It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain uninformed when it comes to the migrant crisis that’s shaking Europe right now – and why should you? This is something that, whether we want to admit it or not, concerns us deeply. Asides the political and economic implications that the situation obviously highlights, the whole issue encroaches on the base of all racism and fear mongering – the instinct to divide things into US and THEM. Without becoming too preachy, I’d like to use Dutchreview, hopefully your go-to site when it comes to all things..Dutchy…to talk about something Holland taught me, that can perhaps aid you when you want to solidify your views on this entire ordeal.
The Migrant Crisis: An outsider’s view on race
As usual I have to make my patented Serbian disclaimer: I come from Serbia, a small country in the Balkans. The population in Serbia is very dominantly white – until the early 2000’s being racist to someone other than the Roma people was considered a form of fantasy; who exactly are the black people you are rebelling against, pre-2000’s-Serbian-man?
This is important because racism (asides the very problematic kind we harbor towards the Roma people) was largely a non-issue in Serbia; we had the much more damaging, endemic and problematic issue of Nationalism to cripple us (in much the same manner, funnily enough.). Coming to Holland, I couldn’t really understand why some Dutch people have problems with, say, the Moroccans or the Turks…which leads me to…
The Dutch are Strange
… how I perceived the Dutch. In my teenage mind, the Dutch were very conflicted – on one hand they can be incredibly racist and condescending, sometimes without even perceiving it. On the other side, their Anglophilia and general status as a developed nation has ingrained in them a kind of political-correctness, a form of forced empathy and overall desire to fight for every individual’s freedom and rights.
This conflict was always obvious in their attitudes towards mentioned Moroccans, but also towards me! I was completely shocked whenever I encountered this very vague, faint form of demeaning racism (“Oh you have internet there in Serbia eh, cool?” “Its not like I wanna go on holiday to some buttfuck nowhere, you know, Romania, Serbia”.). At first I was enraged by all this, but then….
Its very easy to start doing the same
…I began to notice I was doing the same. My initial shock at certain Dutch people’s racism was very quickly joined by understanding. I realized how strange and jarring it must be for, say a 70 year old Dutch lady that’s been living her gezellig calm Dutch neighbourhood lifestyle to suddenly leave her apartment and realize she’s in Istanbul (or what she thinks Istanbul looks like).
I also began to mutter obscenities at Moroccan (but also white Dutch!) youth that almost hit me with their scooters and cat-talk to ladies in the street. The more time I spent in the Netherlands and the more I learned of its history, the more I realized….
It’s a chaotic melting pot
…that with such a complex history of colonialism, imperialism, social reform and European advancement, the Netherlands are a hotspot for these kind of debates, opinions and attitudes. Sure, the condescending, snide and subtle racism never disappeared – but neither did the understanding, the support, the solidly thought-out systems of integration. It’s a struggle, a socio-political evolution that can only be achieved through time and sheer effort. Should the little granny be forced to wake up in her own version of Istanbul? Is that such a bad thing? Is it the principle of her being ‘forced’ to do anything whats at stake here? These are complex issues, and they aren’t going to get easier…but it’s obviously a work in progress.
So now what?
I use the Netherlands as a small example and reminder for myself whenever I need to think outside my very narrow views. The migrant crisis has affected Serbia as said migrants have had to move through our country on their way to Austria and Germany. There’s been issues on the borders, refugee camps hastily built in my hometown, Belgrade and others – some of my friends are still working 24/7 to help them out. In these chaotic times, I needed some experience to fall back on to when thinking about these migrants, who they are, the way they are treated and – above all – the extremely difficult predicament faced by countries such as Austria and Germany surmised in the question: Should we let them in!??!
I don’t have the answer yet, but my life in the Netherlands helped me form a clearer opinion. The Dutch are coping with these issues in their own unique way…and are they succeeding? What’s your take?