Home » Archief » ‘Complain-nigger!’ or how the Dutch gracefully handle criticism by a black American woman


[22.08.2015]

‘Complain-nigger!’ or how the Dutch gracefully handle criticism by a black American woman

Peter Breedveld

f9
Illustratie: Vitali Gavrilovitsj Tichov

So Karen Attiah of the American newspaper The Washington Post wrote an article about Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad combining the headline ‘Nigger, are you crazy?‘ with a stereotypical black-face caricature of a crying black person with fat, red lips.

Many Dutch people are none too happy with Attiah’s article and, to prove to her that there’s no racism at all in The Netherlands and that all Dutch people are very tolerant indeed, they call her, among other things, a ‘complain-nigger‘ and tell her that she has their colonial past to thank for her position at The Washington Post. Note that these are not some anonymous losers who have nothing else to do but blame others, preferably with darker skin than their own, for their own misfortunes. Nope, the tweep calling Attiah a ‘complain-nigger’ is a very successful trend-watcher earning buckets of money telling people what everybody already knows and the other is a successful businessman.

Hilariously Elma Drayer, a white conservative columnist for Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, comments in reaction to the whole affair that, like black people in the past, nowadays it’s white people being discriminated against because of the color of their skin!

Shitty little Moroccans

NRC Handelsblad, very embarrassed by the whole affair, makes up for the blunder with the racist slur and the black-face caricature by publishing, a few days later, a page-long rant about the inherent perfidiousness of Moroccans by Ebru Umar, known for her racist rants about Dutch Moroccans on Twitter, accompanied by yet another racist caricature of what seems like a gorilla-like Moroccan looking angrily and threateningly at the reader, shouting ‘Cartoonist, are you crazy?’

The maker of this uplifting little doodle, Ruben Oppenheimer, seemingly afraid someone might miss the point he is making with it, puts his drawing on Twitter, saying he’s eager to know what The Washington Post will think of his ‘offensive’ illustration of Umar’s piece about ‘shitty little Moroccans’.

In the US a racist tweet like that would certainly mean the end of one’s career, in The Netherlands it’s your ticket to success. If you want to be popular in The Netherlands, make fun of immigrants, belittle Turks and Moroccans, warn against the danger of the Muslims, promise you will deport millions of them. Anyone opposing this explicit, extremely aggressive type of racism will be vilified by the media. For instance, Quinsy Gario, an anti-racist activist of Caribbean descent, is continuously hounded by the press, be it right-wing or left-wing, and was voted ‘Asshole of the Year‘ by the listeners of a popular radio station. This is how it works: racists are heroes of free speech, anti-racists are assholes.

The danger of immigrants

Last week a special United Nations committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) held a session about racism in The Netherlands. The committee reads reports, hears representatives of The Netherlands and this will result in recommendations that nobody in The Netherlands will feel obliged to do anything with.

To begin with: despite disturbing reports by for instance Amnesty International, the national ombudsman, scientists, commissions et cetera on racial discrimination on the labor market, racial profiling by the police, institutional racism, racist politics in parliament and so on, the responsible Dutch minister of social affairs, Lodewijk Asscher, will stress time and again that there’s no racism in The Netherlands at all.

Which is no wonder, because every time Asscher speaks about immigrants it is about the danger they form, their refusal to integrate, their backward ideas about homosexuals and women and their antisemitism. Even when speaking to a group of very successful Dutch entrepreneurs of Turkish descent, Asscher will nag to them about integration. The man is simply unable to see the upside of immigration. To him it’s all about risks and dangers and costs.

Death threats

Asscher could not be bothered to appear before the UN committee last week, because he had to be present at some gratuitous photo opportunity at the beach, together with the other members of the Dutch cabinet. Instead a Dutch delegation stood before the committee to tell lies about for instance measures taken by the police to prevent ethnic profiling the very day after it became public the police specifically targets people with a ‘negroid appearance’.

The Dutch media, meanwhile, are mainly concerned with what was said by the committee about Zwarte Piet, a form of black-face which is so popular in The Netherlands that people, who even consider changing it to a more acceptable, less racist version, receive death threats by the peaceful, tolerant and certainly not racist inhabitants of this pleasant little kingdom by the North Sea.

Head stuck up arse

The Dutch delegation told the committee that The Netherlands is working on a more acceptable version of Zwarte Piet, but that is a lie as well. The opposite is true. Instead of abolishing Zwarte Piet, a black-face caricature of a black slave, last year a black-face Sinterklaas (Sinterklaas is the Dutch version of Santa Claus) was introduced as an extra addition to the black-face festivities of jolly December.

Which makes it clear once more how this country has its head stuck so far up its own ass it will never again see the light of day without some help from outside.

For non Dutch speakers who want to learn more about racism in The Netherlands I wrote this piece, also something about Zwarte Piet and about blackface in both The Netherlands and Japan. Christie Mettes wrote an article about the way The Netherlands treats its former colonies.

Peter Breedveld is a Dutch journalist writing about diversity and racism in the Netherlands. For this and for having a Moroccan-Dutch girlfriend he is threatened and slandered on a daily basis, see also this piece about slanderous trolls. He keeps this website at great personal cost. You might consider supporting him with a donation: bank account number NL59 RABO 0393 4449 61 (N.P. Breedveld, Rabobank Rijswijk), SWIFT BIC RABONL2U.

English, Peter Breedveld, 22.08.2015 @ 13:12

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10 Reacties

op 22 08 2015 at 16:27 schreef Maurice:

It’s not just about what is said, it’s about who says it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3PJF0YE-x4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMCXGdoPM5Q

Even this anti-racist song was considered racist when it came out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJMramLf1JI

Why don’t you write more about the upside of immigration? Name those facts and bring the positive message. That would be very welcome in these times.

op 22 08 2015 at 21:08 schreef Stephen:

Gario wasn’t called an asshole because of his anti-racism activism but because he belittled the victims of the MH17 crash. (He apologized for this the next day.) But the rest of the article sums up the present day attitude about racism pretty well. Though I doubt it’s specifically Dutch. People in general don’t handle critisism very well.

op 22 08 2015 at 21:56 schreef Peter:

Gario never belittled any victims, that is an outright lie. What he did say, and he was right about that, is that the Dutch prime minister cares about some victims more than he does about others.

But even if Gario had belittled any victims: if you really think he was voted Asshole of the Year because of that, you’re deceiving yourself. Victims are belittled all the damn time in Holland by people who are revered for it. White people. White, racist right-wingers.

Gario is Asshole of the Year because he is an uppity black man. No other reason.

op 23 08 2015 at 14:07 schreef Rdeman:

What a load of bollocks Peter – that NRC headline was a literal American quote. It’s not part of Dutch speak, but that is something Karen Attiah of te Washington Post fails to dissect as she is blinded by her American centric POV. If the headline would have read in Dutch something about “nikker” then, yes, we woul dhave a big fat problem. That word is ushered with a very specific negative racial connotation. Where “nigger” might be a acceptable in certain black circles and hiphop culture in the English speaking parts of the world, I am absolutely sure that the use of the Dutch word “nikker” in Dutch speaking parts would be avoided at all costs. Not even in Dutch black circles and or hiphop culture. See you have perhaps to be Dutch living abroad in an English-speaking part of the world to see that fine but distinct difference: You can literally translate nigger to nikker, but what gets lost in translation is the connotation and cultural meaning. It’s simply not comparable. So, that said: If Adjiedj Bakas as a Dutch black male feels the liberty to call American black female Karen Attiah a complain-nigger (in English) then, well, that’s his somewhat untasteful choice but it is not necessarily more racist than the use of the word “nigger” in say hiphop lyrics. Again, would mr Bakas have called mrs. Arriah a “klaag-nikker”, well, rest be assured that an legal hate-speech prosecution would have been kicked off. I don’t like to use the Dutch n* word, but it had to be done to point out the exact and fine intrinsic difference between the English and Dutch variants. Just because Dutch typically do understand English, it does not mean it bears the same cultural meaning to them. They have their own vocabulary for that.

If I had to map the value and cultural meaning of the most common ushered words in The Netherlands when speaking of members of blacks members of our community and put it on a linear scale from neutral to straight up offensive racism:

black: neutral
creole: old fashioned, but neutral. Typically used by people with ties to the Dutch (ex-)colonies.
nigger: neutral. It’s an Americanism after all.
neger: disputed neutral. It depends on connotation, after all, “c’est le ton qui fait la musique”
bos-neger: disputed neutral leans to negative. Only used in the former colonies, but by people of all colour. Indicates blacks from the “bush” to distinguish from those in the cities (the “creoles”).
nikker: negative, dismal. Seriously, just don’t.

op 23 08 2015 at 16:25 schreef John de Beer:

For the greatest part I endorse your article Peter. However I strongly disagree with the scope of the contribution by Christie Mettes. Whatever you may think of Prime Minister Rutte, on this occasion he adressed the Antilleans as adults appealing to their national feelings. At least not as pitiful children in a forgotten province.

In 1973 the Den Uyl government intended to grant independence to Suriname and to the former Netherlands Antilles as well (of which Aruba used to be part). Den Uyl was a visionary who realized that colonial structures, even in the most democratic manner as designed in the Statute, were extremely undesirable. Suriname became independent, the Antilles remained in the Kingdom and gradually turned out to be a headache for Dutch politicians who performed over the years a sticking-plaster approach.

The Antillean Islands can remain in the Kingdom endlessly, but whether that would be wholesome is the question. A self-confident people has every right to sovereignty. And not to remain under the care of a distant European country which has not the slightest affinity with the descendants of a shameful colonial period in an entirely different part of the world.

op 23 08 2015 at 17:37 schreef Maurice:

Quinsy Gario’s case is depicted misinformed here. The timing of events is left out.

QR tweeted that ‘White lives matter more than black lives according to the prime minister’. At that moment, no information, except being -mostly- Dutch people was yet known about the victims, at that point, they could be anyone and of any colour.
Because of this, he came across as considering his own cause to be more important than empathy for the loss of lives of fellow countrymen and respect for the grief of the victims relatives. That he used this tragedy for his own benefit. With this he lost his sympathy nationwide.

Secondly, he is considered ruining a childrens party. Children being innocent and not racist –yet- and parents being concerned, that didn’t help him either.

These are the real main reasons he became Asshole of the Year.

Now he started a new conflict, this time with the mayor of Amsterdam and the mayor is not done with him yet:
http://www.at5.nl/artikelen/146429/burgemeester-van-der-laan-boos-over-racisme-beschuldiging-quinsy-gario

op 23 08 2015 at 19:20 schreef Peter:

I write a piece in which I describe how a black, anti-racist activist is demonised by the media. What does the white racist trash in the comment section do? It demonises the uppity black man.

Quinsy Gario is a hero.

op 23 08 2015 at 21:32 schreef Nurks:

I think it is a deliberate action to translate “neger” with “nigger”. The English equivalent might be “negro”. I don’t care what modern professors of black studies want us to call them (could be anything, nowadays). But “negro” is more neutral than “nigger”, which is the equivalent of the Dutch “nikker”.
OK, I know it is difficult to translate well the feeling of a word. But here, Peter, you willfully blew up the case.

op 23 08 2015 at 22:14 schreef Peter:

I think it is a deliberate action to translate “neger” with “nigger”.

I think you don’t know what you are going on about. This is not about a translation. This is about the word ‘nigger’, about racist caricatures and about Dutch people attacking a black woman with racist slurs because she dared to criticize them.

If English is too difficult for you, then better stay out of the discussion.

op 24 08 2015 at 17:12 schreef Maurice:

Wow! ‘White racist trash’..that sounds like a racist comment in itself. A very poor and cheap comment after the facts, not even opinion, that are just stated above. This displays 2 separate measurements to determine what is racist.
Of course Gario can be considered a hero for whatever reason one thinks to be important, but everyone that emphathizes with the victims of MH-17 and has kids who like zwarte piet of the 5 December fest, thinks he’s Asshole of the Year.
Now, finally, my own opinion before I get another racist remark: I think Zwarte Piet can go and be replaced back by Krampus to put some fear of consequences by bad behaviour into the party to help the parents to keep their kids in line. This way everyone wins.

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