#DecolonizeDutchMedia – Dutch newspaper wonders “Nigger are you crazy?”

On July 31, Dutch newspaper NRC published a review of Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween The World and Me. With its title, the piece written by Guus Valk asks:  Nigger are you crazy? How do you destroy the black identity? This comes only days after the paper published a column entitled Black America needs to look at itself  in which Black Americans were told to “stop impregnating 16 year old girls because your grandmother sat in the back of the bus.” Since NRC is so eager to weigh in on what Black people should do, it’s only right to provide translations so we can drag them from the bench to the field.

Aside from the racist title, the piece which also discusses Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and Mat Johnson’s Loving Day,  is adorned with this illustration (pic) by Aron Vellekoop León who captured Blackness as Dutch, mainstream whiteness likes to see it: colonial, submissive, sad and with a dash of blackface. When one of the sharpest Twitterati in the Dutch conversations about racism confronted Valk with the title, he stated that he merely writes the reviews but doesn’t pick the titles, intro’s and illustrations. He didn’t object to the use of the word nigger or the disgusting illustration. If that wasn’t a co-sign, it was at least a shrug.

Valk needs less than two sentences to illustrate how little he understands about racism. “The issue of race was assumed to be settled with Obama as president. Since the Summer of 2014 it became clear that this is absolutely false.” Imagine the uneducated white privilege that produces the illusion that in the evening of November 4 2008, racism was put on hold and that nothing racist happened until the white officer Darren Wilson killed the Black teenager Michael Brown.

With every single sentence, Valk drags himself further and further from the understanding that his analyses about racism are only as valuable as the silence that fails to smother them. He states: “A few years America, especially [white] America, lived in a dream. A new era had arrived, in which old problematic race relations didn’t matter anymore. The inauguration of president Barack Obama, the first black president, underlined that America has entered a post-racial era. Of course there are still differences between [white] and black but they’re more the result of social class than of race.” I write white in brackets because, to the vast majority of Dutch people being called white… well, those are fighting words. The Dutch prefer ‘blank’, a term that has no non-Dutch equivalent but means “bright white, without stains, without color”. It can be used for people but also for varnish or a yoghurt like dairy product called vla. If it sounds familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen it on the signs from South Africa’s official apartheid era.
Then there’s also the term Black which is written with a lower case ‘b’ because the idea of Black with a captial B, combining political identities with African and/or Afrodiasporic heritages, has yet to enter mainstream Dutch media. How serious can we take someone who wonders “How do you articulate racism” but is still too much of a coward to rid his work of the comfort that the word ‘blank’ continues to provide? With his “The debate about race is dead serious, especially from the [white] perspective” he affirmed that he has absolutely no idea what he read or what he’s writing.

“Do we truly expect something different from a white privileged son of the Netherlands’ hyper-colonial academic climate and journalistic mediocrity?” This isn’t about expectation or even what “surprises” us, it’s about forced accountability and decolonizing Dutch media. And yes, it’s absolutely about putting a blowtorch to any conversation about Dutchness that fails to mention the country’s national levels of xenophobia, colonialism and/or racism.

Let us not be distracted and exhausted by white privilege driven liberals who slither towards our mentions or inboxes with lamentations of intentions, context or other philosophical derailings. The review is real, the illustration is real and both are problematic so let us have this conversation without those whose mere intention is to whitesplain this into nothingness. There’s no time to judge the arsonist by all the things he didn’t set on fire. We’re burning.

To join the conversation on social media, please use the hashtag #DecolonizeDutchMedia and consider adding Guus Valk, NRC  and/or the newspaper’s literary blog.

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About Zeefuik

Zeefuik is an Amsterdam based writer and organizer whose work focuses on imagery, representation, anti-Black racism, (digital) archives and the undocumented members of the Black communities in the Netherlands.

Posted on August 10, 2015, in Anti-Blackness in the Netherlands, DecolonizeComfort. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on #DecolonizeDutchMedia – Dutch newspaper wonders “Nigger are you crazy?”.

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