Monday, October 8, 2012

African-American blogger Shantology on race and racism in the Netherlands

“You don’t have to drink coffee because you are already Black enough,” said a Dutch maintenance man to visiting black New Orleans native Shantology.  And if that wasn't enough she also sat trough the press screening of the film "Alleen maar nette mensen". After the screening she wrote on Facebook: "I have NEVER, EVER, IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, sat through such a racially charged, full frontal visual assault against Black women."

Although she in The Netherlands for just over a month, she is able write an interesting story on how she is experiencing the multicultural and sometimes racial environment of The Netherlands. Check out her posting “When Things Aren’t So Black and White: Reacting to Race and Racism in the Netherlands”

Some snippets of her post and then her facebook comment on how she experienced the film.

Post: “When Things Aren’t So Black and White: Reacting to Race and Racism in the Netherlands”

Theater artist and arrested Black Pete protester Quinsy Gario in a magazine with horns growing out of his head and a white girl dangling out of his mouth
In less than a month of living in the Netherlands, I’ve learned that nothing here is a matter of black and white. As a new temporary transplant to Amsterdam from New York, I’m in the midst of a very eclectic group of people, whose identities, nationalities, and even individual family trees range from the darkest complexional hues to the whitest. On top of that, I’ve seen more interracial couples (of all backgrounds) than I’ve witnessed ever before in my life. So, for the first time ever, I’ve been situated smack dab in the middle of “multiculturalism.” Literally.

It may be hard to conceive for some, particularly for people outside of the U.S. but until now, I have lived most of my life, and definitely my adult life, in an all-Black environment.

But don’t get it a twisted – multicultural does not mean totally progressive. As blissful as my new experiences have been, there have also been moments where I’ve sat with my mouth agape in reaction to some blatant gesture of racism.

These incidents range from witnessing a Dutch academic refer to Latin Americans as barbarians during a university symposium on multiculturalism (which was actually the least of his offenses) to a maintenance man telling me early one morning that I didn’t need to drink coffee because I was already Black enough.  Huh?

Read the whole story (and the story behind the picture) at

Comment on the film “Alleen maar nette mensen” (she saw the film)

Dear Black Dutch Friends, especially the women I call sisters here: I just left the press preview of Alleen Maar Nette Mensen. This is all I have to say for now (because trust me, I will have more to say later), I dare you to go and see the film and not be offended. Actually, I double dare you. Alleen Maar Nette Mensen is a violent assault on Black women, Dutch Caribbean Culture and the Biljmer at-large.

(Preface: Venting) Dear all other friends from every other part of the Diaspora: I have NEVER, EVER, IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, sat through such a racially charged, full frontal visual assault against Black women. During various times of the film I felt the desire to throw up. At others, I was so appalled, offended and angry that I wanted to leave. But I sat through the entire film just so that I could speak intelligently about it later. In all honesty, it made me want to cry. I feel sorry for the community that is being betrayed/portrayed in this film and every single Black women and girl of Surinamese/Antillean descent who has ever lived in the Biljmer or in the Netherlands, for the atrocious imagery that is being propagated by director Lodewijk Crijns and author Robert Vuijsje.

Opens in Theaters October 11th in the Netherlands...and there will be no protests because apparently people here don't care.

I'm extremely hurt. I wish I could get that 90 minutes of my life back but I can't. Instead, I have to settle for being hurt, disturbed and angry until this moment passes. See facebook page.


I agreed (of course) when she said: “I am not in the position to judge. I recognize the need for Afro-Europeans and in this instance, Black Dutch, to formulate their own resistance identity – one that is grounded in the nuanced experiences of their own realities and not one birthed from the revolutionary movements  and ideologies of Afro-America.”

I wasn’t so happy that she added: “Upon this formulation, it is then our responsibility to validate their perspective and provide a broader platform from which they can be heard and supported, across the Diaspora.” But "our" responsibility?

But as a  black Dutch blogger of Surinamese descent, I love her perspective. I can fully understand why she feels that “we” [in The Netherlands] are a little bit underdeveloped when it comes to protesting against racism, especially compared to the US.  So from her perspective I can understand why she feels that we in The Netherlands are in deep need of assistance and guidance. But as always, things aren’t always as clear as they seem. But I will write a comment about that another time.


  1. I love this! for its perspective on race relations elsewhere. As an African student in the United States -- I came here a little new to the idea of racism. But I have been learning. Now with her response, I respect it and yes, if it was in the US the response would be different. But I wonder, given the difference in history, and racial history, between Europe and the United States -- can we, and should we, expect a similar response to the same stimulus? Is it fair? There is a history of the systematic use of race in the United States to maintain that one group is inferior. Is this the case in the Netherlands? Did the Surinamese community depicted in the movie willingly emigrate to the Netherlands? Once there, are they faced with more institutionalized disadvantages than their white counterparts? If they have access to similar opportunities and what not, is this film then just words of the variety that does not break bones?

    I ask all these questions because I wonder if this is a "When in Rome..." type of situation. I would love to hear more of your opinion and that of other Black Europeans.

    1. Atieno, there was a protest when the book was published. I think people aren't interesed of protesting tired against the film. I forgot to mention this in my comment.

  2. This is exactly what I said earlier today, which Sanza took exception to and it's right of Shantology's blog. This is a quote from a mixed-race black professor and blogger. She talks about how Dutch Africans get on her case when she criticizes Denmark. Is this not what I said about the French population and how, oddly, mixed-race blacks are more proud of being minorities than others? Please read it:

    "Ylva Habel says:
    September 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    My name is Ylva habel, and I’m Assistant Professor of Media and Communications Studes at Södertörn University, Stockholm. I really enjoyed your article! As you probably know already, Black Europeans are in a much, much weaker position than in the US. There is a lot of “white worldmaking” which makes it really hard for us to get a hearing in debates over racism and stereotypes. As I write this, there is a raging debate going on over a stereotypical character in an animated children’s film, called “Little Pink and the Motely Crew” (and yes, the association you are probably making now is correct. See the arguments I’ve posted in my last change of profile image).

    So, what I would like to add, however gently: we are not passive. Rather, we are constantly bashed, if we so much as whisper about this problem. The “stereotype culture” in Sweden, where I’m from, is unbelievably crude. The last year, there has been a constant increas of images, pouring down over us like acid rain. We are devastated, at least meany of us. Others are numb, and some are even insensitive and self-ahating enough to attack me for criticising (yes blacks internally on FB). For the moment, I have finally had a sort of breakthrough in the almost apartheid-like (“unknown” of course) barring of black critics from getting a chance to write about this in the press. The mass of articles whitesplaining to us that racist representations are not at all racist are ubiquitous for the moment.

    Please take a look at the self-representational strategies on the page

    What Quinsy is doing, by the way, seems to be heroic work. Give him my best!

    best wishes,

    Ylva Habel.

    Trailer for Little Pink"

  3. Meant to say Sweden not Denmark above.

    Africans in Sweden don't want her to criticize Swedish society. They are self-haters like she said.

    How can she care more about society and racial discrimination than Africans when she's only 1/2? This is what I'm talking about. And while I agree with Shantology that we can't put our expectations on others overseas, I can't help but shake my head reading about this blogger getting harassed on Facebook by Africans for speaking out.

    What's that about?


    1. Truth2011, why do you care? This is about Africans and you are not African right.
      So don't bother and just tell your white friends you have nothing to do with those animals.

      I hope most Black americans feel the same about Monster Ball, a movie that portrayed a Halle Berry full of...dignity....

      I hope they feel the same about Josephine Baker shaking her naked butt for white men getting well paid for that.

      Just to say this is a Black issue not an African issue.

    2. Ylva Habel here again... I don't quite get the meaning of the anonymous person's reply from 8 October AM. the rhetoric is somewhat confusing. What does "only 1/2" mean? Explain, please! I think the tone is offensive in a way that is totally uncalled for. WHat has enraged you so much? And by, the way, Josephine Baker happens to be one of my research interests, so you can find some articles on the web, if you are interested.

      And dear brave Anonymous... I'm not sure if it is me, you are addressing, but since we do not know each other, I do not think that you can measure how much/little of "Africa" there is in me. And what, by the way, is "Africa". A fantasy of yours? LOL

    3. In an effort to fit in, some people, far more than others, sell their souls to not create ripples in the waters. I've seen first hand people who aren't exactly full-blooded preaching and pushing for pride while the ones who bear the brunt of the hostility (usually immigrants) sit aside and talk about how good things are.

      Recently emancipated slaves actually went back to the plantation owners because the "massa" fed them and looked after them.

      This seems to be more of the same. And, the comments here and on the Shantology blog, echo what I have been saying.

    4. Anonymous/Truth2011 (10:25 PM), because I don't know who is now commenting I am going delete these type comments. This is blog for everyone, but I think that we have reached the point that every new visitor has to deal with your now “anonymous” opinion about "Africans". I am going to leave this response to Ylva Habel (because she asked for it), but the delete button the next time. Because this is going nowhere.

  4. The "white world-making" comment above is dead on. Underlying all of the disagreement in Europe about racism, multiculturalism and what it all means is a fundamental lie: Racism is NOT an American invention. It is a European concept. Racism is not the same thing as tribalism and it is a relatively recent (dating from the European Enlightenment) development in human history. Over the past several decades, Europe has done a fantastic job of whitewashing its own collective history and divesting itself of responsibility for 1) creating racism, 2) wrapping it up in faux science, then 3) disseminating it around the globe through empire, slavery and colonialism. This devaluing and otherizing of non-white peoples is deeply entrenched in European cultures; it didn't just magically disappear post-WWII.

    This devaluation and otherization of nonwhite peoples IS racism. Everything that follows from it is just a symptom.

    What's really sad is how non-white Europeans have been conscripted into participating in and championing their own devaluation as full citizens of Europe. The only people who benefit from pretending racism isn't a problem in Europe is white people who maintain their privilege and power.

  5. Dear AfroEurope,

    I am an Afro-European American. I am someone who has born to Congolese parents in Germany. I have also never set foot on African soil. All I know is the black diaspora. I also lived in Luxembourg and have since lived in the U.S and am a U.S. citizen. I have now spent of my life in the U.S. but I returned almost every 2 years. I also have done two of my internships in Germany in the UK. As someone, who feels exactly like Shantology, I think there is nothing wrong with black Americans imparting their knowledge of organizing, lobbying, and public relations.I interned at a public policy firm that focuses on coalition building and lobbying for progressive issues, and I think such work would serve communities of color well in Europe. Of course it would not need to follow the same format.

    As someone who is politically active in the US and understands the Afro-European dynamics, I think these exchanges and interactions would serve both communities. The actions of the white majority in certain Western European countries in my opinion are just plain old unacceptable. I think collaboration does not hurt what so ever. As long as organizations are empathetic and respectful of each other's histories then I see no problem.

    1. Anonymous, thanks for the comment. Let me start by saying that I have nothing against collaboration. But I presume that you got that impression because of my comment on Shantology’s "our responsibily" comment. Because I know she meant well, I don't want to put to much focus on her comment. But the point I was trying to make is that news on Black issues in Europe is already being published on US Black blogs and websites. But it’s not published because these blog/websites want to support a fight against a certain issue, but it’s because the news is interesting for their readers. I don’t think there should be a US moral obligation to give attention to Black issues in Europe ,or in other places.

      But the collaboration you are referring to is another kind of collaboration. But that was not what I was referring to.

  6. I am so glad I came across your blog. I live in Eastern Europe and black community is really tiny over here, or almost non-existent, should I say. For many, being an only child in a white class, only black student in a white school is a reality. Besides that, culturally, this region is far less developed in terms of multiculturalism. Also, the attitudes and behaviour of the locals is influenced by racist propagandas spread from the western countries.

    So, as you can imagine,as a result, we get all sorts of negative experiences here. As a child you are able to zone it out because you don't really understand it. You don't get why people give you stares,why they act silly in your presence, why a shop assistant avoids putting change into the palm of your hand etc.

    On the other hand, for Eastern Europeans we are something exotic, sometimes in a positive way.

    All in all, living in this part of the world as a person of colour is not easy. You feel like an alien, alone in a large crowd. And I guess that is the same when it comes to Europe in general. Black people do not have the same status here as those in the US. We don't really have a community, a diaspora.

    I guess that the reason why that is benevolence of some of us. We think that Europe is multicultural, we are on the same level as other people so why bother with creating a community? Instead, we try to break it out and blend in amongst the majority population which is white. And for whose benefit? I think we all know the answer.

    In reality,however, we do not have the same status as them. Many whites in Europe think that this is a 'white country' and we have no place here. Ever heard about 'white genocide' racist propaganda? Check it out, you'll see how many European people think.

    1. That was a very personal and moving post! Thanks so much for sharing your experience about what it's like being a Black person in Eastern Europe!


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