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THE MALAYSIA AIRLINES MASSACRE AND BLACK PETE – REFLECTIONS ON THE DUTCH ANTI-
DISCRIMINATION DEBATE
In a recent text on t...
inclusive worldview (“pro-black yes, anti-white no”) and from Dutch with an exclusive worldview
(“take our culture as it i...
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The Malaysia Airlines massacre and Black Pete reflections on the dutch anti-discrimination debate

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This text was written within the framework of the European project Talking about taboos. The project has been funded with support from the European Commission. The document reflects the view only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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The Malaysia Airlines massacre and Black Pete reflections on the dutch anti-discrimination debate

  1. 1. THE MALAYSIA AIRLINES MASSACRE AND BLACK PETE – REFLECTIONS ON THE DUTCH ANTI- DISCRIMINATION DEBATE In a recent text on the controversy in the Netherlands about the representation of Black Pete (the traditional Dutch helper of Dutch Santaclaus who is blackfaced) I wrote that extremists on both sides were voicing exclusive worldviews. The radical proponents of Black Pete propose an all-or-nothing culture – accept all elements or leave. For them Dutch culture and its traditions are non-negotiable. I argued that this can be understood by Kracauer/ Bauman’s concept of indigenous belonging: indigenous citizens automatically belong to a given community in which they were born. They do not have to negotiate or bargain for their identity. It is given and the idigenous thus typically lack reflection on themselves. The radical opponents in the discussion also operate with an exclusive worldview. They take “anti- racists” as self-definition, “racists” as frame for the proponents and “racism” as definition of Dutch culture. This means that for them only a complete ovehaul of indigenous Dutch culture and the indigenous Dutch would be an acceptable outcome of the discussion. A representative of these very visible opponents is artist Quinsy Gario. Over the last few years he has become the face of the anti-Black Pete movement. Lately has taken a few steps away from the limelight but a tweet two days ago on the Malaysia Airlines airplane that was shot down, brought him right back at the center of the Dutch debate on discrimination. As a reaction to a statement of the Dutch premier Rutte on the killings he tweeted: “White lives matter more than brown ones”. This tweet triggered very many negative reactions. Gario at first reacted to those by tweeting: “Wow. All people tripping because I’ve ‘translated’ what Rutte himself has shown a few times over the last few months” [my translation]. Then he wrote: “People need a scapegoat to take out their anger on. Okey.” [my translation] His concluding tweet: “I make mistakes. I apologize to the surviving family. Let’s stand up in the future for all victims of violence no matter what color.” [my translation] In a blog post he then subsequently explained the intention behind his original tweet: White Dutch care more about their own than about the fate of Palestinians in Gaza. To me this little episode is an illustration of the exclusiveness of this radical version of anti-racism. It interprets all events through the prism of them (“whites”, “racists”) versus us (“blacks”, “the oppressed”). In that interpretation “they” only care about “their own”, not about “us”. A mere act of empathy by the Dutch premier can thus be seen as an act of racism while all Dutch passengers of the airplane are stereotyped as “white”, because if you are in an airplane presumably you no longer belong to “the oppressed”. Under accusations of using the massacre for his own political agenda and, oh irony, of being a racist, Gario switched from the previous exclusive worldview to an inclusive worldview (“Let’s stand up in the future for all victims of violence no matter what color.”) only go return in his blog post to the exclusive worldview – an act that again got a lot of criticism. The episode shows in my opinion that exclusive worldviews create strange bedfellows at the opposite side. The negative reactions to Gario’s tweet and blog post came from both the left with an
  2. 2. inclusive worldview (“pro-black yes, anti-white no”) and from Dutch with an exclusive worldview (“take our culture as it is or leave it”) – a very uncomfortable coalition. In the Black Pete discussion the coalitions looked quite different. In this discussion the left with an inclusive worldview sided with the emerging radical anti-racism movement against extreme indigenous Dutch who were unwilling to even consider the harmful effects of an element of their tradition. Thus, extremism pushes moderates into very unpleasant positions. They feel forced to change sides all the time when extremists clash. If one extremist side states its position, the moderates argue against it - seemingly in accordance with the extremists on the other side. But when those competing extremists start explaining their point of view, the moderates also disagree with them: “I agreed with you before but now I have to tell you that you have gone too far.” Extremists interpret these moderates falsely. The moderates are initially seen by them as “with us” and then as turning on us and “showing their true faces”. By the competing extremists the moderates are framed as “enemies” and then as allies – “even they say what we said all along”. As a result, moderates are confused about themselves. Extremism is no basis for a dialogue - inclusive worldviews are. We need to overcome the state of confusion of the moderates and start formulating an inclusive stance on discrimination. The slogan “pro-black yes, anti-white no” for me is a good starting point.

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