Dutch Denial of Discrimination: 3 Examples

And so Holland yet again becomes the laughing stock of the international news. This time the honor goes to Gordon for making clearly racist comments at an Asian Opera singer.

What number will you sing for us? No. 39 with rice? Click photo for film.


After the Zwarte Piet debacle, and now with this, I think we can all safely agree that the Netherlands has issues. We have issues with introspection and we have issues with acknowledging racism and discrimination. A decade of ‘Dutch Tolerance’ in the nineties made us delirious in thinking we have become invulnerable to racism or discrimination. We are not! Of course racism and discrimination happen in gradations and of course a lot of countries have worse examples, but wake the fuck up! Ignoring that these issues occur in Holland just makes you look stupid and ignorant. Racism doesn’t evaporate once it crosses state lines.

Just a grain of empathy can actually go a long way. Let me give a few examples to make visible the problem our small country has. Mind you, these are just a few! :-P, I’m not even going to start about the more obvious ones.

Case #1: Asian Culture

Our dear Gordon is not the only one making racism funny. We have a pretty interesting history of making fun of Asians. Maybe Gordon was inspired by these people.



That’s just the tip of iceberg. The West in general has a rich tradition as making Asians into nerds, dragon ladies and dictators.

Let’s talk Ushi. I will admit I have found Ushi of Ushi & van Dijk funny. I do believe Wendy is a talented presenter and a good actrice. I like her wacky antics in the show and her out there mentality. And I don’t think she means this to be racist. But let’s call a cow a cow, shall we. Ushi is racist. She makes fun of Asian culture, of Asian accents and caricaturizes Japanese as a crazy and an oversexualized people. Is there really no way that Ushi can be crazy without bashing a culture?

I’m not advocating that minorities and humor don’t mix. But there’s a lot of ways of doing that without resorting to blatant racism. And even if the humor involves racism then let’s still be able to talk about it. But unfortunately our last debate showed that we have trouble doing so.


Case #2: Zwarte Piet

Plenty of information you can find over here and here about Zwarte Piet. I don’t feel the need to discuss Zwarte Piet anymore, I’m done for this year.  But I do like to point out some of the responses people have received during this discussion.

zwarte piets
Click photo for film

Please watch that film and tell me racism does not exist in Holland. Please delight me with your superior vision on things.

And for the last time: Just because you don’t think something is racist and because you don’t think there is racist intent does not make it so. If in the States everyone would’ve agreed over the existence of racism back in the day you think Martin Luther King would have felt the need to give his speech? Racism is per definition NOT a shared experience. If everyone would agree over racism, it wouldn’t be racism anymore. So stop being such a narcissistic little brat thinking your opinion about racism is the only valid one. It might come as a shock but having a vagina, a darker skintone,  a different religion, sexuality or ethnicity influences how people treat you. It’s not about one trumping the other, it’s about the ability to listen to each other and see how our experiences differ.

Let’s not try to defend our own position too much without listening. It makes us look laughable and a little slow.


Case #3: Jewish Guilt be gone!

Remember the second world war when more then over hundred thousand jews got deported from our country because we had such a splendidly intact administration? Well it’s getting pretty hard to conjure those memories up. There is this theatre production: Soldier of Orange. It’s a really cool play that sets the audience on a platform that moves around it’s own axis. The play takes place around the platform. But the story…..ahh yes the story. The story is about this Dutch Fraternity being torn apart by the war. It focuses on the hero who fights the Germans, helps the Jews, escapes to England and goes back to confront his enemies.

Let’s get things straight (and that’s coming from a gay-guy): this is a romantic fairy-tale trying to make us seem brave and cool about our part in the war.  But this is not how a large majority of Holland was run in these times. More than a 100.000 jews got deported. If all of us were truly that heroic that would not have happened.

And yet this theatre production is in it’s third year. We love it. We gobble it up. This is guilt washing. We are cleansing our past from any guilt that might be still there for letting the Germans take over and let them deport more than 100.000 of our own citizens.


I’m not even going to talk Zwartboek here. There is a interesting red thread that ties Zwartboek together with Soldier of Orange. We are trying to wash away our guilt. We were courageous, we were rebellious! Of course we were. And now I would like you to put your straightjacket back on before you hurt yourself.

Dutch Don’t Do introspection

Underneath is a fascinating phenomenon. All of this reveals our lack of Dutch introspection. Have we become such an insecure nation that can’t take criticism?

A perfect example comes from commerce, where a commercial from a fast food chain was shot for the Dutch Market

As you can see this is English spoken version. They are talking about going Dutch. This created an uproar. People were offended. Why should Americans be able to talk to us like this? This is false! We don’t do that. How dare they portray us like this? This is offensive!

But then it was revealed it was actually produced in Holland. The same commercial was also shot in Dutch. They fooled us. This commercial shows how incredibly short sighted we can be. Nobody can say bad things about our culture without being made as an outsider. And apparently being an outsider makes everything you say nonsense.

This pathetic and Xenophobic way of dealing with debates like the ones mentioned above is ridonculous. So what? Even if they are an outsider(which they usually aren’t), can’t they have an opinion? They can’t show us our own shortcomings? We are so much better? We can dish it, but can’t take it? They are less human, less entitled to an opinion? Dismissing someone’s opinion based on whether they are Dutch or not makes you look like a fool. It’s not an argument nor will it ever become one.

How would we feel if the Asians made us look like cranky cheap skating cheese makers who are stoned all the time? What if the Africans make us look like greedy and angry slave traders with dollar signs in our eyes? What if the Middle east made us look like sleazy prostitutes trying to euthanize each other? Would we be able to laugh about it?


Well, would we?


Martijn Van Veen
Martijn Van Veen
Martijn is a filmmaker and curious mind fascinated with the ever changing world around him. He loves to overshare and to mingle in debates surrounding feminism, LGBT rights, ethnicity, immigration, copyright, new media and the war on drugs.


  1. They already do plenty of times. In how many Hollywood movies isnt the Netherlands portaided as a weed smoking country, even in our own movies such as “Flodder in America” we ridicule ourselves. The phrase “Going Dutch” is world wide accepted and I personally have heard no body complain about that Mc Donalds campaign, even though there is a vital difference between the dutch and english version where in the Dutch one they say in the end “wonderfully dutch” or something alike and in the english version “As dutch as it gets”.
    Not that it matters because I for one am proud of our ways of propperly managing our money. And I also dont get mad because people view this as being cheap while The Netherland Government gives away around what… 4 Bilion euro’s annnually as aid to third world counties?

    The Dutch joke about every race, gender and dissease. Excluding races would be racist because then we would treat them different because of their race.

    And the Jewish guilt gone part? Dont see how that fits into this discussion but I do know we have more horribles movies about the second world war then glorified ones. Blaming people for liking the glorified movies better is the same as blaming them for being human. Not to mention the most well known story around the world is about Anne Frank and how she got ratted out by Dutch people. This besides the fact that sI know of no country in the whole world that doesnt glorify its wrongs.

    Why cant we all start to see the good in people such as Gordon. He might have peculiar ways but he makes people happy with his jokes, this was what he ment to do, not to offend people but to give them joy, even the Chineese guy on stage seemed to be content with it. So why is a Dutch guy concearned with this Mr. van Veen?

    • “So why is a Dutch guy concearned with this Mr. van Veen?”
      This is a classic example of the point the author is making, By saying that a Dutch person shouldn’t be critical of this you imply the flipside – which is that only ‘outsiders’ feel this sort of casual racial insensitivity is a problem – which often leads to the ‘if you don’t like it go back to your own country’ comment that is irritating to an expat, and acutely offensive to a Dutch person of non Dutch ancestry.

        • Hahahaha, That’s your response to everything isn’t it? Why write a line like this when your words appear to be empty? Ignoring the entire content of the piece. Do you get off writing angry stuff like this? Do you like pointing the finger in anger unable to think rationally about this? Does it make you feel good?

          Het volgende zal ik speciaal voor jou in het Nederlands doen. Ik ben Nederlands. Ik ben hier geboren en getogen. Ik heb dit artikel geschreven. Dus je argument gaat helaas niet op. Blijkbaar zijn er ook ‘gewone’ Nederlands die dit vinden. Waar moeten die dan heen volgens jou? Een land waar ze nooit gewoond hebben. Je wilt iedereen die anders denkt het land out hebben. Heb je er moeite mee als mensen het met je oneens zijn?

          • Let me interject something here. I too am dutch but discrimination in any form is of course a sign of aggression. No country is individually accountable for this phenomenon since it is inherent in certain individuals and as such has nothing to do with it’s culture. The fact that an entertainer uses discriminating comments simply denotes his lack of creativity. A lot of people laugh at a stunting frontal attack of another particularly to a minority simply because it makes them feel better. That an artist uses that simply means in my eyes that he is trying to make a cheap attention stunt. In the case of Gordon that is to be expected knowing the man. The fact that Holland would be so upset about a Mcdonalds commercial is of course ludicrous. Nobody would have even heard about it if it weren’t for the media.

            And then again. A discriminative remark is of course an attack. A person who gives a lot of criticism obviously cannot have it because he knows what the true intent is… It takes a deviant to know one. Same applies in these matters and those who claim to speak for all of us could potentially fall under that category.

            No I disagree that ‘Holland’ is racist. There are racists present undeniably, but much the same as any other country.

          • @DutchOpinion: Please correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to view this post as an attack on Dutch society, since you argue that racism should be attributed to individuals and not to society – but what is society if not a collective made up of individuals? I’m not going to be nitpicky about terminology (or mereology!) here but racism/discriminatory attitudes toward (especially non-western and non-white, alas) ‘foreigners’ (or nationals) or xenophobia – whatever term you used to refer in a joint manner to the manifestations of these – is arguably a problem in Dutch society, and people are more and more inclined to voice such ‘politically incorrect’ (as some like to call it) opinions in the public domain – and not always presented in a polite and reasonable form like your comment.

            Of course not everyone shares attitudes like this – and it is irrelevant whether the absolute majority of all people that make up ‘Dutch society’ shares them – this is not even a condition for them being attributable to ‘Dutch society’. Society and culture are defined by some set of shared attributes that people have, but not necessarily in a homogeneous way way – even if not all of even most people were to celebrate Sinterklaas the way many or even most Dutch do, it could still arguably be considered a Dutch tradition, would you agree? What you seem to be presenting as argument against the claim that racism is a general phenomenon/’social fact’ in Dutch society does not hold, because the fact that it is not shared by everyone in Dutch society does not invalidate the claim that it is a ‘social fact’ in Dutch society.

            Nor is your statement that having manifestations of racism makes the Netherlands any different from other countries relevant to this in any way. The conclusion that Sinterklaas can arguably be considered a Dutch tradition cannot be proven false by the fact that a celebration of the same saint takes place in other countries (say, Switzerland) on the same day with very similar characteristics, thus arguably a slightly different manifestation of the same phenomenon.

            The proposition you are projecting onto this blog’s author is a proposition he never made: that the Netherlands “is racist” (has it occurred to you that his discourse is addressed to those who defend racist practices, and not to the rest of us?) At any rate, this cannot be a binary question. However, maybe the question: ‘Does racism in the Netherlands and is it on the rise?’ could be exactly that.

          • You take yourself so serious that you dont recognize a joke/trolling.

            Maybe you should think about that. Fanatic people are very dangerous.

          • You seem to be scared. What are you scared of? Of people who question things and know how to engage in rational argument? That doesn’t surprise me

          • I recognize trolling, I just don’t accept it as a viable form of communication. So I do apologize for actually responding to your content instead of just trolling your troll 😛 because that is obviously the form of dialogue that you wish to stimulate.
            And I do consider fanatics largely uninterested or incapable of rational reasoning so I would probably go with a more emotional, religious or instinctive form or reasoning to try to create a way to build a bridge instead of just burning it. And fanatics are at their most dangerous when they are not being heard so therefore I wish not to add fuel to their fire. If it comes to threats then that will be all on them! I do not control their lives, so it’s pointless to worry about their actions.

    • “even the Chineese guy on stage seemed to be content with it.”

      Wow, do you actually believe that he was content with it? Learn a bit about Asian culture, will you?

  2. I do not view cultural insensitivity as overly negative. I live in the Netherlands but I am not Dutch, I live in a country with a culture that is different from my own, I accept this. I am very thankful that I live here, in a country where the people are still unafraid to poke fun at me and my cultural heritage. Why should I try to force the people around me to not make fun of me? I have no right to that. If I don’t like it, I’ll go to where I came from, thank you very much.

    Some people here made stupid jokes about my culture, and I laughed along with it. I then make a joke about some petty Dutch tradition or quirk and we agree to go out for a beer again. What you call racism, I call a joke, or a joke in poor taste. It harms me in no way, it doesn’t even raise my blood preassure. What I call racism is when I am denied a job/entry/action based upon my race. Only happened once, but to base my view of the Dutch on the opinions of one would make me a bigger idiot than him, no thank you.

    Your points on Zwartboek are poor at best. Retrospection is an easy way to come to bad conclusions about past decisions. I can theorize that if the Dutch refused to surrender and refused to reveal the names in their records, the number of lost lives and cities would be far greater. If you want to look at a movie which really screws with history, you may want to look at Inglourious Basterds where the Americans win the War in a witty manner, they don’t even mention the fact that they held thousands of Japanese in camps on their soil (Oh no!).

    Anyway, I accept that people lead their own lives, they can’t be on a constant lookout in case they may “offend” someone. I may find a ton of things offensive, even some people and their action, but that’s why I have a brain that likes to remind me that these things do not matter. As long as the Dutch don’t start talking about taking away any of my liberties based on things I have no control over, I am cool with them making a joke about my heritage/appearance/religion/whathaveyou. I’ll raise my glass to the Netherlands this evening, you bunch of glorious stoned cheese makers.

  3. I had a dutch colleague. Once his girl friend came to have lunch with us. During lunch, somehow they (the colleague and his girlfriend) started to talk about money. His girlfriend said your yogurt was bought by me… I was surprised to hear that. So when I saw the McDonald’s advertisement, I was not surprised at all. It is TRUE.

    • Well you are correct. it is in some ways! Although the Dutch can’t be considered a Race. But a population like the Dutch can feel easily offended by things. That’s exactly what I am talking about here.

      You want to share the experience of how that feels? Why the need to talk, but not listen? You are not the only one. There are lots of people discriminated in different ways. Yours might be based on your genderrole, on your nationality or on your economic status. It doesn’t matter. There is no cash price for being the most discriminated. There is not only one valid form of discrimination

      But that’s exactly what this article is about. I’m trying to help open up the floor about people feeling discriminated in different ways since I feel there is little to no room for these people to talk about it. It feels to me like there are a lot of people in Holland who seem unwilling to empatise with anyone who is different. This might or might not include you, but to me it seems like a pattern.

        • Tough question. I see a difference between race and ethnicity. Ethnicity I see as a matter of conscious identity politics which can be based on race which is a matter of physical characteristics. But I admit that I blur these lines because race is much wider used and understood where Ethnicity is widely considered a more complex understanding. So for sake of simplicity and entertainment I take unscientific shortcuts. Why are you asking?

          • Seeing as you say that Dutch can’t be considered a race. Also seeing as you’re saying this:

            ” So for sake of simplicity and entertainment I take unscientific shortcuts. ”

            That’s a really, really bad idea concerning such a heavy subject such as racism. But it does explain the whole article; at least you’re honest about your intentions.

  4. I loved this article!!! I’m Black, have been living in The Netherlands for 4 years now, and I am still so offended by the Zwarte Piet imagery and also by the blatant racism each and every year, despite having lived in several other countries also with histories and reputations of racism. I don’t hate it here, but ALL of what you have said is true, especially about “Direct” Dutch people being able to serve uninvited comments about everyone else’s culture, but not really being willing to accept any criticism of their own. The most common response is that of “buitenlanders” somehow not being qualified and mentally capable or equally entitled to observe, and having no right to, comment on Dutch racism or point out prejudiced mindsets. The culture, (e.g. Calvinistic attitudes towards money), not so much, but Dutch people really like to defend their “right” to be racist. It’s very painful and very sad.

  5. Why are so many white people determining for minorities if they should feel offended or not? Just curious. I’m of mixed race myself but it astounds me how the majority of the discussion is particulary ruled by white people as if the minorities can’t defend themselves. Is this the 21st century white man’s burden or what?

    Oh and the talkshow you posted above is not a real talkshow and is a good indication of a strawman argument. The other argument about Dutch people being offended at a McDonalds commercial isn’t backed up at all. You just say people were offended but I’ve yet to find any proof of that.

    Oh and about this line: “How would we feel if the Asians made us look like cranky cheap skating cheese makers who are stoned all the time? ”

    They already do. See this Japanese commercial for example: http://youtu.be/i97835BOq6o
    It isn’t an indication of Asian sentiments as a whole regarding Europeans, but you could say it’s racist as well.

    Same goes for this one: http://www.debito.org/?p=10591

    • Stop speaking for minorities as if they are NOT offended you sound like a moronic loser. And Europeans don’t face discrimination so don’t use that crap reverse victimization argument.

      • Fun fact: I’m the offspring of minorities… My grandparents and father were some of the first immigrants in the Netherlands and were routinely discriminated against. Anybody can face discrimination, you just did to me. To say that certain races can’t be discriminated against is discrimination in itself. Apply yourself and inform yourself about the cultural history of our nation.


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