I am tired. For people that think “Ow this doesn’t happen here, Racism doesn’t exist in the Netherlands ”. I am tired of you. Of you closing your eyes for the injustice that is happening in your backyard.
We see these horrific images coming from the US, and Dutch people, happily and even proudly are reporting it like we are so much better here. We might not see this extreme racist violence happening here often, but when we do see it (Jerry Afriyie, Mitch Henriquez), we react the same way an abundance of white Americans react when they see a cop killing black men. “Do you know the full story?” “Did you know he skipped school once in high school?” “He tried to steal a cigarette, so…” “Why did he resist if he didn’t do anything?” Yet, we are so outraged when we see George Floyd being choked to death. How are we so quick to condemn others, in this case the US for their blatant racism, but have such a hard time to see our own? I am tired.
Get off your fucking high horse and start looking around. The Netherlands is not blameless or perfect. We do not live in a perfect society where marginalized people can live in peace. Yes, our experience differs from the US. Yes it might not seem as aggressive as it is here. But that is where you are wrong.
‘Tolerance’ is actually disgusting
The Netherlands’ mission statement when it comes to immigrants or POC is Tolerance. The definition: showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. I have always hated the word as a child, but could never say why. It just made me feel uncomfortable. Now I know why. Read that again: “showing willingness, to allow. You know what that sounds like? That in any moment or given time you can take that privilege away, that in actuality immigrants have been granted this beautiful gift to live here, but the moment they do anything wrong, behave differently or have an opinion that goes against the norm, your Dutchness is revoked. We promote tolerance like POC are second grade citizens that need to be happy that they got the chance to be here. That’s not something to be proud of. That’s disgusting. And here lies the problem.
An open wound that never gets healed
Over the generations Dutch people have been promoting tolerance, we say “That doesn’t happen here, we are super tolerant.” This is harmful and dismissive to many of us POC that do experience racially provoked violence in the Netherlands. Many of us have been emotionally abused by kids and parents alike from a young age. Saying you are tolerant is discrediting our experience, stripping us from the power of feeling pain. It makes us question every emotion we feel and almost always putting it aside like it is nothing. We learn how to not react, but to ignore. Even our parents start to repeat that same mantra. POC parents teach their kids to be the bigger person, to not react, to let it go. The psychological effect is massive. Because we do absorb the negativity, we absorb and store it and every single time we hear something like “You are pretty for a black girl” “Your skin looks like poop” or “Hey N*ger” we are reminded of those 1.000.000 times we have heard that before. It is an open wound that never gets healed. It is death by a million goddamn cuts. Imagine dragging all that garbage with you in the back of your mind, it’s draining.
Imagine finally being fed up dragging these shit storms within you and deciding to look for someone to help you, to believe you. Finally having the courage to walk up to your teacher, friend or colleague, and then have them say: “It’s just a joke, get over it.”
And I am tired. I don’t want to hold on to this shit, I want you to acknowledge my pain. I want you to hear me when I say: this shit is racist, derogative and wrong. I want you to listen when I say I am not ok. Please, for my mental health, I need you to listen…
Devastated, scared and humiliated
But that is the thing, you don’t listen. I remember the first and last time I went to a police station thinking they would help me. I was there to report a crime. I didn’t want to go, but I was convinced to take a stand and so I did. I was 12, maybe 13. In shock, because a few hours before I was attacked by a bus full of people, who had been haunting me all my life. And no this was not just kids being kids, I was dragged out of the bus and hit several times. I was kicked, dragged and kicked again, by people who said that they were nazi’s. Before this incident, I had stones and bottles thrown at me when going to parties. I couldn’t walk to certain parts of town, because I feared for my life. Imagine a 13 year old not feeling safe to walk to school. The final straw came when a group of friends decided to take things into their own hands and threaten these so called nazi’s. It backfired. I was to blame and I got punished. So when they finally let me go, I ran. At home I was met with the same surprise and questions by my neighbors. “How, here in the Netherlands? We need to report them.” So i did. You know what happened? Nothing. They didn’t listen. They gave me a copy of the police report and said we’ll look into it. Devastated, scared and humiliated, I returned home. I had been dismissed, my experience had been dismissed, my pain had been dismissed. The next day, I stepped on that bus, with all my tormentors in that same bus. I walked in and literally faced my fears. And I did that for 3 more years. No one got punished, and soon after that incident I was one of those millions you now have forgotten about.
Netherlands do better
I still have that police report. It reminds me of injustice here in my own country. Here, we tend to omit history. We tend to say: racism or slavery was ages ago, stop talking about it. We dismiss. If you systematically erase POC history from your books, you erase our existence. You make it easy for your society to do the same. To tolerate us, because in your eyes we are the virus that should not even be here. We are the pest that should be glad we survived and get a place in this world. All the while we know the truth, because our parents, grandparents and their parents, didn’t neglect telling their story, their history, how this all came about. If you systemically strip us from being human by denying how we feel, act, dress, and talk. You can’t just say: it is over now, we live in a post racial society, and then hope that people will follow. You have to systematically give us back our dues. Restore history to its truth, teach your society the why of our pain. Tolerance is not enough, it is the easy way out, which is not even meant for us, but for people that look to the Netherlands as a safe haven.
Netherlands do better, Rutte do better, Wilders do better, the media do better. Stop deflecting, stop acting like we are far better than the US. We have our own open wounds to attend to. Stop ignoring them and start repairing them. Because I am tired.
“I am not a victim, what i am is a survivor…” a speech performed by Viola Davis on a TV show, that brought tears to my eyes, because in so many ways, I survived the same. Who I am is a 30 year old woman. I am ambitious, black, sensitive, angry, sad, strong, scared, fierce, talented, tired–and i am at your mercy.
I am not a victim, I am a survivor of my circumstance. But we do not all survive.