Race Matters & The Extractive Industry of Diversity in Dutch Academia

In the midst of the momentous Black Lives Matter protests throughout the world, including in the Netherlands, Dutch academic institutions are responding to the anti-racist demands for fundamental institutional change put forward by Black students and students of colour with diversity talk. As we have already heard this conversation before, I felt compelled to point to the archive of critical responses to this invitation to talk. On April 9th 2019, I spoke at the event Race in Science at Pakhuis de Zwijger, in Amsterdam. My intervention belongs to said archive, alongside a plethora of other interventions in and on Dutch academia throughout the years. This is what I said:

Race in Science

“I was relieved to read the title of this event, not because it is a happy subject, but simply because it is not followed by a question mark, which has been the habit in the Netherlands. Last December I was invited to speak at Erasmus University about “why race matters in the Dutch context.” The question reminded me of an infamous event at the University of Amsterdam, maybe five years ago, titled “The (ir)relevance of race.” Despite the narrative of progress on race matters in the Netherlands based on the fact that “now we can openly talk about it,” there is a striking similarity between these frames of the conversation separated by time. We have been operating in Dutch academia in the responding mode. We have been labouring for an imaginary normative subject who doubts. Even when he is not our intended audience, we have attended to his insatiable demand. And I purposefully use the he form here to refer to what Sylvia Wynter coined the Man with a capital M, who was born in 1492, with the arrival of Columbus in the Caribbean and the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula. The Man stands for the human in antagonistic relation to the Black, the Muslim, the Jew, the indigenous, to the savage.


But I wonder if this event marks a new thinking about race, if it is exceptional, or if the fact that it does not question the operation of race in science nor it wonders about its relevance, actually reflects its location, that is outside Dutch academia. With few exceptions, within the realm of higher education in the Netherlands, race is still a phantasmagoric object.


But why must we incessantly demonstrate that race matters in the Netherlands, provide new irrefutable evidence alongside the old, offer yet another account of an outrageous episode and disentangle its outrageousness? Because the Netherlands believes itself to be postracial. Race is displaced into the colonial past and into other spaces, which have a special place in the heart of Dutch postraciality (South Africa, the US). The Dutch are hegemonically portrayed as tolerant, business-like, and rational or reasonable. Racism challenges this congratulatory self-image. Therefore, any charge of racism as operative in Dutch society in general, and in Dutch academia in particular, is met with disbelief, outright rejection of message and messenger, and reprimand. As David Goldberg pointed, the Dutch are certain to be above and beyond race; and they are ferocious about this certitude.


Still, race matters in the Netherlands because race is the core principle that informs social organisation after European colonialism also in European soil. The Netherlands was one of the world’s wealthiest empires and a slave-trader. Its colonial enterprise spanned through four centuries and comprised three continents. Its national imagination is shaped in the encounter with other peoples forcefully turned into its colonial subjects. Gloria Wekker argues that the Dutch cultural archive (a term borrowed from Edward Said) is of imperial design. Race organises our capitalist economy; remember that the first stock exchange in the world was established in Amsterdam in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company, a majestic commercial monopolist, enslaver and slave-trading imperial enterprise. Race makes the categories of gender and sexuality cohere; it is at the core of political organisation and dictates electoral outcomes. Race organises knowledge production, circulation and consumption; it allocates subjects of knowledge and of alleged ignorance into space.


Three years ago, I was invited to debate diversity in the event “Night of the University: Towards a New Academia!” at the University of Groningen. In a plenary session, a head of department asked for a straightforward practical advice on how to tackle the lack of diversity in Dutch academia. I then said: “affirmative action, to start with.” My practical advise was met with eyes-rolling and a fascinating story told by one such Dutch white male heads of department, about a Black PhD student who was incapable of delivering work that met academic standards, but who had to be awarded the title … I then wondered: was he implying that the hegemonic consensus for affirmative action coerced him into enforcing it no matter what? Actually the hegemonic consensus in the Netherlands is adamantly against affirmative action…. It does not matter, what matters is race. He was calling upon the phantom of the subject of ignorance and civilisational excess, who would put in jeopardy the high standards of our white middle-class western heteronormative male able-bodied institutions of science. He was mobilising a particular economy of affects around blackness. He was dog whistling. How does it function? For instance, when you hear “the Moroccan” in the Dutch media or generally in the public sphere, a whole chain of coded-meanings is put at work: the Moroccan, the maladjusted, the Muslim, the terrorist, and certainly not “the academic”. When you hear about the Dutch splendorous boreal civilisational past, you know somehow that this is a fantasy of and for whiteness.


Race informs the different position of subjects in relation to normative conceptions of Dutchness on one side, and blackness on the opposite side; and it organises the political economy of scholarship. In the Netherlands, the non-white is the niet-Westers allochtoon (non-native non-Western). The racial conundrum contained in this term mixes geographic provenance -standing for national and cultural allegiance and religious affiliation- with a bodily marker of race. This resilient formula of otherness is in dialogue with similar recipes of alterity in the rest of Europe, relegating Muslims, African diasporic subjects and other subjects of the global South to the margins of society and the fringes of institutions. Addressing race in Dutch academia entails posing questions about the precarity of those persons that embody diversity in the student population, academic and non-academic staff. Beware, however that we are not all equals in our difference to the norm.


The “debate” on diversity must take into consideration this very entanglement between racialisation and economic precarity, which materializes, for instance, in the fact that allochtoon students and staff have an astronomically greater chance than the Western white subject to find themselves without grants, secure jobs, and voice. Unfortunately, circles that problematise academic precarity refuse to include race into the conversation. In the meantime, predatory capitalism has free play in the Netherlands and academics and students are fair game in the neoliberal university. Dutch labour legislation is slowly and steadily being shredded and people of colour are the first to be hit by the precarisation of work.


Curiously, at the same time that the neoliberal university rejects the abject raced subject, it desires diversity or, rather, Black and brown bodies for display (and the echoes of colonial fetish do not go unnoticed here). Diversity has value, but no worth. In the Netherlands, debates on “diversity” systematically avoid what Frantz Fanon termed the hierarchy of human difference, that governs institutional arrangements and sociability. Being different signifies being less and having less choice and opportunities depending on the difference you embody. “Diversity” purposefully circumvents this fundamental difference. As a rule it focuses on providing the individual that embodies difference – that rarity in the high echelons of Dutch academia – with skills and resilience to navigate the hegemonic culture. It also offers students and staff insight into one’s unconscious bias so that amends can be made through individual action. Institutions and the asymmetrical distribution of power within, and in society at large, are left unproblematised. According to Sara Ahmed, diversity policy is a neoliberal technique of management whereby political differences and historically contingent processes can be depoliticised.


But before policy there is prolific talk. The Dutch extractive industry of dialogue on diversity is a political economy whereby precarious students and staff (of colour) receive an endless number of kind institutional invitations to educate white people, for free, so that white people can do the jobs they are paid to do. The affective economy of this industry centres on white benevolence and the expectation of gratitude on the part of precarious people (of colour) towards white professionals for receiving such kind invitations to “have a voice” in the “dialogue.” Typically, diversity work in Dutch academia is depoliticised and extractive; it is coloniality at work.


We have been labouring in the field of diversity that does not perform. In the eyes of the institution, the very recurrent act of talking about diversity stands for doing a good job, while it does not deliver institutional change. To borrow again from Sara Ahmed, diversity work is non-performative because diversity “does not do what it says.” The act of declaring (racism/a lack of diversity) “a bad practice” is already considered “a good practice;” it is deemed performative. However there are “no conditions at place” to make this act into an antiracist intervention. Through this “fantasy of transcendence” through declaration, the racial regime is kept running and white moral authority is reassured. Diversity calls upon dialogue sessions, meetings, minutes, workshops, reports and compilations of past reports, which, having done the non-performative work, can be properly archived, for later compilation. The injustice of a homogeneous and normative student and staff population, the location and precariousness of people of colour (think, also, of cleaners under temporary contracts), the hegemony of Western epistemologies, the hierarchy of knowledges and of subjects of knowledge remain undisturbed. While this verbosity is presented as evidence of diversity working, racism is left unchallenged, and it is so by design.


An associated critical problem with the corporate diversity branding is the legitimation of the university as a place where a variety of ideas, no matter how ethically questionable or dehumanising of some bodies, is granted authority and a platform. Within the realm of this politically naïve and normatively white fantasy, racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic, ableist and classist narratives gain ground in Dutch academia – mirroring their normalisation in the public sphere through political and media rhetoric. Under the banner of fostering freedom of expression, academia concedes institutional authorisation and credit to notoriously problematic pundits to participate in the open debate, the free market of ideas, where racism is just a slippage, at best, or just an opinion, at worst. Dutch academia threatens the intellectual freedom and the integrity of raced and other minoritised subjects. While the Netherlands believes itself to be singular and exceptional, its fresh kliklijn for teachers and academics follows a global trend closely; see the persecution of progressive academics in Brazil, the official banning of gender studies in Hungary, the watchlist of left leaning professors in the US, only to name a few.


Diversity in academia is a political business. It is about addressing the askew distribution of power in the institution of science. It calls for a resolute antiracist stance. It requires confronting the operation of race in its epistemological and material manifestations, today and right where we are.”


What I said then, what I say now.

Sweet forgetfulness of empire – from Canada to the Netherlands with love

I was invited for Loving Day 2016 Academic Forum to deliver a brief comment on Minelle Mahtani’s book Mixed Race Amnesia. Resisting the Romanticization of Multiraciality, in light of the Dutch context. The book deals with multiraciality in Canada.


This was my brief intervention:


As I was requested to reflect on  Mixed Race Amnesia from a Dutch perspective, I am afraid that I will not do justice to the book, which is an important publication in itself, theoretically solid but also highly accessible to the reader who is not familiar with Critical Race Studies terminology. At the same time, because of its qualities, this book supports reflection on our own Dutch racialised geography and temporality.


This reflection is timely because it is always time to problematise racial narratives and materialities in a society marked by racism. But this is also a particular time, as in the last 5 years the antiracism movement, lead by black activists, succeeded to put racism back into the public debate in the Netherlands.


In Loving Day much attention is dedicated to personal stories of mixed-race. In her book, Mahtani looks both at personal stories and at broader social dynamics. I will focus here mainly on the Dutch macro-context in which the narratives of mixed-race people is inscribed, and I will look broadly to the amorphous category of People of Colour, that is non-white people. What I want to highlight is the positionality of those racially marked as non-belonging to Dutchness, while problematising Dutchness as whiteness, an alleged non-mixed or pure race.


Mixed Race Amnesia allows establishing important parallels between Canada and the Netherlands, namely the national mythology of tolerance and the claim of ignorance about racism associated with historical amnesia about the empire, within a context of neoliberalism and neocolonialism. The self-congratulatory myth of tolerance still holds strong in the Netherlands – as in Canada – despite society’s diagnosis that multiculturalism failed (and the desire to bring us back to the time before it has been created by the Labour Party). Canada serves then as counterpoint, as example of successful multiculturalism; whereas we stand for its doom. While you have prime-minister Justin Trudeau wishing Canadian Muslim citizens Ramadan Mubarak, our prime-minister Mark Rutte declares to envy his friends in the Antilles for they don’t have to paint their faces black to play Zwarte Piet.


It is worthwhile to mention that both these constructions, of failed and successful multiculturalism, emerge as mirror reflex to social analysis of race in the United States of America. It is important though to look beyond what Ella Shohat and Robert Stam coined the master narratives of comparison, attending to other narratives of imperial and national exceptionality, in the South.


Mixed-race narratives play a fundamental role in shaping national identities throughout Latin America. In Brazil the mixed race women is celebrated in both official and popular narratives of colonial and national identity. Just this week the Brazilian Black feminist Djamila Ribeiro highlighted the links between contemporary Brazilian rape culture and colonialism; of white settlers raping Black enslaved women, who subsequently gave birth to our mestiça/mulatta children. At the same time, the mixed race person and in particular the hypersexualised women of colour gains social currency by distance to Indigeneity and blackness. For a glimpse in the dehumanising portray of black womanhood in the Netherlands, see Robert Vuistje’s acclaimed book Only Decent People (Alleen Maar Nette Mensen), which was later succesfully turned into film. Examples of abject representations of black woman are found in the wide geography of European empires.


The US race narrative imposes limitations to the Dutch. Egbert Alejandro Martina pointed out the undermining effect of the US as evidence of actual racism (against the Dutch alleged “mild racism”): “To me, White evaluations of the severity of anti-black violence in a world that is anti-black sound an awful lot like ‘on our plantation we treat the Blacks better than on that plantation yonder.’” Jessy de Abreu wrote on the ubiquity of commentary on Beyoncé, overshadowing the political voice of Black women in the Netherlands. At the same time De Abreu borrows from USAmerican black feminists, Martina borrows from Afro-pessimism (a.o. currents), which shows us that it is indeed fruitful to cross our own analytical tools and experiences of Black struggle and struggle of People of Colour with those in the Anglophone space, but not only…


We are not unique but have our own history, plenty of stories, and our own heroes. However these are not of common knowledge to the Dutch society, as they have been unauthorised and actively silenced. That’s why it is of such importance the work on the archive of anti-colonial and anti-racist Black, Migrant and Refugee women’s resistance (a.o.), such as done outside Academia by Egbert Alejandro Martina, by Chandra Frank outside of the Netherlands, in the Dutch arts by Patricia Kaersenhout, and also Loving Day has a role to play here too.


This means that a dialogue between racialised histories and stories requires translation. In the Netherlands, Mixed Race corresponds to the racial conundrum embodied in the term allochtoon or, more specifically niet-Westers allochtoon (non-Western allochtonous). Egbert Alejandro Martina and I pointed out that:


Allochtoon, a common term in Dutch social management, political discourse and colloquial language, is used to categorize a person born abroad, or a “person of whom at least one parent was born abroad.” However, in the Netherlands, origin is not only restricted to parentage or ancestry. The Central Bureau of Statistics defines origin as a “characteristic showing with which country someone actually is closely related given their own country of birth and that of their parents.” Origin is thus defined in terms of a distinguishing mark. The term Allochtoon, which is borrowed from geology, suggests an enlacement of race, territory, and allegiance. Bodies, which are always-already mediated through race, are, then, territorialized, and consigned to different physical and metaphorical spaces.

This fusion or confusion of race, colour and nationality is evident in discourse about multiracial/multiculturalism. See, for intance, how phenotype and geography are hidden in the virtuous dance with terminology in the September 2014 Volkskrant article of Martin Sommer titled: “The Netherlands racist? Half of love-relationships is ethnically mixed”. Flip van Dijk remarked that alongside the article’s gross statistical inaccuracy, when referring to “origin and colour” the journalist uses terms interchangeably: allochtoon, non-Western allochtoon, third generation allochtoon (according to the journalist: “allochtonen of whom both parents were born in the Netherlands”, which defies the very category of allochtoon in the first place). This confusing racialised category of otherness stands for the non-white Dutch, who apparently marry the white in large numbers, which demonstrates that the Netherlands is a model non-racist society. After all, according to the journalist, demography is the only scientific criteria to prove racism. And here applies Mahtani’s analysis of the “romance of miscegenation” as a postcolonial evidence of racial harmony or postraciality.


Mixed Race Amnesia also explores the nexus between race and space inherited from imperial rule. In the article Access to the Netherlands of Enslaved and Free Black Africans, Dienke Hondius demonstrates how the Dutch State-General strictly regulated the entrance of enslaved and free black Africans to the Dutch metropolis through the sixteen to the nineteenth centuries. Hereby, “The extent to which the political and legal processes of slavery – decision making, overseeing and financing – remained situated within European cities becomes generally unnoticed and remains under-researched until today.” This configures a racialised geography of absence and invisibility. The groundbreaking work of Jennifer Tosch on the Black Heritage Tours across the Dutch city channels is of utmost importance in making Dutch colonialism visible here.


But colonialism does not only manifest as traces of the past. In our recent article White Order: Racialization of Public Space in the Netherlands, Egbert Alejandro Martina and I posit that the ways in which Black people are addressed in public discourse and spatial policy contribute greatly to the construction of a nationalist, gendered, sexualized, socio-spatial framework of proper White Native Dutchness. We reveal the sustained targeting of Black bodies, from Dutch colonial times until today, and recast spatial design and regulation as normalized and disavowed violence. According to data published by Maurice de Hond only yesterday, the overwhelming majority of Dutch population finds racial profiling acceptable.


Another very important insight in Mixed Race Amnesia is the depoliticisation of race through the coupling of multiraciality with progress. Diversity language reproduces the economy of white supremacy through apolitical and neutral affiliations with the nation-state. According to Sara Ahmed, diversity policy is a neoliberal technique of management whereby political differences and historically contingent processes can be depoliticised. Mahtani accuratedly pointed out that multicultural policy is no substitute for antiracist legislation, which takes into account the economic and political roots of systemic racism. Ethnic/Racial and social justice require social change.


For us in the Netherlands, it is also critical to consider the limits of diversity, however, we still live in a society that systematically excludes People of Colour from the labour market, from positions of power. Our government is white, our media bosses are white, our professors are white, our boards of directors are white. As New Urban Collective tweeted this week: “40% of law students has a ‘non-Western’ background but the judiciary is 98% white.” So, attentive to the fact that including People of Colour will not address structural racism, we cannot leave the wall of institutional whiteness untouched. At the same time the very institute of citizenship and the nation-state must be challenged.


David Goldberg denoted that the Dutch national narrative was built upon historical denial and cemented an antiracial consensus, according to which the expression of racism is anti-Semitism. It enabled the pervasiveness of Islamophobia and anti-black racism, which is also a tool for reinforcing European identity as white and Christian. Gloria Wekker borrowed from Aimé Cesaire to deconstruct Europeanness: “The construction of the European self and its Others took place in the force fields of ‘conquest, colonization, empire formation, permanent settlement by Europeans of other parts of the globe, nationalist struggles by the colonized, and selective decolonization’.” She investigates the imagination of innocence – also analysed in Mixed Race Amnesia – within such force fields in her recent book White Innocence, described as “[an exploration of the] central paradox of Dutch culture: the passionate denial of racial discrimination and colonial violence coexisting alongside aggressive racism and xenophobia. Accessing a cultural archive built over 400 years of Dutch colonial rule, Wekker fundamentally challenges Dutch racial exceptionalism by undermining the dominant narrative of the Netherlands as a ‘gentle’ and ‘ethical’ nation”.


Throughout the last 20 years Goldberg notes in the Netherlands the insidiousness of everyday racism and the repressive imposition of an insistent homogeneity against an otherwise undeniable and expansive demographic and cultural heterogeneity. Philomena Essed and Isabel Hoving contend that the dismissal of racism is asserted with a sense of cultural superiority and moral righteousness through ideological repression. Gloria Wekker posits that “[The Netherlands’] new claim to fame is no longer its proverbial tolerance and hospitality to foreigners and refugees, however contested that notion always already was in circles of Black, migrants, and refugees themselves”. I believe though that we still cling on to the myth of tolerance, only claim that “even Dutch tolerance has its limits”.


In the Netherlands, the bulk of the debate and analysis centres on the individual and symbolic aspects of racism, namely racial biases and feelings, and the talents, strength and willingness of the subject of colour to overcome racism. Fundamental in Mixed Race Amnesia is the confluence between the symbolic and material dimensions of racialisation, and the critical intersection of race, gender and class, defining whiteness as a place of structural advantage, privilege and power. It is crucial to gaze at the materiality of race and to the systemic character of racism. Here, racism is still perceived as excessive, that means an aberration to an otherwise postracial order, as an interruption, rather than a historical continuity and institutional practice.


And then, a final word about the Dutch institution of Higher Education, the academic landscape on race: Philomena Essed and Kwame Nimako have described the ejection of Critical Race from the Dutch academe in the 1990’s, and the embracing of policy oriented Migration Studies. Hereby Critical Race scholarship was murdered in its cradle. In the last 2 decades, a new generation of critics of colour has been in gestation outside Academia, and was raised through self-learning and community nurturing. However their condition is highly precarious. This privileging of some epistemologies and the relegation of others is accompanied by an economy of white privilege, whereby academic positions and research funding go to those either embodying whiteness or abiding by it. Both Eurocentric epistemes and a white academic elite reproduce coloniality. I must say though that there is hope for this institution as, due to the tireless efforts of the movement of students of colour (the University of Colour) a group has been formed to scrutinise the University of Amsterdam’s curriculum, space and practices. This group has a strong decolonial agenda, under the name and disguise of the Diversity Commission.

Black Lives Matter – Across Languages and Geographies: Brazil

March Black Lives Matter 20 June 2015

photo by MAD Mothers

On June 20, 2015 Amsterdam hosted the Empowerment & Solidarity March: ‘We Rise by Lifting (M)Others’ organised by MAD Mothers NL (Mothers Against Discrimination and Racism – Netherlands). The March and the speeches that followed aimed to express solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement from an explicit feminist intersectional perspective. It was a modest in numbers however powerful event, which stopped traffic and took over the streets of Amsterdam. I was inspired by the words and chants of Black women. I was moved and honoured to have been part of it. This was my brief speech.

Dear friends,

We are here to mourn the loss of Black lives. We are here to denounce anti-Blackness that pervades our societies and guides State policy and practice. We are here to cherish movements of Black dissent and resistance in the Netherlands, across the Atlantic and the wider world, and to learn from them. We are here to celebrate Black Lives.

This week 9 persons were murdered in a historical Black Church of resistance in Charleston, USA. Their suspected killer is a young white supremacist. We mourn for Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Daniel Simmons, Susie Jackson, and DePayne Doctor.

As we speak two hundred and ten thousand Dominicans of Haitian decent along with hundreds of thousands of Haitian immigrants are threatened with deportation from the Dominican Republic, which will make them stateless. The criteria the government will use in deciding who is to be deported is “dark-skinned Dominicans with Haitian facial features.”

Last week a young South African (unnamed by the press) committed suicide in an asylum prison facility in Rotterdam. He was detained for the ‘heinous crime’ of requesting asylum in the Netherlands. His visa was rejected; he was expecting deportation. This is yet another precious life that is condemned by the Dutch State. It is another of the recurrent ‘incidents’ in the systematic detention of non-Western immigrants to the Netherlands.

Such ‘episodes’ are not extraordinary but the rule. Only in the first 6 months of 2014, 2.741 ‘incidents’ in Dutch asylum centres were officially registered. There is no public outcry though, as Black and brown Lives are considered worthless in this country. In fact, they are seen as a threat to the Netherlands. Facilitating their deaths is actually deemed necessary to safeguarding our welfare. This young man was mothered by someone or, most likely, by several ones, as it takes a village; he belonged to a community. His life has been taken away; their lives are shattered.

Last week, as every other week of the year, 574 Brazilian youngsters were murdered. According already to the report Map of Violence 2012, ‘violence has a colour’ in Brazil. Afro-Brazilians make a little more than half of the Brazilian population. In 2012, violence claimed the lives of 56,000 people in the country, of which 30,000 were aged 15 to 29 years of age. Of these, four out of five were black. Black Brazilians are also more likely to be victims of police killings: 58 per cent of all people killed in the state of São Paulo by the military police were black. They make up 62 per cent of all people incarcerated nationwide, Brazil having the fourth highest prison population in the world. The bloggers Black Women of Brazil recalled that, as Brazil’s black movement says, “if you want to know who is black in Brazil, ask the police, they know.”

According to Amnesty International Brazil, that launched the Campaign Black Youth Alive, these figures exceed the deaths in war zones. These deaths are gender and race specific and don’t affect the entire Brazilian society equally.

Brazil occupies the 7th position (among 84 countries) on feminicide (that is gender based murder). Every 1,5 hours, a Brazilian woman is killed as a victim to sexism. 61 per cent of those victims of feminicide are Black women. Violence to LGBT is sky-high. Every 28 hours a LGBT is murdered in Brazil; and the country accounts for 40 per cent of the murder of transsexuals and transvestites in the world. “In Brazil, Race [and Gender are] Matters Of Life And Violent Death”.

There has been consistent protest and mobilisation in face of raced and gendered violence, since colonial times, when 4.5 million enslaved Africans arrived in Brazilian harbours, that is far more than any other part of the Americas—ten times as many as North America, and more than all of the Caribbean and North America combined. Enslaved revolts and resistance, such as the communities of the fugitive enslaved, the Quilombos, are the mothers of Brazil’s contemporary Black movement. This movement is alive and thriving despite criminalisation and violence against Black activists. They struggle for justice, against racism that is structural and insidious and manifests itself, before and alongside physical violence, through various forms of dehumanisation of Black people.

Last May, Stephanie Ribeiro, a young Afro-Brazilian woman, launched a campaign on social media against a theatre play that would figure one actor in blackface. She gathered strong support from Afro-Brazilians, which ended in the play being cancelled. This shows that mobilisation against the dehumanisation of Black people is not only meaningful but it can be successful. In the Netherlands we know the successes we booked against blackfacing in the recent years. But we are not done yet. Stephanie’s campaign also shows how much the struggles of the African diaspora cut across language and geography, and how intimately interconnected they are.

It is fundamental to learn from sister movements, make improbable though fruitful connections, and support each other.

I will end this very brief window into the Matter of Black Lives in Brazil, with the words of the Afro-Brazilian lead Campaign Reaja ou Será Morta, React or You’ll Be Killed. Reaja organised a series of Marches Against the Genocide of Black People, the second of which took place in more than 17 Brazilian states and embassies across the world. This is the call for the second march, in August 2014:

Whatever the case may be, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! It’s time to take to the streets! Tomorrow, in various states across the country as well as around the world, people are marching to voice their anger, their sadness and their despair in what appears to be a clear agenda to exterminate non-white peoples. In Brazil, Afro-Brazilians are being killed not only [by] everyday violence and [the] lethal [State force of the] Military Police; they also face vigilante death squads, often composed of Military Police as well. We march for the five black men gunned down in one month in the US (Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, and Michael Brown), against the on-going slaughter of Palestinian men, women and children, but also for [B]lack Brazilians such as Cláudia Ferreira, Amarildo, Raissa Vargas Motta, the dancer DG (Douglas Pereira) and so many others who were purposely killed or struck by a [so-called ‘police] stray bullet’. We march because we must. We march because we want justice. We march for life!

Thank you.