Je bent mijn ally niet

 

 

 

Mijn hart huilt. Zoveel doden, zoveel levens verwoest. En mijn hart brult, van woede omdat men maar niet lijkt te beseffen dat onderdrukkingen leiden tot geweld en dood.

Na het nieuws van de moorden in Orlando op LGTBQIA mensen aldaar schijnen er veel mensen zich plots tot allies van de beweging te rekenen.

Er zijn 50 mensen dood, talloze gewonden en om redenen die mij onbekend zijn heb je bedacht dat je nu moet shinen met je allyschap.

 

Sorry maar toen QPoC zich uitspraken over de queerantagonism en de homo- en transhaat in de antiracismebeweging was je volgens mij aan het spelen met de crickets toch? Toen we het probeerden aan te kaarten weggezet werden als divisive, vermoord en/of verkracht moesten worden en er gezegd werd dat we EERST Zwart moesten zijn voordat we het maar in ons hoofd haalden om Queer te zijn, waar was je toen dan? Toen we je aanspraken op dat gedrag kregen we te horen dat het belangrijkste doel nu racisme was, en dat de rest nog weleens kwam, later. Ik wacht nog steeds. We wachten allemaal nog steeds.

 

In plaats van zogenaamd om ons te geven als leden van onze community vermoord worden, zou je ook om ons kunnen geven als we er nog zijn. En dat betekent niet dat je 1x per week braaf een ally post doet op je Twitterfeed, maar dat je er ook staat wanneer we weer aangevallen worden door het patriarchaat dat een beweging schijnt te heten.

Want ik heb gezien hoe je de andere kant op keek, hoe je alle tweets een favorite gaf behalve die waar men zich afvroeg wat de homofobe rapper precies deed op dit event en hoe je QPoC aanviel als ze geen genoegen namen met je stilte.

Veel plezier op je volgende event waar je weer braaf stilletjes zult luisteren naar de schrijnende transhaat maar je 2 dagen later een tweet in elkaar flanst over hoe transfoob een andere groep mensen volgens jou is en dat je dat heel erg vindt.

Je bent heel veel, maar niet mijn ally.

 

 

 

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.

IDFA Bijlmerparktheater panel 1 , 27 November 2015

Dear (potential) visitors of the first panel,
We have 45 minutes for our conversation about social justice and social media. This might not seem like a long time but, when used properly, it’s enough to break down some of the things we need to “forever and consistently be broke”.

Our talk will centre around:
1. The experiences and realities of Black and Brown people who’re based in the Netherlands.
2. Names, labels and identity politics.
3. Racism in Dutch media.
4. Selective solidarity/ our collective and individual responses to tragedies.

And yes, if you’re panicking because none of your Euro-oriented academic studies prepared you for the use of the term Helper Whitey, this one is for you.

But 45 minutes is 45 minutes is 45 minutes. To make sure that we’re not losing precious time and/or scarce patience, we won’t make time to deal with/answer any of the following questions and statements:
1. “Why aren’t you addressing reversed racism? When can we have an honest conversation about Black people being racist against White people?”
2. “If a platform like De Correspondent specifically look for non-white writers, isn’t that racist toward white writers?”
3. “If people stopped talking about race there would be no racism.”
4. “How can there ever be unity if people talk about Black Lives Matter? ALL Lives Matter!”
5. “Could it be that the writer of [insert title of racist article here] actually had the intention to [insert something about satire here]?”
6. “Doesn’t [insert racial slur here] have a different context in the Netherlands?”
7. “If, by judging by all the points you just made, I’m racist… what can I do to be less racist?”
8. “Shouldn’t we just leave all of this behind us, get over it and move on? If you work hard enough, racism won’t face you?”
9. “Are you angry? You look/sound/act angry…”

All of the questions above have already been answered in a plethora of essays, columns and/or articles about these matters. On Youtube and in other digital archives you’ll also find recordings of panel discussions and interviews that deal with them. We’re too exhausted to repeat ourselves. We have no interest in squeezing our answers to these questions into an elevator pitch so that those who’re not yet sure if our well-being deserves their time, can spend more time validating us and less time educating themselves. We believe that there has been enough time to not know, to have never heard it before, to not be able to imagine, to think it’s not that serious, etc.

 

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k bye

The panellists of panel #1 (Mariam El Maslouhi, Ramona Sno, Abdirashid Suleiman and Simone Zeefuik)

Diversiteit en de Witheid van De Correspondent

Diversiteit is (weer) en vogue. De Correspondent heeft onlangs een mea culpa-schuine streep-oproep tot sollicitatie geplaatst op hun website waarin ze toegeven dat zij “het belang van diversiteit te lang [hebben] onderschat.” De redactie is nu op zoek naar “diversiteit.” Karel Smouter, adjunct-hoofdredacteur Migratie, Religie & Mensenrechten (dus je kunt ervan uitgaan dat hij van wanten weet), onderstreept het belang van diversiteit op een manier die appelleert aan redelijkheid. Hij haalt percentages aan, en bezigt generieke uitdrukkingen zoals “betere afspiegeling van de samenleving.”

Het wrange is dat het streven naar een “betere afspiegeling van de samenleving” niet automatisch leidt naar een bevraging en ontmanteling van Witheid als machtsstructuur. Misschien is dat ook wel de bedoeling. Vertegenwoordiging zonder politisering. Een diverse redactie (of een diversiteitbeleid) vertaalt ook niet direct naar een “veilige” werkomgeving voor Nederlanders van kleur en/of een kritischer redactie. Net zo min als een diverse politieapparaat leidt tot minder gevallen van raciale profilering. “Kleur” staat niet gelijk aan “kritisch.” Zie de Braboneger. Er zijn genoeg Nederlanders van kleur die een neoliberale burgerschap, of anti-Zwartheid, expliciet, of impliciet, omarmen. Er zijn zat Nederlanders van kleur die verlangen naar inclusiviteit binnen een natiestaat die zij ongemoeid laten; zij willen de natiestaat beter maken en net zoals “andere Nederlanders” behandeld worden.

Witheid is niet alleen een kwestie van huidskleur. Tijdens het Nederlands kolonialisme in Indonesië werden Japanners gecategoriseerd als “Wit” in tegenstelling tot andere Aziaten. Het significante aan Witheid is dat het niet alleen gaat om institutionele processen, zoals kennissystemen, maar ook om gedragingen; het is een continue proces dat de wereld op een bepaalde wijze wil ordenen. Witheid is met andere woorden een ​​cultureel, sociaal, en politiek systeem dat wordt geproduceerd en gereproduceerd op een institutioneel en individueel niveau. Het betreft dus enerzijds processen op het alledaags niveau (b.v. werving en selectie binnen instituten), en anderzijds processen op een conceptueel niveau (b.v. kennis—wat geldt als kennis en wie gelden als legitieme kennisproducenten—en hoe er invulling wordt gegeven aan het concept “mensheid,” een concept dat zijn oorsprong heeft in De Verlichting). Omdat Witheid een proces is, moeten we opmerkzaam zijn op hoe individuen en instituten het idee Wit-als-normatief verschonen en rehabiliteren.

Diversiteit kan worden gebruikt als een middel om de gevestigde orde—met andere woorden Witheid—“beter te maken.” Diversiteit als meerwaarde veronderstelt dat “verschil” iets is dat mensen die afwijken van de heersende norm (zowel letterlijk als figuurlijk) belichamen en toe kunnen voegen aan de gevestigde orde om het “eerlijker” te maken. De waarde die aan een verschil, zoals huidskleur, wordt toegedicht, is niet willekeurig, maar gepolitiseerd en historisch bepaald. Binnen de context van “diversiteit als meerwaarde” worden gepolitiseerde verschillen gereduceerd tot economisch rendabele eigenschappen die goed zijn voor business. Argumenten voor diversiteit komen dan ook bijna altijd neer op “diversiteit is goed voor de zaken, want het leidt tot meer creativiteit.” De gevestigde orde kan van de voordelen van verschillen genieten door deze in te lijven—zonder dat er structurele veranderingen plaats hoeven te vinden. Het is een win-win situatie voor alle partijen: in dit geval wordt De Correspondent “beter” en helpt het Nederlanders van kleur aan een baan.

Diversiteit is dan slechts een technocratisch middel om negatieve effecten tegen te gaan, en het werk van De Correspondent “legitiem te maken.” Het diversiteitbeleid is, zoals Sara Ahmed opmerkt in The language of diversity, een neoliberale techniek van bestuur en management waarmee gepolitiseerde verschillen en historisch contingente processen kunnen worden gedepolitiseerd. Het is geen wonder dat diversiteit is verworden tot een oproep om meer “kleur,” meer mensen met verschillende “culturele achtergronden en perspectieven”—allemaal met het oog op het leveren van “betere” diensten/service. Echter, door diversiteit te reduceren tot “meer kleur” wordt diversiteit losgekoppeld van een zeer lange geschiedenis van strijd, gevoerd door Nederlanders van kleur uit de “voormalige” Nederlandse koloniën, tegen de normen en processen van Witheid.

Het diversiteitbeleid is in essentie het managen van verschil, en percentages zijn bij uitstek het middel om een quotum te bepalen. Eerder bestempelde ik de uitdrukking “een betere afspiegeling van de samenleving” als generiek omdat het machtsverhoudingen maskeert; deze uitdrukking is nietszeggend binnen de context van diversiteit omdat het de samenleving an sich niet problematiseert, terwijl een term als “diversiteit,” zeker wanneer men het plaatst binnen een historische en politieke context (migratiebeleid, asielbeleid, racisme op het arbeidsmarkt, racisme in het onderwijssysteem, het koloniaal verleden), dat wel doet. Het is goed om even stil te staan bij de 12% en 35% die worden aangehaald. Wat te doen als het aantal redacteuren van kleur de grens van 12 (of 35) % passeert? Tegenover diversiteit staat er ook zoiets als “te veel diversiteit.” Een “overschot” aan diversiteit kan “lastig of zelfs gevaarlijk zijn,” of het “kan meerwaarde ook in de weg staan.” Te veel van het goede is ook niet goed

Het is niet vreemd dat diversiteit vaak in ecologische termen wordt uitgedrukt. De Correspondent wil dan ook “een klimaat [scheppen] waar diversiteit goed gedijt.” Er is nu te veel van het één (Wit), en nu moet er wat van het ander erbij (kleur). In dit licht wordt diversiteit, verwoord als “meer kleur,” gezien als een “ecologische correctie.” Het accent is dus nu op een gedepolitiseerde diversiteit komen te liggen—in plaats van de verschillende vormen van kennisproductie die Witheid normaliseren en bestendigen. De Correspondent wil blijkbaar niet een klimaat scheppen waar het analyseren en ontmantelen van Witheid voorop staat. Mijns inziens lijkt het alsof diversiteit wordt ingezet als een “racismeverzekering,” een verzekering die schade aan de reputatie—in geval van beschuldigingen van racisme—minimaliseert of wellicht geheel voorkomt. Ik vermoed dat de racistische faux-pas die het NRC heeft begaan fungeert als een “cautionary tale.” De Correspondent heeft op een opportuun moment het licht gezien.

Tot slot: Witheid is niet het overkoepelend kader dat diversiteit begrijpelijk maakt. Een redactie bestaande uit alleen Antilliaanse, Surinaamse, Marokkaanse, Turkse, Afghaanse, Somalische, Chinese, Nigeriaanse, Braziliaanse, Colombiaanse, Chileense, Vietnamese, Ghanese Nederlanders—dus zonder koloniale Nederlanders—is weliswaar niet een “afspiegeling van de samenleving,” maar het is wel divers. Koloniale Nederlander is mijn suggestie voor het stijlboek van De Correspondent, aangezien er niet staat aangegeven hoe (voormalige) autochtonen, oftewel “gewone” Nederlanders, voortaan te boek zullen staan. Een gepolitiseerde diversiteit komt niet neer op “voeg kleur toe en roer het geheel glad.”

Learn it, and learn it well.

Politicising ‘Diversity’ inside the White Male Academic Powerhouse

University of Groningen - Senate Room (AWJ Creative Commons)

University of Groningen – Senate Room (AWJ Creative Commons)

I was invited to debate ‘Diversity’ at the event Night of the University: Towards a New Academia! in the University of Groningen. The panellists were asked to address the following questions in their 4-minute opening pitches:

Why is our University white and are 90% of our professors male? Can Dutch universities do more to make foreign students and female researchers to feel comfortable and respected in Academia?

And so I responded:

I believe that Dutch universities are white and male because the image and imagination of Academic proficiency is associated with the authoritative figure of the white Western man. Academia in the Netherlands carries the heavy heritage of colonialism and patriarchy. The university is then not sufficiently acting as a site of problematisation and transformation of hegemonic social trends, but as a (re)producer of them. The white male norm will only change when it is acknowledged as a problem.

Board of Directors of the University of Groningen

Board of Directors  – University of Groningen

Recognising whiteness in the universities requires understanding what it means in the Dutch context. Here, the non-white is the non-native non-Western (the niet-Westerse allochtoon) who is the primary target of exclusionary practice and policy. Exclusion and racial segregation have been the topic of heated public debate in the recent years. This debate has not managed to break into the walls of Dutch academia, not even into the discussion about the ‘democratisation’ of the university (the University of Colour being one of the shining exceptions).

‘Diversity’ is a buzzword in Dutch policy and academic circles, which has been emptied of its political meaning. By this I mean that debates on ‘diversity’ avoid the hierarchy of human difference (after Frantz Fanon) that rules institutional arrangements and sociability. Being different equals being less and having less opportunities depending on the difference you embody. ‘Diversity’ purposefully circumvented this fundamental question Instead it has focused mainly on providing the individual that embodies difference – that rarity in academic corridors – with skills and resilience to navigate the hegemonic culture. Institutions have been left largely unproblematised.

Debating ‘diversity’ requires problematising power structures in Academia. It is fundamental to gear our gaze towards the institutional culture of the reproduction of sameness (in the words of Philomena Essed and David Goldberg). The ‘habit’ of creating and cloning spaces inhabited by the hegemonic ‘type’ of subject that speaks the same academic ‘language,’ and produces the same kind of knowledge is an unchecked practice of injustice and inequality. It safeguards the homogeneity of what should be a heterogeneous and intellectually stimulating space for critical and creative thinking.

The university must indeed be a space for critical reflection on such processes AND for a practice in accordance. So far, Dutch academic institutions are spaces for the normative scholar – white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, young student, middle-aged professor, (upper) middle-class, secular, documented, healthy and abled body – to flourish through the production of knowledge for a better – then more just and equal – world. How askew is the settled practice in Dutch academia to include the other as object of inquiry while the agent of knowledge remains the normative self?

Altogether, questioning the lack of ‘diversity’ in Dutch academia requires addressing fundamental issues at two levels:

Firstly, at the level of representation, which means asking questions such as:

Is the body of students, scholars and non-academic staff normative? Can the non-normative student, scholar and non-academic staff flourish? How to change settled practices of exclusion with an eye on intersectionality? Are there affirmative policies? Are buildings accessible for differently-abled persons? Which are the policies on childcare?

The second level of issues that must be addressed is the epistemological, which means asking questions such as:

Is the curriculum white and male? Look at the body of theories taught: are they all Western? Where is the Global South in the curriculum? Look at citation practices: are theories/texts of non-white men in the reading lists and articles written?

If we are to address ‘diversity’ in Dutch academia, we must embrace the discomfort that it will cause as this query unavoidably dislodges the habits of hegemonic whiteness/sameness and upsets the hegemonic subjects of academic normativity, as it should. Otherwise, we are just making conversation.

Archief

Aangezien er te pas en te onpas wordt geroepen dat racisme (of, in zachtere termen uitgedrukt, discriminatie/uitsluiting) “de laatste jaren dramatisch [is] toegenomen,” vond ik het de hoogste tijd om een archief te maken, bestaande uit krantenartikelen, boeken, posters en andere ‘vluchtige’ media, over racisme en andere vormen van onderdrukking in Nederland en de acties daartegen. Racisme is nooit “minder” geweest en het is belachelijk te stellen dat het “steeds erger wordt.” Ik weet eerlijk gezegd nog steeds niet wat dat betekent. Wat hebben Zwarte mensen en niet-Zwarte mensen van kleur aan trappen van vergelijking in een context van structureel racisme? In een context waar racisme onlosmakelijk verbonden is met het kapitalistisch systeem en het patriarchaat? Dat er nu “openlijk” over racisme wordt gesproken, kan men het gevoel geven dat racisme nu “erger” is, maar dat is alleen maar schijn… Ik wacht nog steeds op iemand die mij kan vertellen op welk moment in het nabije verleden (ik houd ‘t simpel) Zwarte mensen het “beter” hadden dan voor “de dramatische opkomst van het racisme” anno nu. Maar goed.

Degenen die geïnteresseerd zijn in het archief (dat nog groeiende is) kunnen een kijkje nemen op http://discontentjournal.tumblr.com/

De artikelen die daar geplaatst zijn, heb ik via http://www.delpher.nl/ gevonden en de posters via http://geheugenvannederland.nl/.

Neem zelf ook een kijkje in de archieven van delpher en het geheugen van Nederland.

Empathy for Refugees

There is nothing wrong with having empathy for other people. Even more so, I encourage people to soul search and find some of their empathy because empathy is a wonderful thing. But what is also noticeable is that conversations regarding for example refugees are filled with voices that want to talk about empathy and empathy alone. This line of reasoning makes a great case for not having to think about colonialism and the numerous ways in which the Global North has destroyed areas all over the world.

 

If we look at the continent of Africa there have been numerous European nation states that colonized areas (which then became nation states with borders that were negotiated often by European colonizers). If one only talks about empathy for refugees, what is left is this kind of White narrative that ‘we could all be refugees’ and ‘we all want to live in peace’. While the latter is obviously true we cannot close our eyes for the fact that these countries did not suddenly became instable out of nowhere. Also, thinking that a country such as the Netherlands could suddenly be in the exact situation as for example Sudan is just intellectual dishonesty. It also borders on something like “ I am a good person for helping refugees”.  Can one use a word as ‘helping’ when discussing refugee flows that are many times a consequence of the destruction the Global North imposed? Is it not at the least odd to use a frame which is built on this idea that Whiteness is assisting these poor Black folks who can’t help themselves? As if suddenly yesterday everybody woke up in a certain area and then BAM there was something wrong and people fled and this has nothing to do with colonialism?

 

Problems that arise when talking about subjects like this is that it does need some knowledge about countries that were colonized, the ways White Supremacy was forced upon the population (because there can be differences in ‘approach’) and which colonizer was colonizing. Also, there is a difference between being technically and legally ‘not colonized anymore’ and actually being not colonized anymore. Frankly, my knowledge in this department is not as up to speed as I would like it to be. But we could all try make an effort to read up a little bit and listen to the people living (or used to live, if they are for example refugees now living somewhere else) in those countries. Even using Wikipedia as a starting point to examine some history about a country can help to find more articles and search terms. This has really helped me to gather more information in order to become better aware.

 

Absolutely missing in the mainstream narrative of refugees are actual refugees. There seems to be a not so coincidental trend to talk about refugees without even consulting refugees or better yet, them telling their own stories. Although I will say I can understand that sometimes one wants to speak about grave injustices they witness, it is important to realize that people have voices themselves. Who is better equipped to talk about what is going on in their country and what is happening to them now in Fort Europe than refugees themselves? What is this need to be the saviour who is going to say it ‘better and clearer’ than refugees themselves? (the answer to that last question would be Whiteness)

 

A couple of weeks ago I went to Trier (a city in Germany) with Simone. There is a refugee camp there where refugees come and are then bussed to asylum centres. The refugees there told us this can take between a week and roughly 2 months. The camp consist of an old hospital complex which consists of several buildings. There are no elevators, no flooring(well, concrete floors and that is it) and bunk beds everywhere. The camp is so full that the rooms are overcrowded thus meaning there are now bunk beds in the hall ways and people also slept on the floor. To complete everything there were racist guards telling us (me and Simone) that one just becomes racist when one works there and that that is ok. In the camp there are refugees from all over the world. What was striking was the fact that Black refugees were being taunted not only by the guards but also by other refugees. Banana’s were thrown at Black refugees, they were called the most offensive terms and I saw an Eastern European white girl calling a grown Black man a monkey. After some guards were being completely racist, we unfortunately found out that the Trier police was not willing to investigate the matter because ‘I just don’t think this is racist’ and ‘ Do you know how many of them are coming to our town’.

 

Anti-Blackness does not only happen to Black refugees in their own countries, when they flee they also encounter it in refugee camps from other refugees (and by local White and NBPoC European people). There seems to be no safety for Black people wherever they go.

 

If we only talk about empathy, all of this cannot be discussed. How can one discuss anti-Blackness if there is only a conversation regarding who is ‘the best at helping refugees’ and ‘ we could all become refugees’. Point of the matter is that White people even if there would ever happen something they would have to flee from would not be confronted with anti-Blackness or narratives that revolve around “ we helped you to become a democracy, we gave you some Enlightenment etc”. If the dikes would break in the Netherlands and Dutch people had to go to France and Germany that is absolutely not the same as what is happing with Black refugees fleeing to Europa. Are we really going to be this intellectual dishonest and pretend that White Dutch mothers would be sleeping on the floor with their babies in some old German hospital? That White Dutch men would be racially charged and battered by other refugees for being White? That there is some colonial link in which the Netherlands was occupied as a colony by France for hundreds of years? Let’s not.