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Terez
08-14-2015, 03:24 PM
Article in the Washington Post about a Dutch review of Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2015/08/13/dutch-newspaper-uses-n-word-in-headline-of-review-of-ta-nehisi-coatess-new-book/

I first came across this story in Vox and they did a terrible job of providing context. There was no mention of Zwarte Piet, the fact that the headline was a quote from a book, the diluted impact of foreign slurs, etc. So my first reaction was to criticize Vox for framing the story in American terms.

The Post article does a much better job digging into the detail, though there is no translation of the actual article or indeed any quotes from it.

We discussed the nature of racism in the Netherlands fairly recently, and there were a few points in this piece that went beyond the discussion we had here, like this one:

Chad Bilyeu, an African American photographer who has been living in Amsterdam for six years, says he wasn’t surprised by the NRC article, and in general, is no longer shocked by blatant racism in mainstream Dutch media because of the lack of diversity among the Dutch professional class.
“I’ve worked in a high skilled position in the Netherlands and the level of integration is pitifully low. You’re working at [places like] NRC and you don’t have black colleagues. There aren’t any Turkish people. There aren’t any Moroccans. You have a very small community that’s usually overlooked by the status quo. There’s no Dutch Ta-Nehisi Coates. There’s no Dutch Neil Degrasse Tyson, There’s no Dutch Cornel West. If they do exist, they are marginalized and their voices are not taken seriously. There’s no editor who’s gonna say, hey, maybe we shouldn’t use n—– in the title.”
And this one:

A 2013 report (https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/equality-under-pressure-the-impact-of-ethnic-profiling-netherlands-20131128_1.pdf) by Amnesty International Netherlands and the Open Society Justice Initiative found that visible ethnic minorities were more likely than white Dutch to be stopped and searched by Dutch police. The publication of NRC’s piece came shortly after massive protests in (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/03/the-hague-arrests-protest-death-police-custody-mitch-henriquez) the Hague over the death of Aruban tourist Mitch Henriquez after he was put in a choke-hold by Dutch police officers.

And the conclusion:

With all that being said, it’s unfortunate, but perhaps no surprise that the themes of Coates’s book about the desecration of black bodies and whites’ simultaneous denial about racism were lost in translation with the Dutch editors at NRC. On the theme of committing racist acts while “escaping all sanction,” Coates quotes Aleksandr Solzenitsyn; “To do evil, a human being must first of all believe that what he is doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act …” By using the fully violent n-word in English, instead of Dutch, the editors felt they were escaping sanction, protecting Dutch readers from the realities of racism and discrimination in their own country while shaking their heads at the plight of blacks in the United States. Perhaps they thought they were doing good, or that using blackface was well thought out. But by reinforcing the dehumanization of blacks, they did all of us, Dutch or non-Dutch, a disservice.

GonzoTheGreat
08-15-2015, 04:02 AM
Zwarte Piet is black because of the soot of the chimneys he passes through in order to bring presents. I know that some people don't understand that doing a physical job can make one somewhat dirty, but I do not think their failure to understand proves racism in those who do have the wits to know the truth.
The death of Henriquez was probably not a result of racism at all, just of a misunderstanding followed by police overreaction. Which was then naturally followed by lies from the police officers who killed him; but that isn't a new nor a particularly Dutch phenomenon either.

On the other hand, there is undoubtedly racism in the Netherlands, just as it exists virtually everywhere else too. I'm not sure where to put the blame for that; maybe on Judaism and its offshoots, but then, there is undeniably racism in China and Japan too, neither of which are particularly Christian countries. India, of course, took it one level better (higher, worse, whatever) with its caste system.

Terez
08-15-2015, 04:06 AM
Zwarte Piet is black because of the soot of the chimneys he passes through in order to bring presents.
Depending on the version of the story, right? I've read that, but I've also read he's black because he is a "Moor".

GonzoTheGreat
08-15-2015, 05:12 AM
Depending on the version of the story, right? I've read that, but I've also read he's black because he is a "Moor".
That is why he is wearing the clothing* he does. The actual Moors could have lots of different colors; some of them were from beyond the Sahara and thus black, but others were descendants of Germanic tribes that had overrun the Roman Empire around the time that Sinterklaas lived, and still others were mixtures of who knows what.

* Which clothing, is, admittedly a 19th century idea of what Turks wear, not something that the Moors actually used. But then, Sinterklaas was Turkish# too, so it sort of makes sense, more or less.

# Greek, actually,or as near as makes no difference, but he lived in what is nowadays Turkey.

Kimon
08-15-2015, 09:15 AM
That is why he is wearing the clothing* he does. The actual Moors could have lots of different colors; some of them were from beyond the Sahara and thus black, but others were descendants of Germanic tribes that had overrun the Roman Empire around the time that Sinterklaas lived, and still others were mixtures of who knows what.


Unless traditional Dutch ideas of what a Moor would look like differed greatly from English, I'd have to imagine that Othello is still the touchstone for contemporary interpretation of what a Moor would look like. Othello tends to be portrayed as black. In any case isn't this all rather beside the point? Zwarte means black. Wouldn't arguing that he's black because of soot just be adding a touch of classism (due to the menial and low caste work) to the racism? How is that better than it just be racist?

On a side note, do the Dutch really associate Sinterklaas with some boring Turk priest? I always preferred the Odin origin (not that it's necessarily anything more than wishful thinking by a bunch of likewise minded lovers of mythology), and liked to think that Santa in all his names was just a clandestine Germanic f**k you to Jesus on his birthday. Which would be fitting considering why the Christians picked to celebrate his birthday then in the first place - Saturnalia.

GonzoTheGreat
08-15-2015, 10:55 AM
With all that being said, it’s unfortunate, but perhaps no surprise that the themes of Coates’s book about the desecration of black bodies and whites’ simultaneous denial about racism were lost in translation with the Dutch editors at NRC.
Maybe Attiah has a different NRC than I have. Mine says (amongst other things:
Een kernbegrip van Coates is plundering. Zwarte lichamen werden geplunderd op de slavenplantages, en tegenwoordig op straat, door de politie.
A key concept of Coates' is pillaging. Black bodies used to be pillaged on the plantations, and now they are pillaged in the streets, by the police.

Zwarte means black. Wouldn't arguing that he's black because of soot just be adding a touch of classism (due to the menial and low caste work) to the racism? How is that better than it just be racist?Well, ZP used to be described as a knecht (servant), so it used to be more than just a touch of classism. That's one of the things they are changing, together with the attempts to explain why Sinterklaas makes landfall a hundred miles or so inland. The latter is usually easier to do, since the little kiddies who are the main target haven't had geography in school, yet.

On a side note, do the Dutch really associate Sinterklaas with some boring Turk priest?Well, most seem to think of him as a Spanish bishop, since Spain is where is supposedly coming from. Precisely why a Turkish Greek (or Greekish Turk, or whatever) would live his final centuries in Spain is never really made clear.

sleepinghour
08-15-2015, 12:46 PM
The NRC review has now been translated into English (http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2015/08/14/no-things-arent-getting-better-for-african-americans/) (with a different headline and without the illustration).

Zombie Sammael
08-15-2015, 09:14 PM
I'm perplexed as to why Americans are so concerned about racism in Holland. Aren't there enough problems in your own backyard?

Terez
08-15-2015, 11:41 PM
I'm perplexed as to why Americans are so concerned about racism in Holland. Aren't there enough problems in your own backyard?
That's an interesting question, considering that the conversation at hand revolves around a Dutch review of three books written by American authors about race in America. Why are the Dutch so concerned about racism in America? Aren't there enough problems in their own back yard?

This article isn't an outlier either; there is quite a lot of Schadenfreude on the internet from the direction of people who live in relatively "liberal" countries regarding our race issues, and I have personally witnessed, for example, surprise from Australians when their prison demographics are compared to ours in the US, or genuine flippancy from Dutch people when it's suggested that Zwarte Piet isn't all that different from the taboo blackface.

Non-Americans love to discuss American politics. There are some non-Americans on the Malazan forum who sometimes seem to know more about American politics than I do, and I pay more attention than most Americans. My dear friend Gonzo loves nothing more than digging up stories that he thinks make America look backwards or fascist or otherwise worthy of his superior critique.

As for the comparison, I think every country is probably unique in this respect. I tend to think that race issues in the US stand out precisely because we have been confronting these issues head-on for so long. Because of the extreme racial diversity following the emancipation of slaves (which itself followed an influx of non-Anglo European immigrants, and was followed by an influx of non-European immigrants) we have had no choice but to confront issues of race, ethnicity, etc.

My general (and generalized) impression of Europe, particularly continental Europe, is that liberalism as a relatively default policy has allowed most countries therein to swim along without confronting issues of race. In some ways it works, but in other ways it allows casual racism to fester undisturbed. Sometimes even blatant racism. It's shockingly common and open in Poland, for example, even among young people and sometimes among academics.

Here's a black voice from the Netherlands (via Malazan):

The n-word is just as bad in English as it is in Dutch.

And we have plenty of racism here too; my stomach turns whenever the Zwarte Piet conversation comes up because I know black people will be told to "go back where they came from"(so...like the Dutch hospitals they were born in?) that they "whine" and are "apes" and such shit. I've literally had white people I didn't know come up to me to ask me how I felt about the issue, even though their expressions showed they already thought they knew how I felt. And come December, people will make racist Zwarte Piet jokes towards black people (AND CHILDREN) again, all in the name of "good fun" and "it's just a joke." And if your feelings are hurt, you're being sensitive and petty.

Luckily, my family doesn't celebrate it and none of the kids in my family are in elementary school (because they are forced to celebrate it in school), and we've been more into the whole Santa and Christmas thing anyways, but at the beginning of December, I'm just waiting for Sinterklaas to be finished, so we can get into the Christmas spirit.
So, since everyone is so fascinated with American racism, I don't see why we can't all have this conversation together.

Terez
08-16-2015, 12:04 AM
The NRC review has now been translated into English (http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2015/08/14/no-things-arent-getting-better-for-african-americans/) (with a different headline and without the illustration).
Thanks for that. I finally got around to reading the whole thing. Some bits are hilarious, like this one:

Coates wrote a book for his son, although he explains so much that it seems to be mainly intended for white readers. Loving Day also seems to have been written with white readers in mind. This is not the case with The Sellout by Paul Beatty. It teems with references to black culture, and the novel is difficult to follow for a reader who doesn’t immediately know who Buckwheat from Little Rascals is, or George Washington Carver.
Literally everyone in America knows about Buckwheat and George Washington Carver. Another gem:

The New York Times reviewer noted with regret that he could hardly use any direct quotes from The Sellout because of the frequent use of the N-word, code for: whites may not use the word “nigger.”

And finally:

The Sellout can be read as a hard critique of both progressive and black America. Both groups have allowed themselves to become complacent during decades of lack of progress.

GonzoTheGreat
08-16-2015, 04:04 AM
I would sort of answer the Malazan poster that Terez quotes in post #9 as follows:
Don't blame Zwarte Piet, blame the stupid racists. If you were to manage to get rid of Zwarte Piet, that would still leave those racists their racism, so you would not have gained a thing. If, on the other hand, you manage to make the racists shut up (making them come to their senses is too much to hope for), then all that is left is Zwarte Piet, who originally didn't have anything to do with black humans but got linked to them by 19th century racists and historical ignorance.

Zwarte Piet is just a variation on the demonic slaves that accompany Saint Nicolas in many countries in many different forms. Even the elves which serve Santa Claus are just another variation of this, and I've never heard any American anti-racists protest that slavery.

Terez
08-16-2015, 04:12 AM
I would sort of answer the Malazan poster that Terez quotes in post #9 as follows:
Don't blame Zwarte Piet, blame the stupid racists.
I'm pretty sure she does. But it's not as if she can separate the two. From her most recent post:

...before slavery, Zwarte Piet, used to be called Piet and was white. After slavery ended, suddenly it was a black caricature in a page costume. Who was very athletic and very dumb. They are smarter now (practically running the show while Sinterklaas is just an old man with a horse and a book full of names), but there was a time where they made jungle sounds while they visited school. Or spoke with stereotypical accents of Surinamese or Antillian people, while acting stupid. That's not something black and brown people want to be be associated with. But they were and they are. I can't count the times when kids and teachers during gym class when we had to get our Zwarte Piet diploma (just a stupid piece of paper) insinuated I'd ace the physical tests because of the colour of my skin. Or when the Zwarte Pieten would come to school and kids would snigger and tell me my family had arrived. Kids point at other kids, or adults, and call them Zwarte Piet in their ignorance on the street, and their parents just smile sheepishly while you are being humiliated, instead of telling their kids that just because they have coloured skin, doesn't mean they are Zwarte Piet.

Sure he gives out candy and presents, but that's not worth it. I'll take the magic of Santa over the racially charged Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet any day.

Zwarte Piet is just a variation on the demonic slaves that accompany Saint Nicolas in many countries in many different forms. Even the elves which serve Santa Claus are just another variation of this, and I've never heard any American anti-racists protest that slavery.
J.K. Rowling did it for us.

yks 6nnetu hing
08-18-2015, 02:30 AM
I would sort of answer the Malazan poster that Terez quotes in post #9 as follows:
Don't blame Zwarte Piet, blame the stupid racists. If you were to manage to get rid of Zwarte Piet, that would still leave those racists their racism, so you would not have gained a thing. If, on the other hand, you manage to make the racists shut up (making them come to their senses is too much to hope for), then all that is left is Zwarte Piet, who originally didn't have anything to do with black humans but got linked to them by 19th century racists and historical ignorance.

Zwarte Piet is just a variation on the demonic slaves that accompany Saint Nicolas in many countries in many different forms. Even the elves which serve Santa Claus are just another variation of this, and I've never heard any American anti-racists protest that slavery.

on another note, having lived here for 8,5 years now... And sure, there are incredibly racist people around. But then, the racists honestly don't differentiate between "the Moroccans", "the Surinamese", "the Poles" or any other non-Dutch. FYI, I get lumped in with the Poles. the times I get looked at in astonishment "and you actually have a JOB??? And it's not cleaning???" But compared to where I come from, it is like being let out into the sunshine. I may have mentioned before, but back home, there's a huge reluctance to let go of the word "neeger" and instead use another word. Obviously, because the word for black ("must") has a second meaning - "dirty" or sometimes when talking about work "illegal, under the table" - you can't really use *that* word either... and so you're left with either a very archaic option or having to invent a new word; and honestly, at the end of the day, getting rid of the word does not get rid of the sentiment.

Interesting tidbit, before the 17/18th century, most slaves were white. Actually, the word slave comes from the word Slav; because the predominant majority of slaves were Slavic. My ancestors as little as 150 years ago were slaves, they were owned by other white people (Germans). But, because I *look* white, that obviously can't be true, or at least, it should never be talked about because that would cause as much of a furor in the darker-skinned community as mentioning that hey, by the way, certain African tribes had their own slaves and sold them to the white people; or made a living off capturing people in Africa for the sole purpose of selling them off.

No, the narrative is very dogmatic at right now: whites oppress blacks and always have done.

Terez
08-18-2015, 02:49 AM
Interesting tidbit, before the 17/18th century, most slaves were white.
[...] ...hey, by the way, certain African tribes had their own slaves and sold them to the white people; or made a living off capturing people in Africa for the sole purpose of selling them off.
Literally every white person in the old Confederacy knows these things. :D And every black person for that matter... (In other words, these are very old slavery apologist arguments.)

Obviously life is different over there, to whatever extent, but here those arguments do not amount to much because people of (relatively recent) African descent are so recognizable, and our society has been relentless in making sure descendants of African slaves continue to bear the burden of the lowest social caste, while descendants of white slaves are allowed to assimilate and reap the benefits of the higher castes. Whatever certain people did in Africa was a long time ago and has little bearing on our current society; those people are not oppressing African-Americans now.

GonzoTheGreat
08-18-2015, 03:01 AM
Which seems to mean that societies are at least somewhat different from each other. But if true, then being indignant about something in another society based on association with a prejudice in your own may not be entirely justified.

As Yks says, there is definitely racism in the Netherlands. But we exported most of that (trade is more important to the Dutch than bigotry). As you may know, one of the Dutch words that made it into almost all languages across the globe is "Apartheid". Which, in turn, could give you a clue as to where most of Dutch racism ended up.

yks 6nnetu hing
08-18-2015, 03:15 AM
Literally every white person in the old Confederacy knows these things. :D And every black person for that matter... (In other words, these are very old slavery apologist arguments.)

Obviously life is different over there, to whatever extent, but here those arguments do not amount to much because people of (relatively recent) African descent are so recognizable, and our society has been relentless in making sure descendants of African slaves continue to bear the burden of the lowest social caste, while descendants of white slaves are allowed to assimilate and reap the benefits of the higher castes. Whatever certain people did in Africa was a long time ago and has little bearing on our current society; those people are not oppressing African-Americans now.

I am aware of this. My point is, that I am not allowed to talk about the pain of my people because this -apparently - trivializes the pain of other people.

Terez
08-18-2015, 03:24 AM
Which seems to mean that societies are at least somewhat different from each other. But if true, then being indignant about something in another society based on association with a prejudice in your own may not be entirely justified.

As Yks says, there is definitely racism in the Netherlands. But we exported most of that (trade is more important to the Dutch than bigotry). As you may know, one of the Dutch words that made it into almost all languages across the globe is "Apartheid". Which, in turn, could give you a clue as to where most of Dutch racism ended up.
I'm not judging anything in your society based on the U.S. at all. I have given Dutch people the benefit of the doubt in previous Zwarte Piet discussions, despite a certain skepticism, because there were no Dutch people of color to give another side of the story. The combination of the Post article, the Malazan poster (along with a few others I didn't quote) and bits in this thread have given us a little more context.

The defensive exportation arguments kind of miss the point. The Dutch who colonized South Africa were probably not all that different from the ones who stayed home. They merely had a black majority to deal with, which required extreme measures. Minorities are much easier to marginalize.

GonzoTheGreat
08-18-2015, 05:23 AM
Well, the colonists in South Africa were different from the ones who stayed at home at least in the fact that they were more religiously uniform. They were mostly one specific type of Protestants, which of course increased their "we are special" feeling. Back home, in the Netherlands, they'd been special too, of course, but there they had had to deal with dozens of equal groups that were "just as special". One of the reasons why the Netherlands has such a compromise based political system is that there are no real majorities; all we have are minorities who know they need to cooperate with the heretics (everyone else, basically), because that's the only way of keeping dry feet. In South Africa, keeping the sea at bay wasn't an issue, so there they could focus on being bigots (which is what humans prefer to do, of course, given the opportunity).

Nazbaque
08-18-2015, 07:17 AM
Since we got onto the religious topic, isn't it weird how christians of any branch are so intolerant. I mean the guy begged god to forgive the people torturing him. How much more tolerant can you get? But people only care about arguing over him being the son of god. Personally I have respect for him as a philosopher and firmly believe that he would have been a lot more pleased if people had followed his teachings instead of what they have been doing in his name for the past two millenia.

GonzoTheGreat
08-18-2015, 10:58 AM
Tolerant religions don't spread nearly as well as intolerant ones.
Which isn't a very nice thought, I admit, but it does seem to be true.