EVENT: Hart voor een inclusief Den Haag

Next week I will participate in a gathering hosted by OCAN, focused on diversity, inclusivity and the positioning of people of African descent in Den Haag. My presentation will offer a discussion on the role of (racist) stereotypes in determining who can belong to a city and will also investigate how the distinction between “expats” and “immigrants” contributes to white washing Den Haag’s international image and reputation. Want to attend this event? Find more information via the official OCAN invitation below. Hope to see you there! ❤

You are very welcome to attend the working conference “Heart for an Inclusive Den Haag” on Wednesday 17th April. This “wake-up” conference is for everyone who lives or works in The Hague and who supports this city with its 180 nationalities. The main goals of the working conference are:

  •  increase the dialogue on inclusion, equal treatment and anti-discrimination and anti-racism at neighbourhood level;

  •  to strengthen the resilience of the target group (s) to combat exclusion;

  •  proposals for improvement / solutions to combat racism / discrimination within institutions.

You can register for the event by sending an email to info@ocan.nl with your name and possibly the organization so that we know how many people we need to take into account. You are most welcome from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm (walk in from 12:00 pm), at the Theater De Vaillant, Hobbemastraat 120, 2526 JS, The Hague.

The Devil is in the Details: ERIF captures Sinterklaas’ ongoing identity crisis in our new brand and product report

Introduction

The European Race and Imagery Foundation’s (ERIF) annual Brand & Product report charts the evolution and relevance of the (Zwarte) Piet character, alongside the development of discussions on race, racism and inclusion, specific to the Netherlands.

The project began in 2015, when ERIF launched the study in order to advise concerned parents which products they could purchase for the Sinterklaas season without the distress of encountering blackface imagery. It was also ERIF’s intention at the time to monitor certain brands and companies that were promising to remove blackface imagery from their packaging and advertising campaigns. Our study has developed over time to explore how each store and brand featured navigates the changing attitudes and discussions on Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, through how they display, package and market their various products. This offers a proxy on general attitudes of culture, tradition, power and race relations in the Netherlands.

Since the first edition, published in January 2016, ERIF has released a further three reports, including the report published this year. This year’s report innovates as it includes a broader commentary on the (Dutch and/or European) socio-political context of anti-black racism and interviews with leading campaigners and thinkers on this topic. Interviews with Xavier Donker (OCAN), Richard Kofi, Simone Zeefuik, Gloria Holwerda (InterNational Anti-Racism Group) and Marny Garcia (Afro Student Association, Leiden University)  add very interesting perspectives to  the statistical data and analysis of our report.

Overview of results

Store vs. grade comparison (%) 2018. Grade 1 = no visible references to the Piet character on a Sinterklaas product or advertisement. Grade 7 = usage of imagery featuring a real person in blackface and other stereotypical depictions of a black person as the Zwarte Piet character on a Sinterklaas product or advertisement. Grades between 1 and 7 show a general movement towards more problematic versions of the Piet character, culminating in use of racial stereotype and blackface.
  • Number of products and ads without any Piet reference, or with only a vague reference, is steady – about 51% in both 2017 and 2018.
  • Slightly less imagery featuring real black people and/or white people in blackface as the Piet character, down by 1% between 2017 and 2018.
  • More imagery of depictions of Piet character as a chimney sweep with soot marks on face and clothes instead of blackface.
  • More use of cartoons of a blackface Piet in 2018 (after a decline in 2017).
  • Two big supermarket chains have gone through major brand makeovers since 2017, especially in their depictions of Zwarte Piet, one of the stores being stronger and more commercially viable in its marketing than the other.

Read and Discuss!

Learn more about our analysis, the specific stores, read the interviews and see the in store fieldwork results, only via the full report available here for download.

Also, I will present some of the results from the report alongside my own research into racist imagery and narratives targeted at children at the forthcoming Racism in Dutch Schools public discussion event organised by the InterNational Anti Racism Group (INARG) and hosted by the Pakhuis de Zwijger. The event will take place in Amsterdam on the 19th March 2019 as part of the International week Against Racism.

Find more information via the venue’s website here.

Happy Reading! ❤

Week Against Racism NL: Racism in Dutch Schools

Hello world! So far, 2019 is being very kind to me and sending lots of exciting projects my way. One such opportunity is a talk I’ll be giving in Amsterdam at the Pakhuis de Zwijger for the Week Against Racism discussions series! The event has been co-orgnanised by Gloria Holwerda-Williams of the InterNational Anti-Racism Group and takes place on the 19th March.

There will be a number of presentations during the evening, from parents, teachers, researcher and campaigners, each giving their own perspectives on how children experience race and racism in Dutch schools, as well as learn about race and racism, too. My own presentation will tackle how ideas about whiteness are taught to children and how this goes onto promote a white nativist complex throughout society, using my own personal experiences as a new parent, in addition to  conclusions gained from my research and work with ERIF, I will discuss with the audience.

There is still some time to reserve a seat, so if you want to be a part of this very important conversation, you can find all the information you need via the venue’s website. Can’t make it? The event will also be livestreamed.

Hope to see you there! ❤

Check out my new article for gal-dem

Hey folks!

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of writing for one of my favourite editorials: gal-dem! As many of you know, I’m British and have been based in the Netherlands for several years. Never one to shy away from critical analysis of any given socio-political situation, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the discussions around Brexit, not only because it effects me and my family personally, but also because of the oh-so-predictable white entitlement sprinkled throughout both sides of the debate.

Check out what I have to say about it via the full article only on gal-dem now!

“Are you his nanny?”

Someone asked me if I was my son’s nanny today. We were at our local Little Gym and were being signed in. I said “I’m here with Julian”, and she replied “Are you his nanny?” It was heartbreaking and humiliating. The only other black person in the room (also a mother to a mixed son) simply looked at me with a pained expression. I did my best to compose myself by relaxing my face and steadying my voice to reply: “I’m his mother.” But I could feel my eyes narrowing as I uttered those last two syllables.  

To be fair, the asker claimed she had us confused with another family, but the question stung all the same, partly because I had to spend the next hour being polite to her during the class. On the way home, I gave it some more thought. Her explanation was plausible enough given her line of work, so why couldn’t I just give her the benefit of the doubt? Why did I feel like someone had just punched me in the gut? We hadn’t even reached the house before I had a clear answer.

Sitting on the tram, after Julian had fallen asleep, a woman sat down next to me. During the ride, she turned her whole head in order to take a good look at my face. Then, she leaned forward and looked into the buggy at my sleeping baby. She repeated this a few more times before we could get off of the tram, to my great annoyance, but I didn’t want to make a scene and so, for the second time that day, I let it go. The Hague might well be a diverse city with plenty of families with children who look like Julian, but to some, we’re still a spectacle.

The lady on the tram is not the first – and she will definitely not be the last – to wonder wordlessly what I am doing with my son. Sometimes people wonder aloud, either in the grocery store, at a café or on public transport. Once, a stranger who had been cooing over Julian asked my husband and I if we had “made” him together. We were too shocked to say anything other than “Yes”, to which she nodded her head approvingly. To a certain extent you just get used to these kinds of comments, the same way you might get used to being the only black person in a room, or having that one white friend who will always say something offensive about your music, films and clothes. White privilege means that people of colour can be gawked at and interrogated, asked the most personal and upsetting questions, in public, and it is always our responsibility to make the white person – who is just curious afterall – feel at ease. These social dynamics create an environment where black and brown people cannot defend themselves in public without running the risk of violent backlashes, which make them out to the the aggressor, rather than the person who harassed them in the first place. Think: Miss Millie from The Color Purple.   

However, being used to something doesn’t mean you’re comfortable with it. Today proved to me just how hard it is – and will always be – to be the mother of child a who shares my eyes and smile, but not my skin colour. The hardest day will not be when Julian understands the question, but when he understands the implications behind it.