Earlier this week we read that a young man of 21 years was gunned down in the city of Schiedam in the Netherlands. The fact that he was dark complexioned, and ethno-racial profiling among Dutch police officers in the Netherlands is condoned as an unfortunate security measure. It have caused many activists throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands to argue that this is one of the outcomes of a situation where, it has become politically suspect to say that racism within the Dutch Kingdom is unacceptable!
In this contribution, we seek to say the new politically suspect as loud as possible: Dutch racism is unacceptable! “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can never hurt us.” Whoever wholeheartedly believes that this saying holds all the time, and in every occasion, is either lying to themselves or not part of the human species. The fact is that words like stones can lead to suffering. It is true that the hurt produced by words is of a different kind—psychological rather than physical—but a hurt it is nevertheless. What is more, we remain silent when listening to these words, forgetting that these words can lead to actions.
The racist slurs hurled at chocolate coloured Dutch pop icons, activists and TV presenters (to name a few; Sylvana Simmons, the poet and dramatist Quinsy Gario, and the rappers Kno’ledge Cesare and Typhoon), contest what they perceive as the racism embedded in the annual Sint Nicolaas and Black Peter celebrations, which many believe leads to psychological suffering.
In addition, the treatment that they and the many thousands of dark skinned Dutch men and women (who do not have the benefit of being celebrities) receive because they allow opposing views, is unacceptable. If persons in the Netherlands tolerate that kind of psychological hurt, which we term verbal racial discrimination, they are destroying the very foundations of the social democracy they so cherish.
One of the building blocks of the democratic tradition, is the belief that everyone has a right and a duty to freely express their individuality, and therewith pursue becoming who they want to be; in short, making a life for themselves as independent and free individuals. In that pursuit, however, they have to take their fellow citizens and others with whom they live (denizens, irregular migrants, and animals as they too increasingly have rights!) into account.
The state, the government apparatus, is there for two reasons:
1) to ensure the human dignity of individuals who live within their borders and their endeavours to better express and make themselves by providing all kinds of provisions, such as equal opportunities to education and general healthcare, etc.,
2) and conversely, to offer overall protection by creating incentives (informative campaigns, punishments and fines) to prevent and curtail individuals’ acts that damage the social bond and unjustly cause suffering to others within the country’s borders – and due to the International Bill of Human Rights also outside those borders; the global common good.
It goes terribly wrong, and there are growing signs of this, when elected officials in the Netherlands become the chief instigators in the trend to demolish the social democratic tradition of their country. Let me furnish an illustration. A few days ago, in a TV interview, Mr. Halbe Zijlstra, the former State Secretary in charge of Education and Science, and currently Member of the Dutch Parliament for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), stated that he condones ethno-racial profiling by the Dutch police. This was in reference to the discrimination suffered by rapper Typhoon, who was pulled over because the officer reasoned that a person with his dark complexion should not be driving such an expensive car.
He implicitly reasoned that the psychological hurt endured by Typhoon and other victims does not weigh up against – making selective use of sociological statistics – the general safety of the Dutch population, as everyone ‘knows’ that dark complexioned Dutch men and women commit more crime. Aside it is important to note that it is customary for politicians in The Hague to refer to dark complexioned Dutch men and women as allochtonen, meaning those who do not really belong to the Dutch soil or who do not have the right blood.
A case of racism dressed up in Sunday school clothes that makes Dutch Antilleans and Surinamese-Dutch (who like their grandparents have never carried any other passport than a Dutch one), not really Dutch! And the idea that Dutch citizens of Moroccan, Turkish, Eastern European descendant have it better because of their lighter skin tone and other physical features is a lie. Individuality, autonomy, and the right to make oneself, are sacrificed when one is a dark complexioned Dutch man or woman, and the latter are told that they should find that acceptable!
Since one must take MP Zijlstra to be a reasonable man, a free and rational human being, we are sure that he would not condone that pink-skinned Dutch citizens, who hail from the Netherlands, living here in the Caribbean side of the Dutch Kingdom accept ethno-racial profiling. Zijlstra and we are guessing other politicians with the portfolio of the Dutch Caribbean would immediately respond. No amount of selective use of statistics, even if those statistics were true, would suffice in making it acceptable that the ‘somebodiness’ of individuals to use the term of Martin Luther King is disrespected. And so it should be!
Dutch racism in which ever form, whoever perpetuates it, ought to be unacceptable in any part of the Kingdom! And we have our share here too! Perhaps it is time that those in power consider a trans-Atlantic committee to rid us all from that blight that manifest itself in words and in deeds.
Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, President of the University of St. Martin (USM)
Dr. Adnan Hossain, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Amsterdam
Dr. Natasha Gittens, Director of the USM/SCELL
Drs. Jordi Halfman, University of Amsterdam
Ms. Geneve Phillip, Dean of Academics, USM
Drs. Lisenne Delgado, University of Curaçao
Drs. Sharelly Emanuelson, Founder of UNIARTE, Curaçao
Mr. Pedro de Weever, Lecturer at the USM