Category Archives: #UndocumentedNL

Since our silence never protected us…

In the Netherlands, a country that describes its inhabitants with a word that 97% of the time excludes its nation’s non-white citizens and where frames trump definitions, language classes are as political as the teacher’s understanding of Dutch society allows them to be. It is impossible to refer to ‘zwart’ (black) as simply the darkest colour and ‘blanke’ as just another flavour of a custard-like dish. Or at least it should be.

There’s no way to properly explain a word like ´Nederlander´ without talking about inclusiveness, exclusion and citizenship. Let’s not stand on ceremony here: ´Nederlander´ means ´white Dutch person´. Fair enough, it sometimes means ‘non-white, Holland based athletic man who excels at soccer’ or even ‘non-white model who grew up in a Dutch city and who’s now gracing the cover of an international magazine’. It’s a badge of approval, tolerance or visibility that doesn’t suffer the burden of agency and therefore can be applied and snatched away whenever The Autochtoon feels like it. ‘Ne-der-lan-der’, the baggage is as important the pronunciation.

Besides the joys of saying “Goedemorgen!” and understanding what´s what at the grocery store, learning how to speak language brings two great strengths:
– Reclaiming your narratives
– Understanding a country and/or community´s social and political dynamics which allows you to deconstruct the euphemisms and other myths about equality, normativity or inclusivity.
After two months of guiding a group of 20 undocumented Brothers at Amsterdam’s Vluchtgarage through this linguistic maze called Dutch, it became clear how much this honesty, this relevance is appreciated and how it stimulates people to study. To speak. To reply. And, if needed, to rearrange.

On Monday September 8 Ramona Sno and I gave our first class and from day 1 it was about so much more than teaching people how to not get stuck between the sch-s and gr-s of the Dutch language. It’s about self-reliance, about no longer being treated as a voiceless subject by those who either don’t want to hear your story or prefer it to be told by someone who looks like what they think objectivity and honesty looks like. It’s about the most basic questions and answers but also about safety and being able to explain medical emergencies and requesting proper care. And yes, it is very much about improving chances within the educational system and on the job market.

It’s unclear how much longer the group can stay at the Vluchtgarage but I truly hope to keep working with these Brothers for many months to come. Are there plans to work on a study book based on the experiences and insights that, for sure, will be gained? Well, I’m so glad you asked…

For more information about our Dutch classes, please follow this blog and/or #Vluchtgarage , #UndocumentedNL, @Lazeefuik and @Ramonasno on Twitter.


“Dutch cartoonist mocks African migrants” – This Is Africa interview

With his drawing René Leisink perfectly captures the only way too many Dutch people, high on white privilege and the most anti-Black form of xenophobia, are able to discuss matters like racism and asylum laws. Here these topics demand sensationalism, dehumanisation and objectification. Also, whenever racism is discussed, the ground rule is that whiteness is the sole decider of what deserves our attention. Whiteness determines the difference between racism and humour, sensitivity and relevance, unfortunate incidents and systematic oppression. It prefers its own imagination over historical contexts and views racism as a game of quota in which one can earn the right to do or say something racist. Take Leisner. In one of his apologies he mentioned that he once housed a group of undocumented Romanians. By presenting this ‘proof’ of his okayness he’s basically stating that because of these ‘cool points’ he earned the luxury of being vile. Incidentally, of course, because the sleepover shows that he’s not always ‘like this’ and racism, of course, is something that only presents itself as a loud and steady sort of violence. The rest might qualify as poorly executed good fun but racism? Isn’t that the thing that carries around swastikas and nooses?”

To read our full interview,
click here

Many thanks to This Is Africa‘s Chandra Frank for interviewing me about Dutch cartoonist René Leisink’s disgustingly dehumanizing illustrations, the outrageous response of Vluchtelingenwerk (the Netherland’s National Council for Refugees) and how this all perfectly illustrates the Netherland’s national ‘conversations’ about racism, undocumented communities and all the other racially motivated rubbish that’s filed under ‘freedom to insult’.

If you, too, would like to file a complaint you can do so by sending an e-mail to (e-mail address of the newspaper that publishes René Leisink’s cartoons)