Yikes! The Dutch Aren’t Immune to Racism?reacties 2
By now, my faithful readers, you are certainly aware that I possess opinions that are far from outspoken within the context of my home university and, subsequently, my likeminded peers. As such, I like to think that I am relatively cognizant enough of the differing sociopolitical spaces I inherently take up in American versus Dutch society as a white, middle-class female to exercise cultural relativism only when I sense its necessitation. Specifically, regarding the hot button issues cropping up during Sinterklaas, Dutch natives may place a great amount of tacit pressure on expats to practice such cultural relativism rather than cultural hegemony when it comes to addressing the (de)merits of the increasingly controversial character, Zwarte Piet. In this particular situation, I recognize my place as a white person that is still privileged enough to speak out against the fellow white majority without much backlash. This is especially in comparison to the group of people the issue actually concerns, but that is a sentiment easily googled and replicated by many other journalistic Americans of my same opinion.
I believe that a large part of Netherlandish history overlooks an inevitable past of racismWhat I do want to address, however, is the greater issue of race relations amongst the traditionally native Dutch and the 180 different nationalities living amongst them. I’ve previously discussed the pragmatic rather than progressive nature of Dutch tolerance by way of the LGBTQ+ experience, but many other facets of the proverbial “other” identified throughout Dutch history directly apply to this same pseudo-progressivist interpretation of “tolerance”. Succinctly put, I believe that a large part of Netherlandish history overlooks an inevitable past of racism and instead supplants shiny representations of acceptance and inclusion as a means of progressive propaganda. This isn’t to use “propaganda” in a pejorative way, but rather to highlight the enthusiastic efforts of touristic outlets in marketing a unique cultural experience of unity in a world that is so divided. A sort of “fake it ‘till you make it” type of approach, in layman’s terms.
But, no country or city is perfect when it comes to thwarting the infamy of a colonial past. This weekend, while waiting in line with my friends for a club we had all bought tickets to, one friend was singled out amongst a sea of white kids. The reasoning, initially unknown by the first bouncer, was determined by a seemingly powerful club authority figure who told us our What happened to my friend was not okay — but what could we do?friend was too drunk — but, the rest of the group was permitted to enter the club via the tickets he had on his phone. No demeaning words or slurs were hurled at my friend by the bouncers, but the entire situation was dripping with racially charged underpinnings that I could only assume almost felt worse than blatant injustice. There’s nothing like wholly tangible yet normalized racism!
What happened to my friend was not okay — but what could we do? In the US, the issue of racism is so widely addressed that you can call someone out for their micro-aggressions just as easily as their macro-aggressions. Yet, in the Netherlands, you’re only so powerful when faced with an aggressor that has swept their recognition of racism under the rug for so long. I think that the best way to ameliorate the situation is to not ameliorate it at all, because this is not something that can be made better. Instead, the entire discourse needs to be changed. In the context of Zwarte Piet, maybe making him “better’ by covering his face with soot isn’t the right approach — so, what is?