Originally published at The Huffington Post
If you ask the average Dutch person what they think about racism in the Netherlands, the usual answer is “We have no problem here!”. In Amsterdam where I’ve been living since 2015 over 150 different cultures reside together, rather harmonically. In Amsterdam the immigrant Turkish, Suriname, Antilles, Moroccans and Indonesians make up the largest communities living side-by-side with the white Dutch.
The immigrants settled as citizens after coming over for labour many years ago. Everybody shares markets, food, entertainment and some Suriname slang is so integrated into society that the street word “Fakaa” has become the modern equivalent of the Dutch “What’s up”. Roti roll, which is natively Hindu-Suriname is the most popular dish in all take-out shops across the Netherlands and most small scale stores are run by the Turks or Moroccans. ‘Snodders’ are famous illegal cabs run by the minority communities. Inter-racial relationships are common.
The Dutch system exemplifies ‘closet racism’. It is discreet almost unnoticeable. However, if you consider how hard it is to get a job if you are a young minority, or flagrant signs of discrimination by the police, it is no surprise that minorities who feel stereotyped act out the epitome of the stereotype. Statistics tell us that 40% of Moroccan males in the Netherlands between the ages of 12 and 24 have been arrested, fined or charged. Consider if little Moroccan boys weren’t treated like criminals from a young age, would this statistic still be true?
Even though immigrants make up a small portion of the country’s population (Morrocans are only 2% and most of them second generation) they are still targeted in ferocious xenophobic campaigns which resembles the confederates of the U.S. not to mention subtle hints of ignorant bigotry in the everyday fabric of the culture.
You cannot escape race in the Netherlands. Divides remain as people refuse to accept the small doses of discrimination still going on.
I sat down with Adam Nassom, an information science student to discuss what it’s like settling down as diaspora and how he deals with stereotyping and tacit racism.
MN: You say that racism is hidden in the Netherlands, it’s not always apparent because it’s under the covers. What does that mean?
AN: Yes, well nobody thinks that we have major racism issues here in the Netherlands because immigrant communities live side-by-side, but as we know from Franz Fanon, racism is also underhanded and more of a mental state. Young Moroccan boys tend to fail more often at school or go into crime in higher rates because they feel that that is their worth. If society throws you under the bus and labels you before you are even born, your mental state is geared towards expecting racism, and in some ways, accepting racism.
MN: What exactly do you you mean by “accepting racism”?
AN: I am constantly looked at as below the white-Dutch. Even though I was born in the Netherlands, me and my hardworking family are often stereotyped as lower-class citizens by some people. I am treated like an uneducated germ, a parasite and it would make a lot of racists happier if I wasn’t “infecting” this country. Moroccans are on the rung of the ladder in Amsterdam.
What you have to understand is that if I apply to job with my surname, I am more likely to get turned down. I am declined from some clubs who literally have a “no Moroccan” policy. People always hold on to their bags a little tighter if they have to walk past me or black guy in a dark alley.
Years on from multicultural initiatives enacted by the government, the old stereotypes of Moroccans as welfare-thieves, illiterate, wife-beaters and drug dealers still exist. The Dutch will talk for hours about how do they are colourblind and do not see race, but ask one politician if they would let their daughter date a Moroccan man and see their answer.
We like to pretend that everything is a liberal heaven in the Netherlands, but try being a visibly looking Moroccan man in Dutch-society. In a sick way, I just have to accept the racism here and live with it.
Racism does not go away if you ignore it. It is said that you can learn a lot about a country from how it treats it’s minorities and although immigrants are almost non-existent outside of Amsterdam, the country has not overcome racism and its societal, political and legal issues reflect this.