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Ppt essay

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My reflections on the NL Black Pete discussion in the form of a PowerPoint essay. The essay 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.

Published in: Lifestyle, Spiritual
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Ppt essay

  1. 1. RESTORING THE DIALOGUE? REFLECTIONS ON THE NL BLACK PETE DISCUSSION A POWERPOINT ESSAY
  2. 2. HOW TO ESTABLISH RACISM “... if you are really wanting to figure out if racism is operating the first thing you don’t want to do ... is ask white people. ... Just like if you want to know if sexism is operating you wouldn’t start by asking men.” Tim Wise, White Like Me (9:55ff)
  3. 3. THE REASON “... when you’re dominant why would you be expected to know what other people who are not, experience? It’s sort of irrational ..” Tim Wise, White Like Me (10:47ff)
  4. 4. IS THIS TRUE? WHERE DO WE START? According to Zygmunt Bauman (Identity, 2004) the indigenous population of a country has a different kind of “belonging” than immigrants. Indigenous citizens automatically belong to a given community in which they were born. In the words of Sigfried Kracauer: they “live together in an indissoluble attachment”.
  5. 5. AN EXAMPLE This is what we see currently in the Netherlands during the World Championship Football 2014: ever more Dutch are wearing orange as a sign of “belonging” to their indigenous nation even if they are no lovers of football.
  6. 6. IMMIGRANTS Immigrants, on the other hand, according to Zygmunt Bauman are “wholly or in part ‘out of place’ everywhere”. They do not belong to a given community: “There is always something to explain, to apologize for, to hide or on the contrary to boldly display, to negotiate, to bid for and to bargain for”. Their identities are not fully theirs, since they are partially defined by those around them.
  7. 7. EXAMPLE As a Chinese friend of mine once said: “If I cheer in a crowd of foodball fans, there is always this moment when people turn towards me and think: “What is this Chinese guy cheering for?”
  8. 8. IMMIGRANT BELONGING The kind of belonging immigrants can nevertheless hope for is being in a community that is (in the words of Kracauer and Bauman) “welded together solely by ideas or various principles”.
  9. 9. INDIGENOUS CITIZENS Besides their “indissoluble attachment” indigenous citizens can experience the second variety of belonging too as “being welded together by ideas or various principles”. Whereas immigrants have access “solely” to this variety, indigenous citizens can have both.
  10. 10. EFFECT OF THE BELONGINGS While indigenous people are not pressured to self-define themselves, immigrants are: (Bauman) “I have been and still am expected by everyone around to self-define and I am supposed to have a considered, carefully balanced, keenly argued view of my identity.” This means that while indigenous people can live their lives without any pressure to reflect on their identity, their community or their culture, immigrants need to be in a permanent state of reflection to explain their relationship with the indigenous group.
  11. 11. TIM WISE REVISITED So this lies beneath the opening quotes by Tim Wise – why a dominant group does not experience the social exclusion minorities experience.
  12. 12. BUT This clear dichotomy between indigenous people and immigrants is not as clear as presented, though. The times we live in – “liquid times” in the words of Bauman – are putting pressure on the experience of automatic belonging of the indigenous. “In a liquid modern setting of life, identities are perhaps the most common, most acute, most deeply felt”. Where once identities might have been simply given, in our current times “the old-style stiff and non-negotiable identities simply won’t do”.
  13. 13. LIQUID TIMES Bauman (Liquid Life, 2005): “ ‘Liquid modern’ is a society in which the conditions under which its members act change faster than it takes the ways of acting to consolidate into habits and routines. Liquidity of life and that of society feed and reinvigorate each other. Liquid life, just like liquid society, cannot keep its shape or stay on course for long.” The changes occurring in liquid times are radical, “modifying many ‘traditional’ concepts that have structured our way of giving the world we live in, and our own lives, meaning”. (EGE Opinion 26)
  14. 14. TWO FRAMES In summary, so far I’ve introduced two frames: • Different kinds of “belonging” – indigenous citizens versus immigrants • “Liquid times” that are dissolving all concepts given
  15. 15. THE BLACK PETE DISCUSSION I would like to use the two frames to reflect on the Dutch discussion on Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”). Zwarte Piet, or rather many Zwarte Pieten, is/ are accompanying the Dutch Santaclaus (“Sinterklaas”) during the Dutch celebration of Santaclaus. This is arguably the most important festivity and tradition in the Netherlands.
  16. 16. BLACK PETE CONTROVERSY The blackness of Zwarte Piet is at the heart of the current discussion – in which death threats have been uttered by proponents and opponents. While for the most vocal group of opponents Zwarte Piet’s blackness (displayed by indigenous people coloring themselves black) and attributes and behavior of the persona of Zwarte Piet is “racist”, the most vocal group of proponents argue Zwarte Piet and all his features are an integral and essential part of indigenous culture and are non- negotionable.
  17. 17. BLACK PETE FRAMING The most vocal group of proponents frames opponents as “foreigners” who should either accept Dutch culture or “return to their countries of origin”. The most vocal group of opponents frame proponents as “racists” who defend a “racist society”.
  18. 18. LIQUID TIMES AND BLACK PETE As Bauman noted, in liquid times all concepts sooner or later are challenged. There are no “stiff and non-negotiable identities” based on mere belonging anymore. Bauman: “Frames, when (if) they are available, should not be expected to last for long. They will not be able to withstand and that leaking, seeping, trickling, spilling – sooner rather than later they will drench, soften, contort and decompose.”
  19. 19. LIQUID TIMES FOR IMMIGRANTS Liquid times provide a great opportunity for minorities to challenge elements of the culture of the dominant group. Since everything is in flux and all becomes negotiable, they have an ever bigger opportunity to state their values in opposition to the dominant values.
  20. 20. LIQUID TIMES FOR THE INDIGENOUS For the indigenous liquid times bring shocks. Truths that were given for always are crumbling. Some of the indigenous thereupon go in denial (Bauman) as “an earnest and desperate, even if misguided, attempt to find protection from the globalizing winds that are sometimes freezing, sometimes scorching .”
  21. 21. BELONGING AND BLACK PETE (1) The most vocal stance of the opponents seems to neatly fit in the immigrant belonging frame. Basing themselves on “ideas or various principles” (“anti- racism”) opponents of Black Pete seem to define their relationship with the indigenous group (“defending human dignity against racism”), based on a state of permanent reflection (caused by perceived exclusion).
  22. 22. BELONGING AND BLACK PETE (2) The most vocal stance of the proponents seems to neatly fit in the indigenous belonging frame. Not used to self-definitions or reflections they seem to go in denial presenting their dominant culture as a non- negotiable solid whole – not basing themselves on ideas or principles but rather on tradition – which is another word for the right to have a non-negotiable identity.
  23. 23. EXAMPLE An example of an argument put forward in defence of Zwarte Piet within the frame of indigenous belonging is by the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte: “Black Pete is black. And I cannot change that. Because the name is Black Pete.” Mark Rutte, Press Conference at the NSS-summit (1:31ff)
  24. 24. THE OUTCOME (1) The indigenous most vocal stance is exclusive. It proposes an all-or-nothing culture – accept all or leave. This “simply won’t do” in liquid times. (Stuart Hall quoted by Bauman:) “Since cultural diversity is, increasingly, the fate of the modern world, and ethnic absolutism a regressive feature of late-modernity, the greatest danger now arises from forms of national and cultural identity – new and old –which attempt to secure their identity by adopting closed versions of culture or community and by refusal to engage ... with the difficult problems that arise from trying to live with difference.”
  25. 25. THE OUTCOME (2) The opponents’ most vocal stance also is exclusive. By taking “anti-racism” as self-defining principles and “racism” as defining principle for Dutch indigenous culture thus only a complete ovehaul of indigenous Dutch culture would be an acceptable outcome of the discussion. This stance infuriates proponents. Tim Wise: “… naturally, as good people, we don’t want to think we’re implicated in racism. … We’re thinking of racism in a very sort of traditional way. … People get very nervous when they think we’re going to talk about this … And, if they are somehow called a racist, that we mean … that they’re going to the neo-nazi rally and that they are actually skinheads in disguise … People make those assumptions and so as a result they get very defensive. Nobody wants to be thought of as that.”
  26. 26. EXAMPLE An examply of a defensive reaction to accusations of racism occurred when United Nations researchers wrote a letter to the Dutch government: “The character and image of Black Pete perpetuate a stereotyped image of African people and people of African descent as second-class citizens, fostering an underlying sense of inferiority within Dutch society and stirring racial differences as well as racism.” Within a few days more than two million Dutchmen came to the defense of Black Pete by joining a group on Facebook in support of sustaining the character: Pietitie.
  27. 27. NO WAY OUT If the most vocal proponents and opponents have exclusive stances it is small wonder the discussion is so explosive – either Dutch culture is to survive untouched or completely purged. To me, therefore, both stances are unproductive.
  28. 28. A POSSIBLE WAY OUT A way out would be if both proponents and opponents would employ an inclusive stance. They could draw inspiration from Immanuel Kant’s allgemeine Vereinigung der Menschheit: “the truly, completely inclusive identity of the human race...” According to Kant this is the logical outcome of human nature. We do not have to go so far but we can just choose it as a basis to start negotiating about a new representation of Zwarte Piet. Basically, it means that we stop labeling each other “indigenous” or “immigrant” but settle on a common label: “being human”.
  29. 29. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN Both proponents and opponents could use the frame of belonging based on “ideas or various principles” – accessible both to minorities and the majority - and base themselves on the principle of “being human”. The next step would be to take our empathy for the Other as our guidance.
  30. 30. IT ALL DEPENDS ON US Bauman tells us: “Like other postulated identities, the ideal of ‘humanity’ as an identity embracing all other identities can ultimately rely solely on the dedication of its postulated adherents.” So, the question is, are there adherents to this identity and are they dedicated?
  31. 31. QUESTIONNAIRE An online questionnaire on these topics was available online between April 30 and July 1, 2014. It was distributed through social media by partners of the Ezzev Foundation including the Royal Institute of the Tropics (KIT). Both moderate and more radical social media communities were targeted 362 individuals filled the questionnaire out. The results can be found here.
  32. 32. RESULTS (1) Over 68% of the respondents stated that they wanted the discussion to end. The discussion was (very) relevant according to almost half of the respondents but now it is time to put it to a stop.
  33. 33. RESULTS (2) It appeared that most respondents were very understanding of the arguments and emotions of the proponents (85.6% and 82.2%) AND of the opponents (73% and 72.9%).
  34. 34. RESULTS (3) The labeling of proponents by opponents was not so much as “racists” but rather as “traditional” or “normal”. This does not mean that the theme of racism was absent – it was mentioned a lot in the comments. It rather indicates that while racism is seen as a cause of the current representation of Black Pete very few see conscious racism. Rather they see ignorance – as can also be derived from the comments – ignorance stemming from tradition.
  35. 35. RESULTS (4) The labeling of opponents by proponents was not so much as “foreigners” but rather as “oversensitive” or “normal”. The framing by respondents was thus not so much “racists” versus “foreigners” but rather: “normal”/ “traditional” people versus “normal”/ “oversensitive” people. These are inclusive frames in which differences could be overcome by “empathy”.
  36. 36. MY PROPOSAL (1) The first step towards a dialogue on Black Pete rather than a fight over the subject seems to be – having the opening quotes by Tim Wise in mind - that members from minority groups start talking about their experiences of social exclusion – and start being heard with empathy by members of the majority group. The second step is that members of the majority group start talking about their feelings of anxiety and their fear of a diminishing identity – and start being heard with empathy by members of minority groups.
  37. 37. MY PROPOSAL (2) Members of both groups should be able to sympathize with the other side: in liquid times we all experience similar anxieties – although in different degrees. This sympathy should be the starting-point to have a dialogue on Black Pete - and other topics related to (perceived) social exclusion.
  38. 38. THANK YOU Thank you for reading this PowerPoint essay to the end. If you have any comments or suggestions, please mail me at: onno.hansen@gmail.com Warm regards, Onno Hansen

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