The Netherlands has a reputation as a tolerant nation that has embraced progressive politics such as same-sex marriage. Historically a frontrunner in migration issues, the Netherlands had prided itself for decades on the alleged success of its policy of “integration with preservation of one’s original culture”. This is also known as Dutch multiculturalism, yet has anyone ever stopped to wonder under which conditions?
I personally believe that this multicultural agenda has been one of the most critical obstacles that we are facing, has curtailed any form of collective mobilization and clipped the wings of our soaring aspirations to secure social equality within this country. Personally, I think that a lot of this multicultural malaise, within this country, has been constructed around the idea that one should and is only allowed to speak from one’s cultural background. In short, allochtonen will largely be excluded, but get a partial waiver of inclusion based on a pre-determined cultural performativity. What I mean with cultural performativity is that the white Dutchmen has constructed a static, orientalist and colonial image of what an actual Surinamese, Antillian or Moraccan should be. This has created a restricted playing field wherein allochtonen with different cultural and ethnic heritage are deliberately separated from one another and explicitly told that civil participation in the Dutch political arena is only possible within the imposed multiculturalist framework.
In a sense, I would say that multiculturalism has been a successful derailing mechanism in deferring allochtonen from creating a open space wherein we could talk openly and honestly about how we live in a society that is grounded in a oppressive capitalist system, is shaped by sexism and that continues to be enforced and informed by racism. Moreover, this program has been successful in creating a specific reactionary elite within these separated allochtonen communities, whom have used the same language, politics and funding of the multiculturalist agenda to place themselves as allochtonen leaders under the mantra of “preserving one’s culture”.
However, I would like to conclude and emphasize that allochtonen in general should point the finger at themselves as well, because they have bought into the 21st century concept of Dutch colorblindness. Dutch colorblindness is this leaky bucket wherein they keep pouring the water of colorblind solutions in, not realizing that the bucket has a big hole called institutional inequality. If we continue to adopt, accept and settle for this colorblind doctrine it will hampers the necessary efforts to create a open space where we can come together in solidarity. The objective should be to take a hand-off approach away from this colorblind bucket and finish the race towards social equality in this country. Nothing less will do!
Ruud Tevreden is an Environment & Resources Management graduate student at the VU in Amsterdam.