The Language of Racial Innocence

“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

James Baldwin

What recent events have yielded is that a lot of White Autochtoon Dutch folks, when facing the charge of racism, feel that it is their self-image—as good, non-racist (and thus “innocent”) citizens of a tolerant country—and their moral character, in particular, that are being threatened.

The outward appearance of benevolence, tolerance, and innocence has been central both to the Dutch national self-image and to the political manufacture of the White Autochtoon Dutch identity. The Dutch have become so invested in the image of their being tolerant, “good” people that to many the unrelenting stream of reactionary and racist comments directed at anti-blackface campaigners came as a “complete surprise.”

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Some words at the public hearing against Zwarte Piet in Amsterdam

Guest post by Patricia Schor

The Sinterklaas parade is the biggest annual festivity for children in Dutch cities, by mid November, when the wise old white man Sinterklaas arrives on land joined by his blackface servants, the Zwarte Pieten. A crowd of adults and children wait anxiously on the passing of Sinterklaas and his jolly black servants, carrying burlap bags filled with sweets and presents. In 2012 the Sinterklaas parade in Amsterdam included more than 700 Zwarte Pieten.

In 2013 Quinsy Gario filed a complaint against the permit the municipality had given to the Sinterklaas parade in the city of Amsterdam, due to the racist character of Zwarte Piet, and urged others to do the same. I was one of the 20 other persons that responded to this appeal. On October 17, we were requested to attend a public hearing in the City Hall of Amsterdam, whereby each of us was invited to elucidate our individual complaints to an official Committee of Legal Affairs that would decide on the case.

At the hearing I read aloud the text that follows. Egbert Alejandro Martina kindly revised the English version of the text. Jan Michiel Aeilkema kindly revised the original text in Dutch, further down.

Continue reading “Some words at the public hearing against Zwarte Piet in Amsterdam”