Racism in Dutch politics -- Do we always react too late?

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok was heard making xenophobic comments behind closed doors. Now, his cabinet has sent a letter asking him to rethink his stance.

Lara Bullens
Lara Bullens NewsMavens, Western Europe
Racism in Dutch politics -- Do we always react too late? - NewsMavens
Stef Blok, Dutch politican Rutte Cabinet II. http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/copyright/

Why this story matters:

Stef Blok, member of the VVD (the largest party in the Netherlands) and Dutch foreign minister, made racist remarks during a working group meeting in The Hague earlier this month.

He said that there was no such thing as a multicultural society, that Suriname's "ethnic divisions" made it a "failed state", that Eastern European countries would reject EU refugee quotas because "colored migrants" have "no life" in those countries and would get "beaten up" in Prague or Warsaw, and that all of this could be explained by the fact that humans are "genetically" hardwired to be wary of unfamiliar people. 

These comments are nothing new to Dutch politics.

The letter he received from his cabinet asking him to rethink his words is nothing new either, sadly. 

When a political representative makes xenophobic statements, we often assume that it bodes ill for the future. But doesn't it indicate that something is wrong with the present, and that a reaction is warranted now, if we don't want to react too late? 

The wave of protests hit the USA only after Trump was elected. Public awareness of the migrant crisis peaked after the photo of Alan Kurdi's body washed up on European shores was leaked. 

Are humans hardwired to be reactive rather than proactive? When it comes to Dutch politics, perhaps it is time to test our ability to react as soon as our intuition tells us something is wrong, rather than wait for confirmation. 

Details from the story:

  • Stef Blok, part of the VVD party and Dutch foreign minister, was criticized after controversial comments on migrants. 
  • Now, his cabinet has addressed a letter asking him to rethink his stance.
  • He said there’s no such thing as a multicultural society: “Give me an example of a multiethnic or multicultural society, where the original population are smiling as well… and where there are peaceful community relations. I’m not aware of any.” And that accepting too many migrants would quickly push any society to “reach its limits.”
  • That Eastern European countries “will never agree” to the EU’s refugee quotes because “coloured people” have “no life” in those countries.
  • That migrants of colour would be “beaten up” if they moved to Warsaw or Prague.
  • His audience suggested Suriname and Singapore as examples, Blok claimed that Suriname’s “ethnic divisions” make it a “failed state” and then said that Singapore is a “small mini-country” which is “extremely selective in its migration.”
  • These comments took place during a working group meeting behind closed doors in The Hague on July 10.
  • His comments were leaked by the Dutch TV programme Zembla who had gotten footage of the comments.
  • Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have addressed a letter to Stef Blok, asking him about his lack of colleagues with a bicultural background. In the letter, they wrote “diplomacy is based on the fact that different cultures and nations cooperate peacefully.”
  • They outlined how the Ministry was “not yet an organization where colleagues with a bicultural background could feel at home.”
  • They did not, however, address the controversial comments he made earlier this month in a closed-door meeting in The Hague.
  • In the letter he addressed to the Dutch parliament, he said that he made those remarks to provoke people, that his wording was “too sharp” and that he “is sorry if his comments led to anyone being offended.”

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