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Mixed race kids a new phenomenon in the Netherlands? We think not.
Chandra Frank and Mieke Weismann | June 11th, 2014

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This week cultural centre de Balie in Amsterdam will be hosting an event titled ‘LovingDay.nl: (In)visibly Mixed’ on “mixed race” families and relationships (BTW, the Netherlands uncritically accepts this terminology, along with the assumption that certain people are “pure” and others are “mixed”, thereby reifying 19th century race theories). Loving Day takes the end of anti-miscegenation laws in America in 1967 as its starting point to celebrate the growing number of mixed couples and children in the Netherlands. Mixed children are a growing phenomenon in the Netherlands (up from 30% to 37% from 2007 in Amsterdam) but oddly, the program claims, this growth is not visible in Dutch policy or imaging of the Dutch identity.

Being designated as “mixed race” ourselves, we don’t deny that there’s a lot to talk about, but we were mildly surprised to see that this program completely ignores the historical and socio-economical context of mixed race identities within Dutch colonial history. We say mildly, because it wouldn’t be the first time the Dutch conveniently forgot about their colonial adventures. There were clear strategies to instill and secure Dutch “purity” and a cultural sense of belonging in both South Africa and Indonesia. But of course, there were those “Others” that produced in both former colonies. Indos (people of mixed Indonesian European descent) have existed within the former Dutch-East Indies (and thus the Netherlands) for over 300 years, and the same can be said about the Coloured community in South Africa. Let’s not forget that there were and has been strong Dutch policy surrounding and creating these “mixed” identities beginning with the colonial period and existing well into the present.

The regulation of sexual relations was ingrained in the structure of the colonies and often also after periods of colonization. Many of us already know that in apartheid South Africa, sexual prohibitions were made very clear through the prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) and the Immorality Amendment Act (1950) that outlawed marriage and sex across the colour line. But back in the day, Dutch settlers eagerly married or fathered children with Khoisan women. As scholars such as Ann Stoler have pointed out (see here), the regulation of sexual relations was important to the development of the colonies itself. In South Africa we see that in the initial period of colonization “mixing” was tolerated and even condoned. Actually the sexual relations between European men and colonized women aided the long-term settlement of European men in the colonies. Again, as AIAC readers may know, “Coloured” South Africans descend from European settlers—as well as from Cape slaves, indigenous Khoisan population, and other black people; because of that, they are regarded as being “mixed race” and often seen as distinct from the historically dominant white minority and the African population. There is of course much more to say about the Coloured identity and its fluidity, but the influence of Dutch settlers cannot be denied.

In Indonesia, the VOC and Dutch colonial powers specifically created the Indos (or IndoEuropeans) as an acclimatized, cheap workforce that would be loyal to the Netherlands. Within the colony, Indos had special privileges above Indonesian natives and below Dutch colonials, which ultimately resulted in their expulsion from Indonesia once it gained its independence. Needless to say a people of mixed origin—who were brought up and told they were European and were above the local populace during colonial times, only to end up in Europe where they discovered that they were in fact not European—have some serious identity issues to work through. That is, before they completely disappear off the map of Dutch self-knowledge and history. As with silences inherent in other parts of Dutch history, the Indo, too, is expected to disappear from the present, now that colonial times have ended.

Obviously, South Africa and Indonesia weren’t the only colonial territories that the Dutch set foot on. There is a clear need for more research when it comes to similarities (as well as the differences) between the different colonies and the influence of the Dutch. In the same vein, current Dutch race and gender relations have been greatly shaped by colonial endeavors. It is odd enough that the Netherlands takes on the end of American anti-miscegenation laws as a means to celebrate people of mixed backgrounds within the Netherlands, but it becomes problematic when these issues are presented as something new and unpoliced, when the Dutch have had such strong colonial policies related to the creation of new ‘people’ for their own profit.

Furthermore, current Dutch policies banning and preventing new immigrants from bringing over spouses from their motherland will have an obvious effect on the increase in mixed race relationships and children in the Netherlands. Often the idealized idea of mixed race children with “cute light eyes and curly hair” dismisses the ambiguous feelings of cultural belonging that underlie mixed race identities. For instance, it is not uncommon for a white mother to be asked if she adopted her child. In addition, it is often not recognized how mixed race children are privileged over black children in the media and popular culture, which further enforces the idea that ‘lighter’ children have more status and privilege.

Too bad that Balie and LovingDay.nl programmers ignore these serious identity issues and prejudices faced by both mixed race couples and their offspring as well as Dutch colonial history and the role it has played in creating people like us. But as usual, the Dutch just like feeling good about themselves as liberal and tolerant—they are happy to “celebrate” but not deal with anything difficult.

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Chandra Frank and Mieke Weismann

Mieke Weismann is a corporate whore by day, writer by night and currently exploring her place in the world as a model minority and the descendant of both the powerful and the powerless in the context of the Dutch-Indonesian colonial past and post colonial present. Chandra Frank is a regular contributor to Africa is a Country

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8 thoughts on “Mixed race kids a new phenomenon in the Netherlands? We think not.

  1. You speak as if these matters were unique to white Dutch people, when it is a universal phenomenon. We are almost all a mix of several strains, as modern genetics has showed us. It is high time to get past these old clichées of race.
    But fact of matter is that people of colour are at least as aware of their skin as ‘whites’ are. Darkskinned men tend to wed and have children with lighter skinned women. You could start with the one drop rule, and its almost universal accpetance, at least as much by ‘blacks’ as by ‘caucasians’.
    You seem to have a particular axe to grind with Dutch; time to move on. They are actually not that bad. I mean, there are Germans….and French. for starters ;)

  2. @Fringe…. The Dutch are worse and still do a kind of open practice up till date.
    All countries controls their former colonies remotely… only the Dutch never left.

  3. Fringe…. The Dutch are worse and still do a kind of open practice up till date.
    All countries controls their former colonies remotely… only the Dutch never left.

  4. i am wondering where this accusation is coming from? i did not hear of this event before today and maybe i am missing something, but when opening their website i see, on the opening page alone, mention of: “discussion of questions and problems of current ‘mixed’ relationships and families” “colonial context”, etc.
    It’s (also to be seen on the opening page) an international day that has been celebrated since the sixties (only not that long in the netherlands, obviously).
    the speakers seem okay, too.

    I think that indeed in the netherlands we have a lot to learn about our colonial history, about dealing with racism and our different backgrounds. there is (too) much room for improvement, as oblivion seems to be the norm.
    however, i don’t think this event should be accused so easily, when it looks to me like it’s actually attempting to steer people in the right direction. is it perfect? probably not, but it’s not bad. of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, but in mine we have bigger fish to fry in the netherlands (did you see the proposed ‘new’ zwarte piet? now that’s something i can get angry about!)

  5. Yeah the Dutch still have a real influence in Indonesia…not. Dutch were not that successful as colonialists. They were good merchants, but undersold Manhattan.

  6. This articles nicely shows the lack of knowledge about the colonial past in The Netherlands.The Dutch have no idea whatsoever about the histories of the people from their former colonies. As long as these people are silent and ‘assimiliated’, the Dutch just love them so why invest in knowledge? Funny thing is that exactly the ‘mixed’ people like Indo’s are being perceived by the Dutch as this silent and assimiliated model minority.The Dutch appreciate them so much that they do not even see them as Indo’s anymore. ‘Cause what is an Indo? Someone from India?’ The Dutch just think these people have a nice ‘color’ (‘kleurtje’) and make great food. But dont be fooled. And this goes out to all the Indo’s: that nice color of yours still puts you in danger when it comes to the thriving institutional racism in The Netherlands. So dont believe the hype; don’t think you’re white and fully accepted. At the end, you look like a person of color and you’ll have to deal with the racism and your own internalized oppresion due to the colonial historical legacies. Shout out to my Indo people!

  7. Interesting point of view and I totally agree that the “mixed race” terminology and race classification is a completely old fashioned way of thinking, and its very sad to know it still exists (both in Holland, but sadly enough in all countries i can think off actually).

    From your article i get the impression that the fact that this evening is organised (in the light of the Dutch history) is what bothers you so deeply. As i clicked on your links of Lovingday.nl, I did however see that this foundation is founded by people who identify themselves as mixed race couples, and the mentioned evening in the Balie is focussed on people who identify themselves as mixed race and to share their own experiences on discrimination due to their relationship, mixed identity in the media and general exchange of thoughts on this topic. So personally I dont think this organisation “conveniently forgot about the Dutch colonial adventures”, since the organisers are not “the pure white Dutch race” looking down on any other race, but a group of people (of whatever etnicity) who like to exchange thought on race thinking.

    Good to bring up the issue, but I would have enjoyed this piece more if it would not be based on accusing a “Lovingday” (I had never heard of before though) with seemingly good intentions. To my point of view, this program at least tries to open up conversation, and who knows make people more aware about the backwardthinking you correctly mention in your work.

  8. MOVE THE FUCK ON! Problem with this entire article is that it doesn’t bring a change yes we are aware of these issues and it’s still around but we focus on the problems always only on the problems focus and embrace the positive side of things and that’s how you come up with more solutions and actually see change happening. Just saying ;)

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