A dying AIDS patient. He is comforted by his family. Everyone in tears. This image is etched in my memory. The same goes for that world famous kissing priest and nun. Many people still remember the controversial advertising campaigns of The United Colors Of Benetton. The campaigns had nothing to do with clothing. Rather, the brand wanted to raise awareness about racism, religion and human rights.
In 2021 it is fashionable to be inclusive. But the Italian clothing brand was already ahead of the pack in the 1980s. When I see those ad campaigns now, I find them almost perversely optimistic. Models with all the colors of the rainbow. Brotherly side by side, as if their origins don’t matter, so that at the same time there is emphasis on their mutual differences. That peaceful kumbaya-we-are-the-world image sometimes seems further out of sight than ever.
In the Netherlands, origin does matter. The prototype Dutchman still has blond hair and blue eyes. At the same time, our country has been colored for generations by people of all shades. And yet they are still seen as Different – so foreign.
By introducing the corona pass, everyone is suddenly talking about discrimination, but for other Dutch people this phenomenon has been around for much longer. On the housing market, in the queue at the club, on the labor market, at the self-scan checkout. And at passport control.
If you don’t fit in the template, you are the proverbial Sjaak. You are taken out of line, taken to the back and subjected to cross-examination. “Where is the journey going to?” “Do you have any valuables with you?” “How did you get that expensive watch?” These are questions that Jan de Boer does not have to answer. He can travel to Marbella without delay.
This is no coincidence, but the result of deliberate government policy. Ethnic profiling is bon ton at the airport. The Marechaussee uses risk profiles in its checks.
If you’re black, you’re often singled out and served stressful minutes for free. Light-skinned and an Arabic name? Count on some extra transfer time. And then it doesn’t matter that your family has been living in the Netherlands for three generations and you are very Dutch. When you come home you are a stranger.
Human rights organizations and citizens want this discrimination by the military police to stop. They brought a case against the Dutch State, but without success. The court has ruled that the Marechaussee may simply continue its working method.
According to the judges, these checks are intended to pick out illegal immigrants. And ethnicity can simply be an indication of origin. It may not be the only indicator, but it does matter. And that leaves the discrimination door wide open.
That is of course not new. Tax officials also made a risk profile on the basis of origin during the allowances affair. And we all know how that ended. People who have been consciously and unlawfully helped into the abyss, almost always because they were ‘suspicious’ in advance because of their origin.
In the documentary ‘Only Against The State’, five brave women report on these years of torture. Then people shouted that it was strange that documentary makers had only portrayed foreign women in the documentary. But hello! It is precisely people of a different origin who became victims of the tax authorities. By Vadertje Staat they were seen as ‘different’. Their ancestry is an indication of crime. Blonde cargo bike mothers were just a little less bothered by that. And more importantly: they are not foreign women at all, but traditional Dutch!
You have not been able to draw ‘the Dutchman’ for generations. So let’s stop that. Ethnic profiling by the government should be banned. Otherwise a large part of the Dutch will always feel like a foreigner. Not trusting the government that isn’t there for them.
And if the state discriminates at all, what on earth can you expect from individual citizens? You will never have a nice society that way. Just when I was moping about this, I saw a beautiful picture pass by on Twitter.
Four cheerful Dutch toddlers on a tricycle. All the colors of the rainbow, origin doesn’t seem to matter. Everyone belongs. That optimism from the advertising campaigns may be feasible after all. In any case, we must continue to strive for it.