“Apologies? For something that happened hundreds of years ago?” A reader at NU.nl this morning wondered about the past of Dutch slavery. Prime Minister Rutte is currently in Suriname, but has not apologized (yet). On our NUjij response platform, many readers have questioned the usefulness of such apologies. This is what experts said about him earlier on NU.nl.
The fact that slavery was a long time ago does not make the apology any less important, Kathleen Ferrier points out on the national celebration of the Dutch slavery past in July 2021. She is the chairperson of the Dutch UNESCO Commission on Education, Science, Culture and Communication. She added that the government always bears the responsibility to correct the mistakes made by their political predecessors. By apologizing, Holland now promises to treat the past differently.
Moreover, the history of slavery so far has been told mainly from the perspective of a white colonial ruler, Ferrier said. The experiences of people who feel connected to people who have been enslaved are not discussed much.
By offering the apology, Holland realizes that her side of the story is also important, Wouter Veraart Ferrier agreed. He is Professor of Legal Philosophy at VU University, Amsterdam. With apologies, the Dutch state shows that it takes (descendants) of slaves very seriously.
According to Veraart, the chance of you being successful in claiming damages in court based on state-provided apologies is “almost zero”. He explained before the judge that you must be able to demonstrate concretely that you suffered harm as a result of slavery. The damage must also be evident as a direct result of a concrete event from the past.
Still traces of slavery
In addition, the population of the Netherlands is still suffering from the effects of the period of slavery, other experts said at the end of June this year. Consider, for example, racial profiling by the police. Another example is discrimination by tax authorities in the allowances scandal.
The practices of so-called institutional racism are the result of centuries of promoting the false assumption that non-white people are inferior. Dutch rulers have used this false story for hundreds of years to justify slavery in legislation and policies.
Since 2020, the Dutch government has recognized the existence of institutionalized racism. Because eradicating these ingrained practices is difficult, the government appointed a National Coordinator to Combat Discrimination and Racism (NCDR) a year later.
Rota talks about past slavery
Rutte makes a working visit to the former colony on Mondays and Tuesdays. The Prime Minister focuses mainly on future business relations.
However, Ruti will speak to the Surinamese authorities concerned with slavery’s past. Cabinet is preparing for any apology. The committee advised the government to apologize for that period.
“Twitter junkie. Lifelong communicator. Award-winning analyst. Subtly charming internetaholic.”