27.2 | Zihni Özdil

“Racism is an American Problem”: Dutch Exceptionalism and the Politics of Denial

Through various topical examples, this article expounds on how the cultural legacy of the Dutch Transatlantic Slave Trade is institutionalized and permeates through Dutch society, while it is simultaneously being negated through the politics of Dutch exceptionalism and the ubiquitous myth of the Netherlands being a “color blind” country. The lack of awareness of the role of the Netherlands during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the anti-black cultural reproduction that accompanied it stems from a complex merger of political, economic and cultural interests that prohibit the prospering of a critical understanding of Dutch racism and its history. Moreover, this political economy of Dutch exceptionalism has both discursively and institutionally served to exclude black and non-black Dutch people of color from the public debate, thus marginalizing their voice and delegitimizing them as cultural stakeholders.

In the course of this piece I will propose that a thorough educational reform as well as a radical democratization of the Dutch system of cultural decision-making is necessary in order to facilitate a societal awareness process that will help dismantle Dutch institutional racism.