10 November 2020

White youths in Black Lives Matter

In the middle of the first peak of the Corona outbreak, our daughter casually reported that she was going to demonstrate on Dam Square against the murder of George Floyd. Since the 1980s, my wife and I have regularly attended anti-racism protests. Over the years, the participants became less numerous and have grown older. So I told our daughter that she would at least bring down the average age of the protesters. She looked at me in surprise. According to her instagram, mainly young people would be coming. And it was going to be very busy. Well, more than a few hundred people usually don't come to something like that, I reflected. It turned out to be the day when I had to admit that I really got old and that I better rely on my daughter when it comes to a realistic view of the world.

Much has been written about why this protest has become so widespread. Something that, in my opinion, has been hardly discussed in the media and also little analyzed politically, is the role and motivation of young white Dutch people, such as my daughter, who protest. They were visible in all large and medium-sized cities. They often went to demonstrate for the first time. And that in a period of great uncertainty about the consequences for your health because of the Corona outbreak.

In the discussion about diversity, one group was missing: white people without a migration background

My analysis is that there is a new generation of white youth who are directly and personally affected by this, because they grew up with young people with a migration background, who have friends of color or have a partner with a migration background. They themselves, working alongside these peers, have seen how discrimination works in practice. That is why they are personally and emotionally involved in this topic. This is a major turning point for the talk of diversity. For 40 years, the subject of diversity has invariably focused on migrants and people of color. In the discussion about diversity, one group was missing: white people without a migration background. My colleague Willem Schinkel, a sociologist at Erasmus University, says that white people of Dutch descent apparently have dispensation when it comes to thinking and acting in a diverse society. Nothing is expected of them in this process. They do not have to move or change, that is the task of "the other".

That, in my opinion, has been one of the major mistakes in the discussion on the diverse society. When society changes, it is everyone's responsibility to engage with this change. To move along and to be part of that process of change. That is why it is so important that the white Dutch also take their responsibility for the major demographic changes that are taking place in the Netherlands. As the white youth in the Black Lives Matter protests have shown, it affects them personally. The diverse society concerns us all, determines how we interact with each other and what that society looks like.

Diversity policy is not just about migrants and people of color, but about all of us

A new kind of diversity policy will have to focus on all people. An American colleague, Flannery Stevens, calls this all-inclusive diversity. Diversity policy is not just about migrants and people of color, but about all of us. The point is that white people of Dutch descent move along and make society more inclusive with all their smaller and larger actions.

Diversity officer research

Maurice Crul


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