Shuffering and Shimiling: Race, Degradation and Apathy in the Netherlands

Only Decent People

Still from the film Alleen Maar Nette Mensen (Only Decent People).

On December 19, 2011, Jackie, a popular Dutch lifestyle magazine ran a piece entitled “NiggaBitch.” It was then translated anonymously and sent to Parlour magazine, who uploaded the English-translated article in its entirety. In reaction, mass international outrage ensued. The article suggested that Dutch parents could opt to dress their daughters in the ghetto fabulous style of the so-called “ultimate niggabitch,” Rihanna, who reigned supreme with her “ghetto ass.”   However, parents were warned that once dressed this in this manner, their little princesses turned niggabitches, would probably get into fights at daycare. [Yes, it’s ok. You have my permission to insert the appropriate WTF? here.]

Many people internationally, particularly in the U.S. wondered exactly how a magazine, especially one run by women, would have the audacity to publish such an offensive piece.

Was the Jackie office political correctness alarm broken that day? Most of us (decent people) were bewildered and straight flabbergasted. Verbal sentiment can’t accurately describe what many people experienced around the world upon reading the use of what writer Ayana Byrd referred to as “the vilest combination of words that you can call a black woman.” Then after Eva Hoeke, Jackie’s then Editor-In-Chief, was forced to resign, she went on to say that the whole situation was blown out of proportion, intended as a joke and also that it was a blessing in disguise.

This incident, which ended in Rhianna not so politely telling the editor how she felt about being called out her name, was appalling to many. It was also a wake up call of sorts or rather an introduction to the world of race and existence of racism in the Netherlands. Ironically, this incident occurred only a few weeks after the world was shocked by the footage of activist/artist Quinsy Gario, being dragged in the street and pepper-sprayed by police for wearing a shirt that said “Zwarte Piet is Racisme.”

Yes, good ole’ Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Piet “Black Pete” who is the ignorant, docile yet jolly servant of Sinterklaas, the Dutch-ified version of St. Nick, who goes around town on a horse accompanied by his “black” slave, I mean helper. The cherry on the top of this wonderful Dutch Christmas tradition, is that annually, during the last couple of months of the year, white people get to play dress up, as Black people. They blacken their faces in good-ole minstrel show fashion, with face paint called “negro.” They accessorize their newfound color with afro-wigs atop their heads, ruby red lipstick and gold hoop earrings.  They then shuck and jive their way out of their homes to spread joy to all of the little good girls and boys who wait anxiously for their arrival and the treats that they bear. This is not some antiquated tradition that went out of style with minstrel shows and apartheid. This racist celebration still exists, today…as in 2012, as people gear up for this year’s Sinterklaas holiday celebrations.

For years, the Netherlands has been painted as a multi-cultural society where “tolerance” rules supreme.  Let the Dutch tell it, there is no racism. Race and racism, according to the Dutch, are pre-occupations and problems of the U.S. and Americans, not Holland. Until recently, I barely knew that there existed a sizeable Black population in the Netherlands, thanks to the recent mass migration of Dutch Caribbean people, let alone a problem with race and racism.

Prior to me attending a screening of Alleen Maar Nette Mensen, which translates as Only Decent People, I had already been introduced to both the blatant and subtle white supremacist arrogance of the Dutch. However, nothing I had experienced via cinema or popular culture in my adult life, not even the worst of ignorant Black movies or 2Chainz videos could have adequately prepared me for the hour and half of pain I had to endure during the press screening of Only Decent People, a film based off of Robert Vuijsje’s best-selling book that actually went into dozens of editions of print prior to being made into a commercial film.

There are so many problematic issues with the production of Only Decent People, that it’s hard to condense them into a few statements. However, for the sake of clarity and contextualization, I will do my best to accurately describe the movie. To start, every single negative characterization of the Black woman as a hyper-sexualized being, loathed by all, even herself, was perpetuated. Scene after scene, all of the Black female characters were, for lack of a better word, beasts. They were all dehumanized creatures with the same exaggerated obese body type (with the exception of one who looked anorexic and was about to have a train run on her). They also performed, behaved and had sex while on their knees, sniffing people, growling and making animalistic noises. In other words, the Black women characters in Only Decent People were a present-day example of Saartjie Baartman redux.

Most Racist Offensive Scene Example#1: After the white Jewish lead character has found Rowana, his ghetto girl with her ghetto ass, he goes to her house the next day, where he is introduced to her brothers, two children and mother and then goes to the next room. They then start having sex wildly and loudly, meanwhile the family continues business as usual despite the amount of yelling that’s happening. I should probably add that before they engage in intercourse, Rowana sniffs him and growls like an animal while she’s crawling around on her knees. Oh, I should also mention that in this scene her breasts are flying everywhere including to the moon and back (because she’s mostly nude on camera) and she is “riding” him so hard that the bed starts to create holes in the floor.

Most Racist Offensive Scene Example #2: Perhaps the most dehumanizing scene of them all, entails the white Jewish character following his Black girlfriend’s cousin to an apartment complex in the Biljmer (which in real life, is an apartment complex named Heesterveld that is the home of a community of young and emerging artists, many of whom are of African and Dutch Caribbean descent).  For the sake of brevity I’ll skip the circumstances that led them there. What happened once they reached the apartment left my mouth agape. The woman, who never speaks, not a single line during the three to four scenes in which she is on screen, leads the two men into the basement of her apartment complex, with her small child still in his stroller. Once inside the storage room, she bends over, the Black man strips down her pants and penetrates her from the back. He then asks the white Jewish character, what he’s waiting for and hands him a condom. In the following scene, the woman is bent over as the Black man enters her from behind and she performs oral sex on the white guy, all while in the presence of her 3-year old son. Did I mention that this film is rated 12+ which means that children age 12 and older are allowed to watch the movie in its entirety in theaters?

To avoid writing a mini-dissertation, I’ll refrain from describing more offenses in detail. I will add however, that many non-Dutch speaking people outside of the Netherlands have responded negatively to the trailer and to the article that was posted on Shadow and Act’s popular film blog. Let me say this, the trailer doesn’t even scratch the surface of how bizarre and absolutely absurd this film is. The trailer actually looks like Sesame Street in comparison to what takes place during Only Decent People.

A few other scenes entail: another Black woman spits on the Jewish guy’s penis before they have sex, (more animalistic behavior); the original Black girlfriend character beats up the Jewish guy once he cheats on her and then attempts to perform a Lorena Bobbit on him. Then there is also the scene where the ghetto booty loving Jewish main character is told by his friends “we don’t know why you are dating a Black girl. Everybody knows that Black girls are at the bottom of the totem pole. The only reason why guys date Black girls is because they can’t find a white girl to date.” So as if we didn’t already know that “de nigger woman is the mule of the earth” as described by Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Lodewik Crijns lets us know exactly how we as Black women are viewed by mainstream society.

Part of the larger dilemma of white supremacy in the Netherlands is that many of these offenses take place within a very insular environment, which means that the rest of the western and non-western world are clueless as to what’s happening within society here. Print, radio and video media are mostly transmitted in the Dutch language, which makes it inaccessible to many. So half of the time, we aren’t even aware of what’s transpiring while we get high in the coffeeshops that heavily populate the town of tulips, hookers and canals. That’s probably one of the reasons why Zwarte Piet has continued as a tradition, for over the past century, without an international outcry from outer communities and societies to shut that foolishness down.

Many have asked me why Black people aren’t protesting. Here again it’s necessary that I respond from objective of a view as my Black American, African-centered, feminism will allow me.

The short answer without going into the complicated Dutch Caribbean narrative in the Europe is that unlike the U.S., there have been no major resistance movements in the Netherlands. Simply put, it is not a society of rebellion. The one organization that was comparable to the N.A.A.C.P., has been dismantled due to lack of funding. What I keep asking everyone is, “why aren’t any organizations being established?” The response: “there won’t be any funding.” So  it appears as if people in the Netherlands suffer subsidy syndrome – something that we also don’t know about in the U.S. When you are dependent on the hand that oppresses you to also feed you, how do you then turn around and bite it?

It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around this concept because I worked pro-bono for an entire year (if not more) to get a museum up and running off the ground in Post-Katrina New Orleans. The last time I checked also, no true Civil Rights, Black Power, independence, grassroots movement, anywhere was created with funding from the power structure it was trying to dismantle. That’s not how movements start. Movements begin when collectives of individuals with shared interests, decide to act upon a plan of action towards a higher goal for the betterment of all. That’s how any movement in recent and past history was founded, those successful and unsuccessful.  So I ask, where are the resistance movements (plural) in the Netherlands? Where are the feminists of color? The anti-racism activists?  Where are the angry people? Where are the offended? The tired? Where are the fed up? The “sick and tired of being sick and tired?

The point of this critique is not to place blame. Let me take that back – yes it is. While I understand that we as Black Americans are more equipped to deal with racism and also to analyze race and racism with sophisticated tools, to a degree, so are the Dutch Caribbeans here in the Netherlands. While there may not have been any Black Panthers in Amsterdam, it’s not like people here are totally unfamiliar with rebellions in the form of the Surinamese maroon societies, which still exist today.

My refusal to feign a false sense of objectivity for the sake of not coming off as a stereotypical “American” is predicated upon the absolute disappointment I felt about the response (or the lack thereof) to what was a viscous and violent assault on Black women specifically and the Black Dutch community at-large throughout the  entire Allen Maar Nette Mensen project – from script to cinematic release.

I wasn’t only offended by the idea that some Dutch person, Jewish or otherwise, would think that it’s ok to depict Black women in such a despicable manner. Racist people will be racist. That’s a given. I was more shocked by the manner in which the Black Dutch community was seemingly complicit in their own degradation. The actors in the film have proudly upheld their involvement. I was dismayed that I walked out of that movie theater with nothing but the traumatic images of gorgeous, Black women in the most inhumane positions, implanted in my brain and spirit. I had to fight back tears and felt sick to my stomach. Apparently, with the exception of a few people with whom I’m acquainted, I was alone in that feeling. (One Surinamese friend who no longer lives here said that the actors looked like they were having [animal] sex. Needless to say, she was utterly appalled and ashamed by the film but more so by the support it has received from the Black community).

From my conversations, what I’ve gathered is that many Surinamese and Dutch Antilleans loved the film. The Dutch Caribbean community turned out in droves to support the movie, in some cases more than once. There are those who hate it, of course and whose who refused to see it, but there are also so many others who actually think that the film is entertaining. Additionally, they are excited about the fact that for the first time, many of them are able to watch a group of Black Dutch actors in mainstream cinema as opposed to not at all or Black actors from places like the States.

Something else that I recognized that may play a factor in what I deem as apathy towards Only Decent People, is that for many Black Dutch people, of a certain class, there is a level of distance that takes place between themselves and “those people in the Biljmer.” So many of the intellectuals and socio-economically mobile individuals of Dutch Caribbean heritage, feel very detached from those stereotypes because they know that they live a different type of reality and that some of those stereotypes, i.e. the trading sexual favors for money for phone credit or weaves, supposedly occurs on occasion in real life.

That’s the biggest problem with this movie, it was an extremist and one-dimensional exaggeration of age-old stereotypes. Perhaps I would not have felt so compelled to write this review had the author or the director/producers decided to balance their portrayal of Dutch Surinamese/Antilleans in the Netherlands instead of presenting them as a homogenous group of “ghetto” people. Maybe if in addition to the soft porn scenes that took place in dark basements in the hood, there was a juxtaposition of a Cosby-like Dutch Caribbean family (which exists in reality more often than not), than maybe I wouldn’t have been as offended.  Of even if the filmmakers tackled the issue of interracial dating in a manner  similar to Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever or the more recent 2006  film Something New. But they didn’t. Alleen Maar Nette Mensen makes Tyler Perry films look like Do the Right Thing. If our beloved bell hooks had a fit after watching Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film that I actually adored, wait until she gets a load of this.

After watching this visual travesty, if I had not lived in the Biljmer for a brief period last year, if I had never met any of the brilliant, talented, compassionate, respectful, warm and loving Surinamese and Antillean people that I’ve grown to know, admire, respect and love, I would assume that these cultural groups were some of the lowest in society. The women, I would assume are all gold-digging, overweight, riddled with body-piercings and gold teeth. I would deduce that these women have no self-esteem, self-worth and would do anything to turn a trick or get money for their weaves and credit for their pre-paid phones – even if it meant dragging their 3-year old son in the basement of an apartment building and allowing a man to penetrate them from the back while performing oral sex on the other, as their boy child watched.

One of largest arguments in support of this film and book, is that it’s a comedy. It’s meant to be a light-hearted portrayal of life in a southeast Amsterdam. Oh and I forgot to mention that the director was qualified to make this film because his real life girlfriend looks like the lead character. Yes, the Dutch have jokes, but at whose expense?

Grant it, this is purely a critique based on what I viewed and what was explained to me afterwards by friends and colleagues who also saw the film. My review is purely a reading of the visual text, which left very little room for alternative interpretation. Alleen Maar Nette Mensen is not abstract. It is not art based on the fictional. It is an example of scathing biased and stereotypical social critique passing itself off as a fictional comical narrative. Some would like us to believe that this is an example of creative expression. Others could argue that it’s a harmless tongue-in-cheek film that actually critiques all cultural groups in Dutch society.

To those critics, I will point you to Exhibit A, B and C – Birth of A Nation. Released in 1915 (four short years before America’s notorious Red Summer) and widely accepted as the prototype of modern cinematography, Birth of A Nation  (originally called The Klansman), was a silent film whose hate-laden visuals invoked fear in the hearts of white men and women throughout America, and inspired a spree of violence, murder and terrorism against Black communities throughout the U.S. Within two years of the advent of Birth of A Nation, 86 Black people lynched (on record). In 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma better known as the Black Wall Street, was burned to ashes and an estimated 300 people were killed. Two years later, Rosewood was burned down to ashes and suffered a similar fate, when multiple lynchings of its Black citizens occurred. To my point, popular culture and media are indeed powerful tools and when used irresponsibly, fatalistic.

I will not pretend like we don’t have a plethora of our own issues within the Black community in the States. For instance, I’ll acknowledge the problematic misogyny present in hip-hop culture today. However, one can not nearly compare a music video to 90 minutes of not subliminal, but overt and direct racist and sexist statements being made about Black women and the Black community, most specifically those hailing from the Biljmer, Amsterdam’s southeast neighborhood which has been home to the vast majority of its Dutch Caribbean and west African immigrants for the past few decades.

The week that immediately followed my experience with the film, I became slightly annoyed by what I perceived as apathy and a reactionary rather than a revolutionary response to racism in general in the Netherlands as well. What’s the difference between reactionary and revolutionary? In a revolutionary moment, the scholars, activists, feminists and concerned parties and allies would have organized their disdain for this film and attempted to use their collective voices and power to prevent it from being made in the first place.  Another viable option would have been to strongly discourage people from supporting the film financially, thus using collective economic power to exercise resistance and employing a method that hurts the “oppressor” most – in his pockets.

But alas, there were only a few murmurs. The most vociferous response came in the form of a very detailed and outraged review written by Quinsy Gario.  And before that, Professor Gloria Wekker publicly debated the author of the book (but most of the media covering this is in Dutch). Unless my google searches failed to detect other negative responses to the film, no one else really had anything to say, at least not publicly. Actually, I take that back. Plenty of people had something to say, most of them, however are not Dutch and do not live in the Netherlands.

The aforementioned issues are much bigger than a movie. They’re even bigger than Sinterklaas’ little “niglet” helper. It’s about the lack of value attributed to people of color and a system that is rooted in Eurocentrism,  patriarchy, privilege and white supremacy that is both externally perpetuated and internalized by all parties involved.

I am somewhat still at a loss of words to describe everything that’s wrong about Alleen Maar Nette Mensen. The title itself – Only Decent People – is troubling. I also can’t articulate at this moment, what kind of outcome I expected. What I do know, however is this: until Black people in the Netherlands begin to articulate their frustrations about race, in public spaces, films like Alleen Maar Nette Mensen will continue to be made, racial jokes will continue to be shared, magazines will continue to call Black women niggabitches and Zwarte Piet will continue to be celebrated every Christmas season.

In the words of Zora Neale Hurston, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” Afro-Dutch sisters and brothers do me a favor please. Better yet, do yourselves a favor – WAKE UP.

Saartjie Baartman on display.


71 responses

  1. I truly appreciate this article and thank you for taking the time to not only write about that bullshit over in the Netherlands but the necessary alarms that need to be set off when it’s time to balance out the madness being portrayed. I understand how this universe works so I won’t take anything actors nor their actions too personal, because everyone is pretty much playing their “role” in the grand scheme of it all. But all praises due people are waking up to their role and that’s one of beheading all snakes that slither a stereotypical word about the group opposed to the few. And those justices will go beyond the pen and Internet keep effing with folks sanity and pressure pipes. Peace loves.

      • Very interesting take on Dutch society, but I am going to have to challenge you on some points. Are you saying that some/all of the depictions in the film are completely untrue? I would posit that some of that kind of behavior does exist. While unflattering, it is a slice of life. Going on to the bigger picture, if one approaches every portrayal of race/gender/sexuality in a film as a stand-in for every one in that group, I think that view is flawed. Who gets to decide what depiction passes muster? Some films show good things. Some show bad things. Of course, we as humans have selective outrage. Anger about a Dutch magazine article, but silence when it comes to rap lyrics, authored by blacks, that say mch worse things and reach many more people. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say you’re totally off base, but I am going to point your anger/shock/disappointment is selective. Commentary on race should not be restricted to intraracial circles; interracial commentary is illuminating. When hearing from outsiders, we are confronted with hard truths. Cruelty for the sake of a joke is pretty low. Denial, because we do not like the truth is worse.

      • Thank you Joe for your comments. Despite the fact that you are not in total agreement with my statements, which you don’t have to be, I have published your response because you make some valid points and raise some valid questions. However, I think you are making assumptions when you assume that as the author, I have not criticized Black American culture, rather the worst of it (in the form of degrading and misogynistic lyrics/culture). My current and past work does indeed address these issues. This piece that I wrote, already 3200 words in length, was not meant to be a dissertation, nor an in-depth critique/analysis of Dutch culture. It was merely a personal yet critical review of a film that I made accessible to larger audiences. Furthermore, as it relates to this “one film.” This is not just one film, it’s one film in a canon of films through out the history of mainstream white culture that perpetuate harmful and dangerous stereotypes. For the sake of argument, I also noticed that you seem to conveniently address my critique of the film and the article in Jackie but not anything else, including Zwarte Piet.

        I’ll also add that it was my intention to raise the general awareness of race/racism in Dutch society since very view people seem bold or daring enough or conscious enough, even to address it.

        BTW, I’m here conducting research about the Dutch Caribbean Diaspora so I’ve made my observations within a larger framework of discourse on Dutch Caribbean realities both present-day and past.

        I’m not sure what you meant by your final sentences but alas, I digress.

        Thank you for taking the time to read and more importantly to engage in dialogue.

        In Light,

  2. The moment I saw the trailer I decided not to watch it. We live in the Netherlands the place where everything that has to do with racism will be answered with: “Oooohjhh you’re just exaggerating”!

  3. I think you are forgetting that most Afro-Surinam and Afro-Caribean people started living in the Netherlands from the ’70 onwards. This means they aren’t as rooted within Dutch society as Afro-Americans are in the States. Of course Surinam and The Dutch Antilles were colonies but life was different. And you should have known that it is Dutch mentality to group. Freethinking people are trying to break it since early 1960 but it is still part of the culture.

    The problems you describe are mostly true. Calling someone a Niggabitch is painfully ignorant. Only decent people can be considered racist i haven’t seen it and i did not read the book. But one thing i want from my chest is the following. Zware Piet is not the slave of Sinterklaas. A lot of historians argue that Sint Nicolas was helped by Morish people, who are black, during his time in Spain. It is clear the way Zwarte Piet is portrayed is referring to the looks of people from African decent so it has to stop. We are in the 21th century. I hope they will start with helpers in all colours called Blije Piet (Happy Pete) or something like that. Childeren just want their presents and candy they won’t make a fuzz about it. And then Surinam and Antillian childeren can also enjoy Sinterklaas without people within these communities putting presure on their parents not to do so.

    Not to be over critical but the way you write will not wake most people. If you write something down without giving a glimpse of how something came to be it will only stand out as your opinion. Now it just reads as a classic example of us against them. And this to bad cause what you are writing about issues that need to be dealed with and discussed.

    I wish you the best


    • David,

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. No, I did not forget that Dutch Caribbeans came over here in droves only recently. I’m currently conducting research on this phenomenon at the current moment, so I’m well aware of that fact and is something that I have publicly discussed on my blog (and I also provide a link to my earlier comments in this piece). Unfortunately, I did not have the time to go into the history and specifics of how the Dutch Caribbean got to the Netherlands. However, despite the fact that many of them just arrived recently, they came from lands (like I state in my piece) where resistance movements exist, in present-day societies (i.e. the Maroons of Suriname). So, I will not allow that to be excused. I do address the recent arrival of Dutch Caribbean people. And this is my blog…it’s my opinion. I don’t try to pass it off as anything but. Lastly, my primary purpose with this piece was to express my thoughts and provide a review of a horrible film that should not have been made. I am not here to wake Black Dutch people up. That’s something that they should do for themselves (in my opinion).

      Nevertheless, thank you for your thoughts.

      Oh one last thought, I know who the Black Moors were. They were Northern/West Africans who brought civilization to Spain in the form of culture, art, architecture, etc…so I think it’s even more absurd that this narrative would support a servile position for the Moors in juxtaposition to a Spaniard. People need to go back and learn factual history and not revisionist history that has been propagated by white supremacist ideology to support the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and colonization of indigenous people around the world.


      • Yes indeed the Moors were a very important part of human civilization. At the time they ruled most of Spain Timboektoe in Mali was at the heart of scientific research. These were mostly sufi morish people. But Saint Nicolas came to Spain (he is from Turkish decent) and helped ou the people including the small minority of Morish people. The morish who still lived in Spain long after the Moors were pushed out of Spain by the spanish army. I agree white people think they made this world civilised on their own. But history tells a whole different story.

  4. I had a whole discussion with many of my peoples out here I live IN The BIjlmer.. And i really did not take this dribble of A” movie seriously because of the lo production value and nonsense that was supposed to be reflecting a minuet part of this part of my area… Yes I understand why black people take offense too it but what the article writer unfortunately did not mention is ..opposed to our brethren in like say the U.S of for me even closer England would never let a movie like this hit any theater.. they’d have a frackin LA riot on their hands in 5 minutes…Black people in the netherlands are too divided amongst each other( Caribbeans,Antillians Africans,South Americans)
    where by shit like thsi will always get made .. since a so-called ” black ” or “urban” movie gets made here every 7 years… So for those saying ” Well if we refuse roles like that movies like that would not get made” don’t understand the business… Here Black as well as white actors have hard time And the black ones yes a bit more because the roles for them to fulfill are far and few and i am not saying they shoudl just take it because there is nothing else… but it is a fact.. they want to be able to engage in their craft so yes well maybe I’ll do this stupid role just for know so at least ill get some exposure to maybe get something else later… doesnt make it better but it is a fact…
    that being said I by no means support ‘vuistje’ and his his ignorant portrayal of black women or the stereotypes .. but IF We as Black Dont makeour own quality Movies or or series .. this is what it is going to be like for a very very long time…

    • Peace Brother,

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. You all need to make your own movies (as Black Dutch people). WE as a community world wide (people of African descent) need to be responsible for putting out the kind of images that we want to see with ourselves. And I understand that people want to work (re: the actors from the Biljmer) but to what degree and how low will they go to do so? Because in my opinion, this film was the lowest of the low.

      In Light,

  5. Since the advent of the internet my attention span ( in regards to reading articles/essays online) has deteriorated at an alarming pace ! This article had me from ‘On December 19th’ . I am appalled , I am saddened , I am outraged . In fact , I am a hurricane of emotions right now. Your article has inspired me to read/research more on the Dutch-Caribbean experience. About to share this on my FB page . This is too important not to share .

  6. Racism in Holland has been defended using the word culture for ages. While your article is brilliant and articulates the main reason I left the country I like so much, it is not totally fair to blame the black people there of acceptance. There have been a few organisations who got as far as getting some changes implemented like Piets in every colour possible. Black people even got into it as well painting themselves green or yellow to keep the fun. There are many African and Caribbean organisations much more militant, some of whom have gone underground. They have never and will never request subsidy. What retarded progress? 9/11. The country turned upside down and all those subdued feelings came out, everyone decided they wanted a piece of this new found freedom and boy did things change. It has taken all those years and many very vocal, insanely popular extreme right politicians like the bald Fortuyn who got murdered by one of his own, the overly hairy Wilders and many more for the Dutch to realise that every time they take a little piece of extra freedom, they deny someone else that bit of freedom. it is time for the discussion to start again, now that the racist parties have all but lost seats at the last election. Sometimes it takes a people to realise (with our help of course) that the time has come for change. All the civil rights movements in the world will not change Holland until Holland is ready to change Holland. I believe we lost a decade since 9/11 but it is the end game that matters. keep in mind though as a final thought that this will never be the USA – we are not all settlers! The Dutch will tell you that God made the world but the Dutch built Holland – that is meant in more ways than one. As a black person anywhere in Europe 50 years from now, you will always be an immigrant, the way a Jewish guy is still referred to as Jewish or an Irishman will never become English in England.

  7. I agree with almost everything you say in the article, and it is very interesting and insightful. I would like to point out though, like others did above, that there is a difference in the way Dutch-Caribbean people, or maybe Dutch people in general, no matter what color, look upon the subject of racism. I think that has mainly to do with the severity of the racial attacks in the Netherlands. There have been extreme cases maybe, but we have no experience with physically abusive racism the same way, (as we often hear about on the news) in the bigger countries like the USA or the UK. maybe that´s why we “accept” racism to a certain level, and often write it off as an “exaggeration”. Don´t get me wrong, there is indeed racism, and a very frustrating kind. Because it is a hypocrite one. under the image of “tolerant holland” white dutch people are very prejudice and definately have an opinion that would not be acceptable in other countries. But I don´think the black dutch people have had a reason yet to riot.
    We are though, in the 21st century, and I think it is ridiculous that zwarte Piet is still allowed. Also I find it ridiculous that demonstrants are being arrested aggressively by the police when expressing their frustration. Then this movie… I think (hope) that we are slowely entering another realisation, and hopefully the shock of these sort of movies being allowed, and the ridiculous act of zwarte Piet, being made internationally known, will make some changes take place. But ´please don´t think that the dutch-caribbean people are not proud, or they are ignorant of racism or they simply don´t care, I think it is a matter of being used to things and not having been abused in extreme unacceptable ways.(not that hidden racism is acceptable, but it is human not to make trouble when you are not personally attacked)
    The Dutch should not be compared to a country like America or England or France, first of all because of the size, our menthality and many many more reasons. I can understand that an american reading this article would think that we live in some sort of backwards society stuck somewhere in colonial times, when it is very much the opposite.
    Finally I would like to add though that there is a lot of sneaky racism, and as proud as I am that I am dutch (Surinam) and of our culture (the surinam) and our menthality (surinam/dutch) i am also appalled by the ignorance and hypocrisy in the dutch culture. In such a way even, that I haven´t lived in Holland now for many many years. But no matter where you go, there´s racism, and often a lot more shocking than in Holland….

    Thank you

  8. Thanks for this very thoughtful piece. I tripped a little bit on this sentence, though: “The last time I checked also, no true Civil Rights, Black Power, independence, grassroots movement, anywhere was created with funding from the power structure it was trying to dismantle.”

    That’s actually patently untrue. Civil RIghts and Black Power received _massive_ funding from corporate philanthropy and white liberals. This is something that recent scholarship has had to deal with extensively, from Noliwe Rooks (White Money/Black Power), to Devin Fergus (Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics), and Karen Ferguson (“Organizing the Ghetto: CORE, the Ford Foundation, and American Pluralism, 1967-1969”). Moreover, one of the major contemporary issues that U.S. organizations are dealing with contemporarily is the way in which so much of the left is dependent upon the very kinds of funding structures that reinforce the capitalism they want to fight (i.e. INCITE’s The Revolution Will Not Be Funded). I think it’s important to acknowledge this complicated history so that we don’t slide into our own leftist version of the American Dream in which we imagine that our movements will be able to sort of spontaneously pick themselves up by their own bootstraps.

  9. Thank you for writing this article, and bringing awareness to what is happening in The Netherlands. As a Dutch Surinamese woman who grew up in The Netherlands and now living in the United States, i feel very passionate about my people and their status in the world and i believe it is now time for the world to know who we are and were we stand. The world should know all about the racism, poverty, slavery, and everything else we have to deal with as an people.This type of stereotypical behavior is unacceptable and don’t need to be broadcast for no ones entertainment. Its disrespectful and degrading to ones self esteem. I haven’t seen this movie yet but, i have heard all about it and it breaks my heart. The Surinamese community has to stand up and come together for not only “change” but to know their “power” and to learn how to execute it properly in any type of situation.
    Dutch Caribbeans are a great people and its time to claim our position in this new world we are heading towards.


  10. Peace Sis! WOW! As I was reading your article I searched for the trailer…WTF!!!! I will in no way support such foolishness and racism….I know I don’t need to tell you this but…keep up the great work!….I know you work tirelessly…I am thankful that I know you!

    • Reese, I can do what I do, because I have a megatron support system bka family bka folks like the Williams-Pineda clan. Thanks for holding a sister down!

      “You got a lot of family, I got a lot of fam. That’s why the people got my back like the Verizon man.” ~ Jay Electronica

  11. …i am glad you have shared your critique with the wider community. it is important to truly be aware of how we as black women are sewn into the cultural fabric of the white or dutch psyche…we as women must devise ways–your article being one of them–to disentangle the various lies told about our being…white dutch folk also need to stand up and critique this garbage being paraded as entertainment…i wonder if a clip of the movie can be posted along with a statement for people to sign acknowledging our refusal to co-sign on the spiritual death of black women..

    • Thank you Nzingha! You’re right, I think it’s more important for white people to fight against racism first by accepting their privilege and Eurocentrism. I’m mostly concerned with educating Black people. Anyway, thanks so much for your insight.


  12. Pingback: Shuffering and Shimiling: Race, Degradation and Apathy in the Netherlands | OCG

  13. Great article my lady, but I do not understand how you could say that you were “at a loss for words” and how you “can’t articulate at this moment”. The article was a clinic in articulation and words! A mighty blow struck in the name of African liberation.

  14. I’d have to start off explaining that my frustrations on this topic get the better of me sometimes. Aside from being a grammar nazi from time to time, I could come off rude, and Im sorry for that.

    For the most part I agree with this post, but I’d like to encourage you to step back from the very obvious racial and gender bias. And to look at that silly movie as an accidental work post-post modern satire, also in the same tradition as ready made or found art. That is to say whatever packaging the work is presented with and whatever the original intentions of the one who produced it, is in a sense irrelevant. The important lesson I took from the whole experience, having watched the trailer, then the film, the disappointment to what was advertised in the trailer as opposed to how the film actually came off, but also the reactions around the film’s debut. To me, this is a shining example of the typical and clumsy approach to seeming socially and culturally tolerant. Racial and or sexist jokes are meant to be passed off as having reached a level of tolerance and understanding where it’s okay to joke about. Something I feel has been so finely intertwined within the social structure that essentially governs how things are done and or dealt with. With respect to the modern dutch social landscape, a system that has been meticulously engineered to remove accountability from individuals or organizations or otherwise. Something a teacher once told me is that people seem to have forgotten that the kingdom of the Netherlands is essentially founded on a tradition of violence. If we were to go far back enough, to the Batavian tribes rising against the roman empire, forming what is now known as the Netherlands, lead by Claudius Civilius who was basically a barbarian warlord who seized an opportunity. Fast forward some and look at the foreign assets and how they were originally attained. The next step is to accept that times have changed (enter the past 100+ years) and certain images do not sell as well as some others do…

    What we are left with is a brand new band-aid neatly placed over a protruding shin bone. This just leaves me with the idea, swiftly followed by sharp anger, that there are angry people, people who have a greater sense that something isnt right, people that would want to take some kind of action but as I mentioned before, with a lack of accountability everywhere you turn in Holland, even the most blatant signs “political incorrectness” get brushed off and diminished. Now there is no one to point fingers at, no one to point fingers. Only leaving us with a generally accepted sense of apathy to the fact. And as you said how do you turn and bite the hand that feeds?

    There are people, thankfully, that try to touch on the subject despite the difficulty.

    The hard part is looking passed the symptoms (zwarte piet, niggabitche or anything in the same vein) and really analyzing the finely tuned system of thought that has been carefully set in place over hundreds of years. Sadly enough I have to reiterate the silly fact that America as we know it is young compared to most western european nations. This isnt meant to put america and the resulting ideologies down. This is more to illustrate the point that when dealing with nations and cultures, its important to remember that no two are the same, as the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

    The dog whisperer taught me that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, it’s just a matter of tailoring your approach to that specific canine. So not totally impossible.

    What tends to get me upset, granted I do get angry at some of the more subtle shows of a truly ignorant outlook, is the individuals who are indeed poised, whether intellectually or otherwise to truly make a difference but find themselves consumed with symptoms and not the cause.

    On another note, thanks for this, it kinda roused me out of my post graduate slump.


    • Dear Andre,

      Thank you very much for your eloquent response. I mostly agree with everything that you shared. I will however warn about the danger of what you are calling “post-post modern satire” particularly one that plays on damaging stereotypes, that are connected to a long history of inaccuracy, misinformation, violence and degradation. For brevity’s sake, I will just point to the fact that a recent report connected the media images of Black men with a lower life expectancy rate. You can view the report in its entirety here.

      White supremacy is relentless as it is deliberate. Western Europe may be older than the U.S. but it is most certainly not older than us, (African people) nor has it been a dominant force for a longer time than the creation of the United States. So I can not necessarily accept that as justification as to why Black people take more ownership of challenging the power structure of the U.S. whereas Blacks in Europe having to be more cautious about their approach. Granted it, we as Black Americans do have a different ownership of the physical land that is the United States. However, the wealth of Europe was built on the enslavement and colonization of African and indigenous people, so theoretically, you all are just as valid (and should feel empowered) about challenging the present-day status quo.

      But alas, I digress. Thank you very much for your insight, I truly enjoyed it. Hopefully we can continue this conversation. As a side, your cousin speaks very highly of you and prior to you responding to this piece, he had already suggested that we meet because apparently we have some shared interests.

      In Light,

  15. This was a very compelling read. Have been reading about “Alleen Maar Nette Mensen” after seeing a trailer via the Afro-Europe blog and was immediately turned off and taken aback. Disheartening to know it’s even worse than I thought. Thank you for your insight.

    • Dear Tiff,

      If you are at all affected by the images that you see, I would suggest that as a Black woman you opt NOT to subject yourself to that type of violence. The only reason I sat through it myself was for research purposes and to do exactly what I’ve done…report what’s going on here.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      In Light,

  16. Living in the UK and a follower of soccer, i always wondered why the Dutch national football team had racial problems. I also wondered why Dirk Kyut was so supportive of Suarez at liverpool FC after his racial abuse of Patrice Evra. Maybe this explains it.

  17. Sister Shantrelle, thank you for your compelling article. Your article confirmed for me the responsibility we must all take, and certainly never take for granted, the power of this information age we are living in.
    I can cite the day, I reeled in astonishment, when driving down the streets of Sydney, Australia; with my then 10 year old daughter (she is now 33) and an NWA song was blaring out from the local radio station. I pulled my car over because women were now being referred to as “bitches” openly and blatantly on the airwaves across the ocean by my brothers. Having grown up in the 60’s70’s Motown era, this was somewhat of a shock.
    Fast forward to 2012, I am currently a professor teaching Musical Theatre in S. Korea. A young Korean student, who was eager to speak with me one day said “you just don’t think of African American women as professors”. I smiled and reminded him that I was standing in his presence for this reason.
    But I still can’t get used to walking down the street in Itaewon and being called “nigger” or “bitch” from the music that blares out of the speakers.
    I also know that the corporation of globalized music has presented images not unlike the ones seen in the trailer of your blog. Though I was incensed, I felt I had seen these images before. Perhaps I am de-sensitized.
    Finally 2 years ago sitting in my lounge room in Sydney, once again with my daughter, we watched an interview with Jay-Z by an English compere (whose name I forget). My daughter and I were both surprised when “Jigga” (now just over 40 and VERY SUCCESSFUL) came on with his pants sagging… but then to add insult to injury, the compere referred to Beyonce as his ‘bootylicious wife”. The compere then pulled his pants down around his underwear and did a mock “hip hop dance” as Jay-Z exited. My eyebrows went up, but the song and images are out there for all the world to enjoy, sing and mock. There were other problematic issues with that particular interview, but you get my drift.

    Finally, the land grab is on. The continent of Africa is being assaulted again from new forces for it’s precious and once plentiful resources. The city of Detroit (where I was born) is going through it’s own land grab and slow but certain gentrification. So these globalized images seem to help people justify the why and how they can walk over certain groups of people.
    Thank you for this article. We must remain vigilant on many fronts. We must support each other all around the world. We must take responsibility for our own words and actions and the power they have.
    Aku Kadogo

    • Thank you Sis for sharing,

      Honestly, when I initially wrote this, I had NO idea that it would be received this way. In fact, since it was over 3200 words, I thought that people would probably not opt to read it. Had I realized that my audience would have been so widespread, I maybe would have considered approaching this as a true essay as opposed to a movie review. Because for me, that’s what this piece was, a movie review that I attempted to contextualize somewhat by placing it within a larger problematic system. I could go on for DAYS about how our – African American culture – rather, the worst elements of it has been bottled up and packaged for mass consumption, unfortunately, throughout the rest of the world. It bothers me, every time I travel or I see examples of how the worst of hip hop culture’s ignorance and misogyny have influenced people throughout the Diaspora, unfortunately.

      However, this business of perpetuating dehumanizing images of Black men and women has been BIG BUSINESS for the past few centuries. I will never place total blame on mis-educated Negroes, without even examining the internalized white supremacist ideologies that they’ve consumed that allows them to perform that kind of misrepresented Blackness and masculinity in the first place.

      Thank you so very much for you thoughts and for sharing your experiences. There’s so much work to be done. As you said, “We must remain vigilant on many fronts. We must support each other all around the world. We must take responsibility for our own words and actions and the power they have.”

      And the continued land grab and robbing of Africa….yet another dissertation.

      In Light Sis,

      • And brava to you for writing such a critical, thought provoking essay, that YES, many of us read from top to bottom! Thank you.

  18. …keep reminding us…so many of us have forgotten the days of slavery…before and afterwards…”until the lion/ness has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.”
    dr. koura gibson

  19. There is racism in every predominantly Caucasian society, with the Netherlands being no exception. When the Dutch pride themselves on being culturally diverse and tolerant I guess they refer to the legality of marijuana and blatant prostitution in their society. The United States is actually a more Afro – friendly society than most European States are!

  20. You know, I can’t say I’m surprised. Disheartened still, but not at all taken by surprise. I’ve lived here for almost 10 years, and the tolerant culture I thought I was moving into was quickly replaced by the cold reality of just beneath the surface racism disguised sometimes as dutch bluntness.
    That bluntness is brought out only when it suits their own purposes, but most certainly not to take up for me or any other person of color who is shocked and appalled every year with the onslaught of Black Pete. The evidence that there would be enough people here to usher in an uprising here to take seriously these types of issues, is at the moment not visible. Not even within my own family here.
    What I’m more curious about though, is how this manifests in the workplace. I’m an artist, so that network is what it is, here and in the US. But how is it in the corporate workplace, the day to day office? I’m curious if there are ANY people of color in executive positions. Are we respected in jobs across the country as a general rule? Is there any type of affirmative action for kids coming out of university looking for job placement if needed?
    Listen, to even be taken seriously in a store here, I have to make it known that I’m an American. As soon as I open my mouth, the attitude toward me visibly changes, and it makes me sick.
    I would welcome an opportunity to be a part of any movement that seeks to strategically address life here for people of color. I’m not suggesting I have any clear ideas, but I am offering my words, my effort, my network, my voice.

    as ever… in l&l

    p.s. – thank you for this article Shantrelle

    • Thank you Sandra!

      Funny enough, sometimes I feel the need to talk as well in stores so that the clerks will recognize that I’m an “American” and not just a Black Dutch person, when I sense that they may be giving me less than preferential treatment. But also, in some cases, that hasn’t mattered much.

      I actually just got off the phone (skype) with a good friend is who is a business executive who no longer lives here. She has plenty of things to say as to how this plays out in a corporate environment and made the decision to move away from the country as opposed to subject herself to continuous discrimination and unhealthy attitudes, comments, etc…

      Thank you for taking the time to read and sharing your thoughts.

      In Light,

  21. Thank you for your commentary. As ever with the Internet items that may have remained hidden are highlighted for those of us that wish to see and know.

    I can agree that analysis of cause (over symptoms) is of value, but the fairly flippant, pseudo-intellectual, art critique comments from some of the respondents here miss the point in my opinion. Images are currency. The way that that every film is constructed is deliberate and pre-planned. The descriptions of the scenes offered here are a blatant reinforcement of the negative and damaging images that have blighted African people globally for too long. If “Birth of a Nation” can be considered propaganda – it certainly drove viewers to devastating actions – then why not this? Because it is masked as “comedy”?

    Let us call it as it is.

    Do you, or anyone else here know the name of the film company, director, producer etc that we can write to, and/or organisations in Holland that we an join with? Collectivity in our outrage is key.

    Thank you in advance to all who can provide this information.

  22. After having lived in the Netherlands for five years, and as an American man of African ancestry AND Antillean heritage, I am so glad someone has finally caught this flaw. Someone has been able to intellectually yet, easily step by step, word for word break it down. Yes, Holland is one of the more multicultural societies in Europe – full of its old ways, modern distractions and hybrid-American fabrications of what Dutch should mean – but, it has just confused everyone both outside and in. The nation continues along a path of post-colonial syndromes, mixed in with distorted I-want-to-be-American-but-if-you-ain’t-Dutch-you-ain’t-much views and a tad of post-WWII glitches (however with an extreme disliking for Germans (which they resemble all way too much!!).

  23. I never saw the movie but a friend of mine went to the premiere and met me upset afterwards. His final words were “We’ve let it come to this…”.
    That took me some seconds to digest…

    We as black men didn’t start take care of our black women and children until recently.
    Most of the time black women are left with the troubles of life after birth of a child themselves.
    A lot of black men are preferring white girls before our own, especially after making a bit more green than a next brother. And I can go on and on with arguments.

    But except looking at ourselves you may need to wonder to why we black people in Holland have this mentality. If there’s one thing white dutch people fear than it’s strong black people, educated and most of all… organized.

    I can tell you about the breaking of peoples minds that dutch people love to do since the days of slavery, but I think we have to look closer at the present. Where early in school you already notice that white people don’t want their kids play with non white kids. And consider a school with more than 5 or 10 youths of minor descendent a school of lesser educational value to their kids. A phenomenon better known as black schools in Holland. Schools tricking black parents to have their kids being send to programs for slow learning kids and even give black kids lower ratings for tests. And also here I can go on and on.

    The basic thought is to keep us down, separated and living a pointless life. I’m afraid it will have to take a good shoke up before black people ( or anyone else for that matter ) wake up in this country. And basically that comes down to going back to slavery I think, because as long as people in Holland collect their welfare checks or get their monthly allowance they have no need to get upset. That’s the overall thought in this country. That’s the system and it works… And if you go against it…well good luck you’re on your own. You’ll be labeled looney, and you’ll get people saying don’t worry so much and all that jizz.

    What I always do when I’m in a room full of white men talking bad about minorities in the country, is drop points like “how about those drug addict white kids in this country, messing up the northeast…” or “so how did Hassan get your daughter’s mobile phone number” or “How come when you always say Negroes it’s alright, but when I say witjes (whitees) you look so offended”. Funny how it’s always very quiet after that… But then again I’m not a man that’s out to get “liked” by every Tom, Dick and Harry out there. I think if everyone starts using his right set of mind we’d be making progress instead of sleeping with the demon, and sink to the bottom of the Northsea.

    I think making a “funny” movie about the dutch people would bring out the hypocrites out there, because you will hurt them in their right stone hearts when it comes to their daughter’s bounces of on something black for less than even phone credits or even a milky way bar. And that’s true life story in fact, no need to get in details…

    To make an end to my reply, and I sure hope it’ll will cross some sisters and brother’s minds out there. Be a man or woman and stand up to get your respect, something which will reflect on our offspring later on. Cause I never seen people stop to listen to a mute.

    And to you I’d like to say, thanks… keep kicking up dust! Wake them sleeping people up!

  24. Does everything have to be judged in the context of a so-called canon of works? In a ironic way, by taking on that approach the hateful ideology lives onward. Just a thought. Another thought is why do negative depictions have to be “challenged”? I raise because do those critics work as hard to critique overly positive representations? Finally, what exactly is racist or misogynist anymore? I understand it in deliberate context but some things are benign.

    Sorry, you are right that I did reference Zwarte Piet in my first post, because I was not trying to fully criticize your excellent piece. Going to that point, I would say people involved in that celebration should take a step back and examine the insensativity of his/her behavior. Generally speaking, we all need to do this from time to time.


    Please read this. I have to acknowledge that stupid things are said about Rihanna etc. but to just say that the Netherlands is racist….come on. That is not true. The point of the whole movies was to point out that in the Netherlands the ideology was that everything that is not white or western was superior. There was a culture here that just applaused ethnic minorities, helped them, they were postive, there were no negative things at all. That was how people looked and still look at these minorities. However, they did not acknowledge that there, as in any other ethnic group, there are also problems. And these were not acknowledged even though they exist. This changed, that is not racism, that is reality. These are the tabous about real diversity wiith ‘problems about white people, black people, jewish people, christians whatever.

    Yes, there was racism in this film. Yes, it is horrible. Yes, I don’t like this movie at all. But the point of the entire movie is to exaggerate this. It is the fact that these stereotypes are NOT true. It is so ridiculous that some people, worldwide, think Black people are like this or Jewish people. It’s aim is to make people think about what can be hurtful, what racism is. By exaggerating ,it becomes clear that these stereotypes are ridiculous. This is what the author of the book and the producer wanted to accomplish, the exact opposite of what you are saying.

    That’s about the movie.

    About Zwarte Piet. Who are you to judge this? For most Dutch people, it is just a party for children. They don’t see that Sinterklaas is the boss of Zwarte Piet. It is not a matter of slavery. It is a matter of festivity. It is not there to insult, then why feel insulted? I know loads of Black people, also in the Bijlmer, who don’t feel this way because it is not meant to insult. It is just a historic party. And who are you to judge this? You can have your opinion of course, but the fact is that it is just a national historical festivity. That is hard to understand when you are foreign, but really, it is just a festivity for Dutch people.Nothing to do with races.

    But if you want to ban this day, then look world wide. For now, some American holidays.

    Take a look at Columbus Day. While schoolchildren routinely observe the day by singing songs about Christopher Columbus’ adventures and memorizing the names of the ships he used to venture into the New World, a number of Native Americans regard Columbus as a mass murderer of indigenous peoples unworthy of celebration. That’s also true.

    Thanksgiving raises many of the same concerns that Columbus Day does regarding Native Americans. The Pilgrims survived their first autumn in New England with the help of the Wampanoag people, a meeting of cultures often described to schoolchildren as a happy occasion. In reality, the European pursuit of land in the New World, practice of slavery and the deadly diseases they carried ravaged American Indian groups. Because of this history, the United American Indians of New England mark Thanksgiving as a day of mourning.

    Kwanzaa: some people feel this is a racist holiday because of exclusion…

    And so I could go on with every culture. it is a matter of culture and within these cultures some people have opinions. That’s fine. But you have to paint a clear picture and if international authorities have to get together to let the Netherlands ban Zwarte Piet this has to be done to all the parties worldwide when there are people who feel this is racist. Even though these people are minorities, or don’t live in the country, or whatever.

    But…good blog! It is nice that you take the time to express your opinion.

    • Hi Renate,

      I had to think about whether or not to publish your comments. Not because you challenge me and disagree with me in some areas but because I think some of the things you said were inaccurate yet, I do agree with some of the points you raised (i.e. about Thanksgiving and Columbus day, two holidays that I DO NOT celebrate and have not celebrated for years – I also speak out vociferously about how we should not as a people and country celebrate these holidays). But for the sake of brevity, I won’t get into all of that now.

      The only thing I have to ask you is why do you feel that Zwarte Piet is not connected to race? Can you explain why is that Zwarte Piet, rather white people who blacken their faces and dress up like Zwarte Piet characters, also put on curly afro wigs, red lipstick and wear gold hoop earrings and speak with a Surinamese dialect? Also, are you familiar with the minstrelsy and blackface traditions?

      Also how do you define racism? When you say that Kwanzaa could be considered racist because it’s not inclusive, that’s not accurate. Kwanzaa is open to everyone. Based on your argument, I would say that the majority of white cultural activities then, is racist because it’s not inclusive – from academia, cultural holidays, media, etc….but personally, I do not define racism as “non-inclusive.”

      Lastly, I think you may have missed the point of my critique of the film. It is that the images depicted in the film, reinforce very damaging images of and against Black women. I am a Black women, I also have extensive educational training in Africana Studies and as a curator, I can also be considered an authority of the representation and images of Black people in popular culture. Thus, I am at liberty to speak about and actually quite validated by my critique of this film as further damaging to the wide-spread derogatory images of Black women, both here and abroad.

      I would definitely like to thank you for not only reading the piece but taking the time to respond and remark in a respectful manner, despite the fact that you took issue with some of the statements that I made.

      Dialogue is healthy and the only way that we can truly create change.


    • Dear Renate,

      As a black women who lived in the Netherlands for 20 years I can only say that your statement

      “… in the Netherlands the ideology was that everything that is not white or western was superior. There was a culture here that just applaused ethnic minorities, helped them, they were postive, there were no negative things at all. That was how people looked and still look at these minorities. However, they did not acknowledge that there, as in any other ethnic group, there are also problems. And these were not acknowledged even though they exist. This changed, that is not racism, that is reality.”

      Is at best naive and at worse false. Renate, are you unaware of all the dozens of institutions, programs and studies that were put in place in the seventies and eighties, specifically targeting social issues in minority communities and neighbourhoods such as the Bijlmer. Teenage pregnancy, dropouts, unemployment, domestic violence, mental health issues, drug abuse and crime.

      The difference between now and then is that many of the “other” activities that celebrated cultural diversity are no longer receiving funding and have closed down. So the debate and landscape on ethnic minorities issues went from rather balanced to one-sided mostly highlighting the problems of migration. A second difference is that we have come to understand what this socalled “tolerance” means. Tolerance means that you will put up with something until you are fed up and then smash you would use a newspaper on a fly.

      Many countries struggle with a heritage of racist and xenofobic concepts deeply embedded in the national psyche. That is nothing new. What puzzles me is why there seems to be a total ignorance in the Netherlands on how institutional racism works and what enhances that.

  26. Btw. Of course I am against racism and I acknowledge that this happens here like it happens all over the world! And that it should stop, because it useless. If you want to join here you can go to the platform Stop Racisme (stop racism), the organisation Nederland Bekent Kleur etc. There are migrant organisations (migranten organisaties) but you have to look and most information is in Dutch. Hope I was of help.

    • It is true the Netherlands has a lot of institutionalized platforms people can go to. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of racism in the Netherlands. You are right stating the fact racism is part of almost all cultures. It is not just white people feeling superior. All races have people thinking they are Gods most beloved ones or just think they are better.

      I hope in time the youth will get better educated about things the Netherlands as a country has done wrong. But i also hope this can be done in a open setting where not only the wrongdoing by white men are being discussed but the wrongdoing by all people.

      Racism/Discrimination has to stop but it can only endure it everyone dares to see the past and learn from it.

  27. how do the women (actors) in this film feel about this film? apparently they find it ok to get paid to exploit their own kind and culture and reputation. hmmm makes me wonder.

    it only offends when there is some truth behind it. i don’t agree that the film is ok but i have seen other films in which white , indian or any other culture is also scrutinized ..

    IT IS A MOVIE !! DUH!!!

    get over it. watch it. don’t watch it. black people keep themselves victimized.

    years ago we cudn’t even see a black woman titties fly to the moon and back. be proud u can today. hmpf.

    • Dear Ashanta,

      It’s unfortunate that you think it’s only a movie. I’m not sure you took the time to read everything I wrote.

      In response, I would recommend that you read Mis-education of the Negro, by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, if you haven’t already.

      Nevertheless, thank you for reading and responding.

      In Light,

    • Dear Ashante

      “years ago we cudn’t even see a black woman titties fly to the moon and back. be proud u can today.”

      Josephine Baker anyone?

      Furthermore, the opinion of the actresses is relevant, but not necessarily authoritative on whether the fruit of their labour is damaging or not in the broader context of prejudism in the Netherlands. It is like asking a porn actrice whether prostitution should be legal…I mean she might have a well informed opinion, but would you bet your money on it?

  28. Thank you very much for this informative article, I have read about the Zwarte Piet bull but I cant believe this racist movie is being shown in theaters and black people are not protesting. How would a black women feel being among the audience of what I imagine is a mostly white crowd? I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must have felt walking out of that theater with a mostly white audience. One can only imagine what they must have thought of you or any other black women after watching such a movie. Its extremely inhumane to degrade a group of people like this. I thank you very much for writing such an informative article, I hope many black people will read this and be informed. I think there needs to be an international action taken against Zwarte Piet. Holland is such a racist country. We cant forget apartheid in South Africa that was created by the dutch people.


    How would you feel if we make santa black and his helpers white?

    “Kwanzaa: some people feel this is a racist holiday because of exclusion”

    exclusion??? because we choose to celebrate our culture? You are an Idiot STFU Dummy!

  29. Most has already been said, but I just want to say the following. I have read the book, which is not an autobiography, but a work of fiction with elements of the writers’ life. It’s his fantasy. The lead character even states in the book that his image of his idea of the ideal black woman doesn’t exist. He wants ‘the ghetto-ass big booty woman, who’s intelligent and has depth’.
    What he then basically does is try to find her in all the wrong places (every nation has those). That place being the Bijlmer circa 15-20 years ago where some of these things actually happened. Mind you, the Bijlmer is a large neighborhood, where a small portion of the black community resides, and therefore is not a representation of that community. The Bijlmer since then has been renovated intensely, and has become a family friendly environment. Not yet perfect, but most definitely improved and is very much evolving.
    As I said most of the black community is widespread over the country, and do not identify with the characters played other than them being black. And that might sound a bit weird, but I do think color doesn’t define us. I think its your culture, your upbringing, your education, your experiences. Don’t get me wrong, Its not perfect here, but black people in Holland, especially from Surinamese decent are one of the most successful minorities in the Netherlands.
    About the movie. Let me first say that it is NOT a documentary, but a fictional movie. And should be treated as such. It would change my perspective on it 180 degrees if it were. And that is exactly why, and I can only speak for myself, I feel absolutely no need to revolt against this film. Why should I revolt against someone’s fantasy? I’d be a very busy woman then.
    The movie is an exaggeration of reality of a small part of the black community back then. Mind you, It’s satire, a very common form of comedy here. There are plentiful movies, plays, tv-shows etcetera in which the white community is portrayed satirically. Doesn’t the black community make jokes about their own and other cultures? Why can’t another culture, do the same? Why is it offensive then? Ask yourself this: If the lead character was black, and the movie was made by an all black crew, would you still be as appalled? And please keep in mind the following when doing so: Friday, Next Friday, Friday after Next, any movie the Marlon brothers make, Tyler Perry….. I think you know what I’m getting at. And these too, are available to other cultures to see, and they more than confirm stereotypes.
    I don’t identify with the characters, because that’s just not my reality. My culture, other than the Dutch culture, is the Surinamese culture. The culture I know and love is in no way close to what is portrayed in the movie, or the book. It is a proud, beautiful culture that has spawned many successful children in Surinam, The Netherlands, and world-wide.
    I live in the Netherlands, and I am proud to do so. It is a country where, you can be successful if you want it, work hard for it, and take accountability for your actions, and hiding behind your color is just not accepted. Yes there are still some uncivilized area’s that are not that open-minded yet, but everything takes time. But the majority of the white dutch community is very accepting, and yes sometimes I roll my eyes when someone thinks a stereotype is reality. But I’m happy I’m there to explain it. And yes, some ask a lot of stupid questions, but I’m glad they’re being asked. It’s an effort.
    Most of the people I know have the same reaction: It’s not a big deal. And I really have to agree with them. Djeez, it’s just a movie.

    • Thank you for your comments Marilyn. Despite the fact that I find several of the things you mention and your sentiment problematic, I am appreciative of the fact that you shared your view in the manner in which you did.

      I wish it were only as simple as “Djeez, it’s just a movie.” But it’s not.

      Also, please note, that I did in fact, attempt to address the fact that many people of Surinamese descent, do not identify with the characters because of socio-economic class differences or other facts. However, that does not absolve the film from its racist and sexist and degrading images, when viewed in totality within a historical framework.

      Nevertheless, thanks again for contributing to the conversations.


  30. I’ve mostly found the Dutch idea of tolerance abhorrent, in my experience it’s a case of barely tolerating or tacit consent of immigrants. Third and fourth generation immigrants are still considered as originating from another country – and are called allochtoon.

    The movie, from what I’ve read here, is typical in the debasement of women in Dutch cinema, and I’m sure is considered to contain titillating nudity, hence the PG12 rating.

    An interesting fact about the police brutality against the Zwarte Piet protestors was that it came on the same day that a judge outlawed wearing 1312 t-shirts, 1312 being the acronym ACAB or All Cops Are Bastards. I found it so stunning I photographed the pages in the newspaper.

    Irony is a bitch. #dutch

  31. The film is filling up the theatre in Suriname in South America and people laugh their heads off at the black women’s plight. So much for resistance against the racist depiction of women in the Netherlands and in the Republic of Suriname. I must confirm that Dutch racism is so effective that both Black , colored and white Dutch people are not even aware of its impact on their everyday lives. The lack of resistance and the lack of organization is not accidental and it should not be forgotten that Dutch slavery and slavetrade were at the basis of modern Dutch economic progress. This fact is to this day denied by most Dutch people and unknown to most young black and colored inhabitants of the Dutch Kingdom. The wealth of the Dutch Royal family is deeply entrenched in the money earned with transatlantic slavetrade and slavery. Most Dutch think they are not racist because they have never accepted a different depiction of their history. Every Jew in the Netherlands knows how racist the Dutch people are but prefers to deny the element of Jewish slave plantations in Dutch history because there the racist is a Jewish plantation owner exploiting Africans and Indigenous peoples of Africa and America and creating vast fortunes which today can be traced to the political families in charge of the Dutch Kingdom.
    I am translating the article into Dutch and have linked it to my facebook page.

  32. Thank you for the pointedness, bravery, and analytical precision of your gaze and this piece Shantrelle!

    White Europe needs to confront the fact that although immigration may be recent, these beliefs have been their for centuries and have affected the way Europeans “showed up” and set up colonial states (The Dutch earlier than most). Much of the world we see today is an effect of those policies. There would be no recent immigration without the devastation created by colonialism. I know you know ll this. I just felt like saying it as a person who, having lived 15 years in Europe and a little more than that in the USA, is extremely aware of the European version of racism. Though Europe has rarely resorted to legal segregation, there has still been plenty of harm done that we must take responsibility for.

    Thank you. Keep up the great work!

  33. I’m glad someone is FINALLY speaking out against this madness !! White people over here in The Netherlands have been treating us like this for years and the sad part is they don’t even seem to regret it.. they LOVE to bully colored people they think its funny to call black people monkey or stupid nigger they’ll even say stuff like why are you so dark skinned did someone take a shit on you -_-
    I’ve tried to stand up to this bullshit a couple times but 9 times outta 10 they just laugh at me or ignore me ):

  34. Thank you for the education! Thank you so much, had never heard of this before and I could hardly read your descriptions of this film (ahem trash), I can only imagine watching it. Horrible on so many levels. Thank you again for educating.

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  36. Pingback: New Herb and Lace Post: Black Heritage in Amsterdam | Cyborg Geographer

      • Saw in the newspaper in Suriname that you visited Suriname recently. I wonder if you would have changed anything oin your article about Dutch racism after your visit to Paramaribo?

      • Hi Martha. Sorry for the delayed response. No, my views haven’t changed. I just have more clarity. The Dutch Caribbean in physical form is completely different from the Netherlands. Also, each country is also totally different from the other. My trip did help me to have a fuller understanding of the Dutch Caribbean community situated in the Netherlands, however and for that, I’m grateful. I still believe that Dutch racism is alive and well (as can be evidenced by this year’s Zwarte Piet debates).

  37. Pingback: The Delicious Pleasures of Racism | Processed Life

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