and indicate which mode of transport they used to do so.
The campaign, however, has received a heavy backlash for creating an environment of discrimination.
"When I saw those little stars for the first time, I thought that it was a good activity for children," Brussels resident Olivier told RTL. However, when one looks more closely, the initiative has nothing to do with famous Hollywood stars. "When I understood what was hidden behind, I was angry."
The initiative was launched on the occasion of mobility week, and was particularly in line with "making Brussels a city for children". The aim was to promote soft mobility options such as bicycles, scooters and public transport. The pupils were invited to draw stars on the ground, including the mode of transport used to come to school.
Walk of shame
An innocuous activity in appearance, but for Olivier, it is a source of discrimination. "It's distressing to see this kind of categorisation," he said. "It's as if we went through the children to lecture the parents, but they have nothing to do with it. They are still too small to make their own decisions."
Olivier, using the orange button feature in the RTL app – which allows people who notice something newsworthy to alert RTL, who then contacts them to verify the story – alerted the media outlet to share his point of view.
According to Brussels Member of Parliament, Aurélie Czekalski, this is discrimination. In a tweet she shared that "it is scandalous to put children against each other".
Other politicians have also stepped up, such as Ahmed Laaouej who called the campaign a 'walk of shame'. "How can an administration be so clumsy? It is a necessity to teach children the virtues of gentle mobility through pedagogy. Dividing them on this basis is unacceptable," stated Laaouej.
Comment discriminer & créer tensions entre enfants alors qu’ils n'ont pas le choix de leur mode de transport. Comment peut-on être à ce point dogmatique pour inventer de telles activités? Kit inadmissible. Scandaleux d'opposer enfants.https://t.co/tnrn0Kr5s8#WalkofFameBrussels pic.twitter.com/wM32atvS99— aurelie czekalski (@aurelieczeka) September 19, 2022
Tweet translation: How to discriminate & create tension between children when they have no choice of mode of transport. How can one be so dogmatic to invent such activities? Inadmissible kit. Scandalous to oppose children. https://semainedelamobilite.brussels #WalkofFameBrussels
Brussels Mobility told RTL that it believes it is not discriminating against anyone. Faced with the comments of some politicians, the spokeswoman defended herself saying that "on the ground", parents, children and teachers were happy.
"The idea was mainly to make people think about other transport alternatives and to start a discussion," she continued. "All the children, without distinction, had the possibility of making a star. Here we are starting a debate while the aim was to be inclusive."
However, faced with the reactions provoked by the school action on social networks, the Brussels Mobility administration adapted the text on its website by deleting "who do not come by car" so as not to stigmatise anyone.