Racism in Holland

Posted by By at 6 December, at 07 : 16 AM Print

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Racism in Holland

(from my archive. First published in The African Journal in 1999)

[Note: I revisit this article this year (2018) because, tragically, racism still remain part of the Dutch fabric. If anything, it has intensified. In the past, most Dutch Racists remained in their closet, that is no longer the case; they have come out very openly and very boldly. In the last Black Activists were ignored, today they are confronted, threatened, bullied and harassed. It is no longer safe to try to confront Racism in the Netherlands.
Sadder still, the so-called White Liberals who pretended to be allies of the Black people have all folded up. They don’t even make the pretense anymore that they care!]


It is perfectly right and legitimate for an oppressor group to distort reality and fabricate lies to conceal its oppression, as it is for a racist society to deny its racism.

The Dutch have succeeded in perfecting the most insidious form of racism known to man – ‘civilized apartheid’. They are busy constructing myths and legends to portray themselves as non-racist.

A society, Fanon said, is either racist or not. This is one of the few absolutes in life. Only those who are incapable of seeing straight can affirm, with a straight face, that Holland is a not a racist country.

How do we explain the taunting of black football players?

How do we explain the disappearance of the ‘vacancies’ whenever a black shows his face and the appearance of the same when a white fellow shows up?

How do we explain the unwillingness of the Dutch government to pass legislation, making it mandatory for firms employing a certain number of people, to have a certain percentage of minorities in its staff?

How do we explain the cafes and Discos where black people are denied entry because they are not ‘members’; the same restriction is waved for white patrons? Why is it that the banking institutions in this country continue to regard black people as rogues and criminals until proven otherwise?

Why are houses in the Bijlmer more expensive than in the center of Amsterdam?

Why are the people paying more for shoddy products in the Bijlmer, than in other areas of Amsterdam?

How do we explain the reluctance of the Dutch parliament to pass a Civil-Rights Act to protect its minorities?

How do we explain the absence of a minority representation in the Dutch parliament?

How do we explain the simple fact that the greatest contribution the Dutch made to the English language, is the evil word, ‘APARTHEID’?

Holland, of all former colonial powers, has shown the least interest in the affairs of its former colony? As long as economic interests are not at stake, the Dutch withdrew into their shell.

Thanks to cable television, we now know that both the French and the English media are given attention to their erstwhile subjects. Black people are performing on British television; and there is a black group or personality on French TV, at least once a day. Let’s contrast this with Holland. About the only time, black people are mentioned in the Dutch media is when it is in connection with crime or drug. Take the case of the recent coup in Nigeria. Suddenly the Dutch TV discovered that this country of about 100 million people exists. This is a country where about 10,000 Dutch people are making their living – I should add, in a very big way! This is a country where the Dutch carrier, KLM, flies to thrice a week! Nigeria was worth mentioning only when a coup d’etat occurred!

Yet Dutch mythorians and propagandists are proclaiming their society the most tolerant and civilized.

I don’t have a problem with how these myopic, crossed-eyed, jaundiced commentators see themselves or their society. Gigantic crimes, they say, requires gargantuan rationalization.

After all, both Satre and Camus have questioned whether a man is capable of condemning himself. We should expect the Dutch to distort facts to hide their perfidious prejudice.

What is intolerable, at least to me, is how some Black people have come to accept these lies. I don’t live and pay my taxes in either Germany or Austria; I live and pay my taxes in Holland. I do not ask to be treated any better than any citizen\resident of this country.

I asked only to be treated EXACTLY like any law-abiding resident of this country. I asked not to be deprived because of the color of my skin.

It is sad when otherwise sober Africans could say that they live in a tolerant, civilized society. The greatest measure of high civilization, they say, is how it treats the minority. The blacks who support this thesis of a non-racist could only be blind to reality. What these people fail to understand is that, whatever their station in life, success is not stamped on their head. They will continue to be seen as a BLACK – subjugated, underprivileged and inferior.

I used the term ‘Civilized Apartheid’ above. This can be defined simply as a refined form of segregation. The Boers in South Africa were too crude by rushing head-on with total apartheid. That is why they invite the opprobrium of the International community. That Holland is less racist than South Africa is just a matter of degrees. While the crass Boers codified their racism, the Dutch go about their business without fanfare.

According to Stokely Carmichael, there are overt and covert racism. Overt racism are individual acts conducted to cause injury, death or destruction. Molotov-cocktailing a Mosque, a church, a house supporting asylum-seekers are acts of overt racism. Covert racism are INSTITUTIONAL racism. It is more subtle, more refined and it is the most difficult to challenge. While the overt actions could be captured on TV cameras and broadcasted to cause moral revulsion; covert racism happens in the sanctuary of the offices or home.

The taxi driver who refused to carry a ‘NIGGER’; the company boss who almost have a heart attack when a black applicant turned up for the interview; the bank manager who refused a loan-application because the applicant is black; the estate-agent who refused to hire houses to black people or the police officer who is excessively violent towards black . These are acts of institutional racism. Most often these acts are perpetrated by ‘Respectable’ pillars of societies. Since it is the word of the black person against a big-man of society, the outcome is usually unfavorable to the victims. These types of racism are difficult, if not impossible to prove.

A rich society like Holland, which cramped into minorities to live in such a ghetto like the Bijlmer, is a racist society. A society which makes it impossible for black people to seek redress in a law court when an obvious injustice is perpetrated against his person is guilty of racism.

All the values of this country support a racist system. Children learn from their infancy that black people are ‘eternal’ slaves. How else do we explain the concept of a white ‘SINTER KLAS’, and his baggage-carrying ‘ZWART PIET’? Children learn to see white people as the only ‘achievers’ in society since the Dutch media will not feature a black man who is not selling drug, or pimping. Children are learning to see every black person as a threat to his\her economic well-being – the ‘black-peril’ swarming to take away the jobs of decent, God-fearing white folks. Among the first phrases children learn is ‘Holland is vol’! To these young minds, every black person is a ‘foreigner’, no matter the nationality, length of stay and irrespective of legal status.

Racism has indeed triumphed, when its victims start singing its praise!

The Dutch on their part have succeeded in creating the myth that they are a tolerant people. Everyone is charmed by the notion of Dutch tolerance.

To distort the reality about history sordid history, the Dutch went on the charming-offensive. Their tourists’ brochures enthusiastically bannered their unique tolerance among their European brethren. This notion of Dutch tolerance has so gained wide currency that no one is questioning the premises of this ludicrous claim any longer.

Legends and myths need pillars to prod up their shaky foundation.

The Dutch invented one in the person of Calvin. “Our tolerance stemmed from our Calvinistic tradition.” The Dutch are fond of asserting. Some Africans have also bought this garbage. “Compared with other Europeans, the Dutch are very tolerant,” I have heard many Africans affirmed. This can only be described as sad.

As far as the question of race is concerned, this is a load of nonsense. First of all, the Dutch are not different from other Europeans in their treatment of the Black people in their country. There is no lost love towards the black man in the heart of the Dutchman. There is no evidence to suggest that the Dutch love the Negroes more than the English. History teaches us that the Dutch, like any of his European compatriot, doesn’t rate the black man high. He would think nothing of exterminating the black man, when his interests are threatened, without batting an eyelid.

The second part is that it is useless to say one country is more racist and more tolerant than another. As Fanon had said: “A given society is racist or it is not. Until all the evidence is available, a great number of problems will have to be put aside. Statements, for example, that the north of France is more racist than the south, that racism is the work of underlings and hence in no way involves the ruling class, that France is one of the least racist country in the world are the products of men incapable of straight thinking.” – (Frantz Fanon ‘Black Skin, White Masks,’ Grove Press, Inc. New York. p.85)

The Dutch have a problem, though. They have got no balls. They are spineless. They lack the guts to admit to their palpable, blatant, manifest, sickeningly crude racism. They are incapable of defending their wretched, racist society. The basic difference between Holland and South Africa is that the whites dominating South Africa openly admit their racism and justified it, however ridiculous their arguments. The Dutch lack the guts to defend what they passionately believe in.

They lack the backbone to defend their solid antipathy towards a person of the black skin. That is their problem. That’s why they needed to invent clever legends to mask their true personae. Try to get behind that mask, and you’ll discover what I am talking about.

In England, a British will look at you straight in the face and tell you. ” I don’t admit blacks into my bar.” You can do your worst. He didn’t try to hide his animosity toward you or your race. He’s level with you, so there’s no bullshit whatever. He is not hypocritical about his beliefs.

In Holland, the Dutchman will smile and tell you: “I am sorry, this bar is for members only.”

You’re barred from entering a bar with a gleaming smile from a wretched dental work. The smile is fake, as fake as the dental work that displayed it. You can see through its wretchedness.

Ask your white partner to get in, and pronto membership requirements are no longer required. The demand for a membership card is waived for the white face. Ask about the procedures for becoming a member. It’s all being filled till kingdom come.

Let us examine the premises of the Dutch arguments that their supposed tolerance rested on Calvinistic tradition. The first question excited by this proposition is: ‘Was Calvin tolerant?’ If indeed Calvin was tolerant, the Dutch argument will deserve some measure of credibility. But the notion of a tolerant Calvin is a myth that must be exploded.

Calvin was never a tolerant man, and to argue otherwise is to fly in the face of the truth. It is nothing short of a terminological inexactitude to say that Calvin was a tolerant man. It is repainting history. It is pure hagiography. It’s a barefaced, monstrous lie. He was the exact opposite of a tolerant person if that word still retains its ordinary meaning of: “able to tolerate the beliefs, actions, etc., of others.” (The New Collins Concise English Dictionary.)

Calvin was a persecutor.

He was a molester.

He was a hounder. Calvin was a cruel tormentor. He was a born victimizer and an unabashed hunter.

Calvin was a sadistic oppressor. He was a pursuer of religious heretics. He harassed nonconformists with the diligence, the dedication, the mulishness, and the doggedness of vicious vampire on the rage.

John Calvin (in French, Jean Calvin, or Cauvin) was of French parentage and was born in Noyon, in Picardy, France, on July 10, 1509. He was a lean-faced, big-eyed, skeletal man, according to a painting of him at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam, in The Netherlands. In short, he wasn’t the sort of guy to win a beauty contest!

He was, however, according to stories, a dogged scholar and he published learned book. He mixed and bantered with the famous humanists of his days.

Calvin was a deeply religious man, that much can be said about him. Somehow Calvin, a Catholic, got fed up with papal Ecclesiastic bullshit and converted to Protestant. A royal proscription against protestant groups cost him his benefices. He moved to Basel, Switzerland, under the pseudonym of Martianus Lucanius.

Calvin helped drafted a lot of ecclesiastical ordinances. He was personally involved in overseeing the activities of the reformation. He also participated in a series of political infighting that culminated in his gaining considerable power of the affairs of the city of Geneva. Most of his energy was geared towards a moral crusade he launched against men whose single sin was to disagree with his puritanism. He pursued and killed those who disagree with him with Old Testament fury.

When Calvin’s power held sway over Geneva, any challenge to his doctrinal teachings, and his considerable authority was met with swift and terminal retribution. A reign of terror, in the league of the Stalin purges, draped over Geneva.

With an ego the size of Lake Geneva, Calvin brooked no challenger and suffers no competitor gladly. The burning stakes were working overtime, burning the bodies, and souls of those Calvin deemed a challenge to his authority. The acrid smell of flesh hung over the city of Geneva. The smell belonged to those who were foolish enough to believe that a tolerance to accept a contrary opinion, existed somewhere in Calvin’s rigid heart.

Perhaps the most famous of Calvin’s victims was the Spanish doctor, Michael Servetus. Servetus wrote several books attacking the central Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the belief that one God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was a central tenet of Christian’s belief, and one particularly dear to the heart of Calvin.

Indignantly, Calvin attacked Servetus and had him arrested when he came to Geneva in 1553. Servetus was burnt at the stake for his opinion on the Trinity.

Calvin wrote extensively on the lawfulness of persecutions. He wrote about the justice of execution for heresies. Even children were not immune to these persecutions. Calvin believed strongly in the original sin. Infants, he proclaimed, are wrapped in original sin and defiled with the spots thereof. It was from Calvin we heard the words: ‘And therefore the very infants themselves, since they bring with them their own damnation from their mother’s womb, are bound not by another’s but their own fault. For although they have not as yet brought forth the fruits of their own iniquity, yet they have the seeds thereof inclosed within them; yea, their whole nature is a certain seed of sin, therefore it cannot but be hateful and abominable to God… ‘

That was Calvin for you. That’s a Calvinistic tradition for you. That’s Dutch tolerance for you!

When the Dutch say that theirs is a tolerant society, I wondered what exactly they could mean. They should tell us what their definition of the word ‘Tolerance is.’

Every crime needs a justification. The greater the crime is, the greater the needs for justification.

The Americans comprehensively massacred the Indians and stole their land. They claimed that entrusted with a ‘manifest destiny’, they were building the last bastion of freedom on earth. One of their public opinion manipulator, Professor Louis J. Halle, wrote: “Not only has God given us a virgin continent, replete with all goods, on which to establish our society, but he had also given us great oceans to protect it.” Louis J. Halle, ‘The cold war as History’, Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York. p.21)

Professor Halle’s book was well acclaimed, with raving accolades, as a piece of brilliant scholarship. It’s used as a guide in political science classes. These raving critics did not inform us that Professor Halle’s ‘virgin continent’ consist of half of Mexico’s land, including all of oil-rich Texas. Between the 12th and 14th century, The Netherlands was the greatest sea piratical nation in the world. Its navies were at the forefront of European despoliation of the rest of the world. It was stealing goods from all over the globe. Aside from the slaves stolen from Africa, gold, diamonds and other precious metals were plundered from Africa and South America. Spices were looted from India and Asia. The Dutch navy was also at the high sea, relieving the Spaniards of the bounties they looted from South America.

“The Dutch share in the slave trade was large: in fact, in the seventeenth century it was the largest. The Dutch West India Company had various settlements on the African coast, and millions of slaves were ferried from there, especially during the time of Dutch occupation of Brazil. In twelve years (1637-48) they transported no less than 23,163 slaves from Elmina and Loanda, for an amount of 6,714,423 guilders and 60 cents, (the Dutch were very precise!) They bought slaves from the Congo for 40 to 50 guilders and sold them in Brazil for 200 to 800 guilders. Certainly a worthwhile business.” (J.W. Schulte Nordholt, ‘The People That Walk in Darkness’. Ballantine Books, New York. p.10)

To deny their deep involvement in the slave trade, the Dutch had concocted and perpetuated a myth that their wealth was derived from trading in spices.

After all, it’s now more morally acceptable to sell pepper than human beings. Available evidence suggested however that trade in commodities with the East Indies was less rewarding than the trade in slaves, in which the Dutch were pre-eminent in the 17th century. Also, any student of history should know that the slave- trade preceded the trading in silks and spices. The Far Eastern products became necessary only because the profitable slave-trade had become a morally repugnant and unacceptable commercial venture. A Dutch lady once told me, with a straight face, that her country became rich by selling Haring. How do you make wealthy by selling Haring in the 16th century? By trading all over the world, she maintained. I told her that she was talking a bucketful of shit, since no one, aside from the Dutch, derive any pleasure from eating the slimy fish.

I have read and watched documentaries about how the Dutch mercantile acumen built the country into a formidable Industrial and financial powerhouse. This is another load of chicken-shit.

As Marx noted, “the discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement, and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the turning of Africa into a commercial warren for the hunting of black skins signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production.”

“When the countries of Europe undertook to develop the New World, they were interested primarily in the exploitation of America’s natural resources. Labor was, obviously, necessary, and the cheaper the better… Because of their color, Negroes could be easily apprehended. Negroes could be purchased outright and a master’s labor supply would not be in a state of constant fluctuation. Negroes, from a pagan land and without exposure to the ethical ideals of Christianity, could be handled with more rigid methods of discipline and could be morally and spiritually degraded for the sake of the stability of the plantation. In the long run, Negro slaves were actually cheaper. In a period when economic considerations were so vital, this was especially important. Negro slavery, then, became a fixed institution, a solution to one of the most difficult problem that arose in the New World. With the supply of Negroes apparently inexhaustible, there would be no more worries about labor. European countries could look back with gratitude to the first of their nationals who explored the coasts of Africa and brought back gold to Europe. It was the key to the solution of one of America’s most pressing problems.” (John Hope Franklin, as quoted in ‘Black Power’, pp. 40-41)

A Chinese proverb has it that, “The victory of generals is achieved upon the bones of millions.” In the same breath, we can say that the wealth, the opulence of this country was created by the sweat and bones of millions of blacks.

The wealth of this country was built on the atrocities of the Dutch robbers. It was the proceeds from the slave trade, and the other plunder, that produced the money the Dutch used to build their cities, canals, and industries that enabled them to advanced technologically.

It was not, as the popular mythology had it, the result of any Dutch ingenuity.

About the only attribute, the Dutch slavemasters possessed in abundance was an especial brutality. “The Dutch had established themselves in the Berbice in 1624. During the years 1624 to 1763, they were the cruelest of slave masters. The Dutch slave code was much harsher than the Spanish code (the savagery of the Dutch code is shown by one provision of calculated cruelty: the burning alive of mutinous slaves over a slow fire). The Dutch had no institution comparable to the Spanish audiencia, a tribunal which included four judges. The ruthlessness of the Dutch created the situation that came to a climax in the Berbice slave rebellion.” (‘Marcus Garvey and his vision of Africa.’ Edited by John Henrik Clarke, Vintage Books. p. 19).

As Walter Rodney informed us: “Central and South American gold and silver mined by Africans played a crucial role in meeting the need for coin in the expanding capitalist money economy of Western Europe, while African gold was also significant in that respect. AFRICAN GOLD helped the Portuguese to finance further navigation around the Cape of Good Hope and also into Asia ever since the 15th century. AFRICAN GOLD was also the main source for the mintage of Dutch gold coin in the 17th century; HELPING AMSTERDAM TO BECOME THE FINANCIAL CAPITAL OF EUROPE IN THAT PERIOD.” (Walter Rodney, ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’. Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications, London 1972. p.94 – capital mine for emphasis, Femi)

Dutch Tourist brochures are ceaselessly touting Amsterdam as a city of the diamond. They did not tell us where the diamond mines are in Holland. Neither do they informed us that their city is glittering with the gold and diamond looted from Africa. They failed to inform us that their glittering cities were built on the loot stolen from Africa. Dutch museums are still packed full of treasure stolen from all over the world. Shamelessly the Dutch are still enriching themselves from the loot of their colonization. Money is still being made from the treasures the Dutch stole from Africa to adorn their museum.

Do all these mean that every Dutchman or woman is a racist? The answer is that I don’t know if all Dutch people are racist, but there is enough racism in Holland to unnerve me. Most Dutch people get defensive when the question of racism is raised, they all competing to shout the loudest, ‘I am not a racist.’ Who then are the racist? Does this mean that the Dutch government is pandering to phantoms and goblins in passing is racist laws?

As Kwame Ture wrote in ‘Black Power’: “This is not to say that every white American consciously oppresses black people. He does not need to. Institutional racism as been maintained deliberately by the power structure and through indifference, inertia, and lack of courage on the part of white masses as well as petty officials. Whenever blacks demand for change become loud and strong, indifference is replaced by active opposition based on fear and self-interest. The line between purposeful suppression and indifference blurs. One way or another, most whites participate in economic colonialism.” (p.38)

The fact of the matter, simply, is that black people in this country are objects of racism, while white people are direct beneficiaries of racism in the country. I am not going to buy the argument about how tolerant the Dutch are, or what progress the Dutch have made towards integration. They have been making progress for over three-hundred years. By any measure that’s too slow to be considered a progress. If they are serious, racism would have been expunged from their collective consciousness. I am not thrilled by the notion of the non-racist Dutch man or woman, as long as the Dutch government keeps passing racist laws.

If, as we were asked to believe, most Dutch are non-racist, and also that The Netherlands is a democratic country with a government empowered by the will of a majority. If this government goes about passing racist laws and treat the minority in this country with contempt, what conclusion can we draw except that this country is either not democratic, and does not represent the will of the majority of Dutch; or that the government is democratic, represented the will of the majority, in which case the racist policies of the government is sanctioned and supported by the majority of the Dutch people? What conclusion could we draw, except that the Dutch are overwhelmingly racists, and that they support the racist policies of their political leader?

As far as I know, no white person in this country has rejected the privileges of his being white conferred on him. None has climbed down from the pedestal his whiteness put him. There is no record of any Dutch person having gone to court to protest the police brutalities against black people in Holland. The Dutch government’s racist policies have never been challenged in any court in Holland.

That was Dutch tolerance for you.


About the Author  

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

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