Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oprah Winfrey: "Do they have black people in Holland?"

Oprah Winfrey didn’t know that there are black people in the Netherlands.

In April this year two Dutch black women (Astrid and Ivy) were the lucky fans in the studio audience for the Oprah Winfrey Show. Because one of them had turned 40-years old they had send postcards and letters asking if they could meet Oprah and visit the studio,

Their dream came true and they actually met Oprah in person. When Oprah asked, “where are you from”, the two ladies replied, “from Holland!” Then Oprah replied, "Do they have black people in Holland?"

In august the two (Surinamese) ladies appeared in a popular Dutch TV show to tell their story. See video.

And yes, there are almost 400.000 black people in Holland with roots in the Caribbean and Africa.

For those who love stats, some numbers of the “black” (Sub-Saharan) community in the Netherlands.

Surinamese - 162.000 (An unofficial estimate is that 48% of the total Surinamese community in the Netherlands is Creole/Black/Mixed)
Antilleans almost - 130.000 (most of them from Curacao)
Cape Verdeans more then - 20.000
Somali - 25.000
Ghanaians - 16.000
Ethiopians - 10.948
Angolans - 12.281
Congolese - 8.490
Sudanese - 7.626
Nigerians - 7.298

Surinamese people are from the former Dutch colony of Surinam and Antilleans are from the Dutch islands of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

And by the way, Oprah is not the only one.


  1. Why did you write black (Sub -Saharan) when Black people are from all over in Holland? Is that how Black people are classified? And what does that stupid guy mean when he says I have 'Afro American children black as hell'? He's displaying his own ignorance and prejudice. I don't think Oprah was really being serious, she could have been just messing around with them. Maybe it's not often you meet Black people from Holland in the US so she was kinda saying in a surprised way. Oprah knows enough about the world and I'm sure she's even been there. Pity that the host of the show thinks adopting black kids makes it okay to say stupid stuff, worse still that the audience laughed - there may be Black people in Holland but there's still alot of ignorance and racism.

  2. KonWomyn thanks for comments. Sub-Saharan, you're right. But how do you define "black". People from Morocco are Africans, but do you call them "black" people. Most of the Moroccans in Europe are Berbers. In The Netherlands they are not regarded as “black”, but they are more regarded as Arabic (although they are not).

    And yes, that stupid guy you are referring is even more controversial. I didn't want to mention him in my post because it was irrelevant. But since you asked.

    This Guy, Paul de Leeuw, "adopted" two African-American boys in 2002. He had trick the law because he and his partner are homosexual. The whole adoption generated a lot of media attention in the Netherlands.

    A lot of black people, including me, protested against adoption. I won't go into detail, but he made it look as if he had adopted a black kid of one of the poorest communities in the world. He showed no respect towards African-Americans. Some Surinamese people even asked him to hand over the children to our black community. We wanted to save them.

    Years ago he said in an interview about his children: "if they turn into criminals, it’s not because of me."

    Although it’s typical Dutch to make rude and controversial statements, especially in Amsterdam, Paul de Leeuw’s statements are sometimes more then controversial.

    And Oprah, well I don’t know. The two woman who spoke to her are real Oprah fans.

  3. Paul De Leeuw (host of this show) is indeed very controversial, and it's true that Dutch humor is mostly dark and totally incorrect (Hans Teeuwen is the superlative of it).

    You may like this kind of humor or you may not, but you have to put Paul De Leeuw in this context. He made it his trademark to shock everybody whether black, Dutch, gay, women, men, Jew, Arab, Muslim, fascist, communist ... he takes nothing seriously.

    His adopting of two African American kids and the comments he makes on it, shows that he takes this attitude to its uttermost logic. He lives an unconformist life of bitter jokes and rancid humor. He not only is a controversial tv-host, his whole life is controversial as such (You may think that his life looks more like a political incorrect Benny Hill kind of act).

    This way of life is a way to gain a certain respect in a Dutch society that took its tolerance so far as to become totally intolerant and for some immoral.

    In Holland it seems that in name of tolerance, free speech and open-mindedness today anything painful can be said with total impunity. It is even respected and promoted. What the social consequences of this attitude are, only the future will tell. But it is interesting to think about the roots of this attitude and to analyze this phenomenon taking in account the history of free thought, free speech and tolerance and to what it leads in current Dutch society. Or am I taking my logic too far?

  4. No Sibo, you’re right. An American journalist once said that Holland has lost a bit of its civilisation.

    It’s sometimes sad to see respected politicians say words as f***ing Morrocans, just to show the public that they are aware of the racial issues in the cities.

  5. Thanks for the responses.

    I can never understand why people go to another country to adopt children when there are many children in need in their own countries. It's unacceptable that he talks about Black people in that way - what kind of self-image will those kids grow up with? I'm glad you protested, I wish he had given back the kids.

    I think there is a difference between being shocking and being offensive and considering how much ignorance there is in Europe, it's easy to cross the line between the two. For a public figure to joke like that sends out a message that it's okay to speak like that about Black people. It perpetuates prejudice, especially when politicians can go around swearing Moroccans.

    I don't think you can have freedom of speech without responsibility neither can you can have one-way tolerance, if a country is supposed to be open and fair. I think it's right to take a historical view then you can see how the myth that Holland is an open and progressive society has been created. It's history is one of violence and struggle - just like every other society. The Dutch like many other European countries are yet to fully come to terms with the past. Many want to move beyond the race issue but you can't do this without accounting for the past and acknowledging the implications of your freedom of speech for Blacks.

    As for Oprah, I really think she was joking, she has knowledge of world history and Ayaan Hirsi Ali was talked about on the Oprah book club and even though she is Somali, she lived in Holland.

  6. KonWomyn, it’s interesting you mention Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Because she is one of the persons who stretched the limits of freedom of speech in The Netherlands.

    As for Oprah, I'm beginning to agree with you.

  7. This is a great article about Blacks living in the Netherlands and why not, the Dutch live in Africa and the Caribbean. As an African American it was always a family rumor of Dutch, among other things, even the legendary "DAVY CROCKETT", in our family tree. has now confirmed some of those rumors. I've actually met and corresponded with relations, many of them " White ", who, though we haven't personally been able yet to connect the dots, have nonetheless excepted me as a relative. Well..." relatively speaking "! Problem is, where Whites usually have all their documents in order, all the way back to the way back, Blacks either never had documentation or it was lost in space. We just have good ole DNA and " MAURY POVICH " to prove that " YEP, YOU BE KIN, ALL RIGHT "! Ha! Ha! CHIPPER / FRISKY!


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