Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Multicultural harmony: a myth?

Given the demonstrations that are currently going on in Australia, going against the government's racism towards immigrants; as well as the on-going Islamophobia throughout the world, it's not odd to question the existence of multicultural harmony. As I keep treading on the soil of this country, I often find myself disappointed at my race - both Dutch and Chinese. Whenever I think I have accepted the difference in my blood, and forgiven those who despised me, thinking I could free myself of the very same biased view on a handful of Dutch people that some Dutch probably possess when they look at me, some random fella takes the time to wind down his car window as he drives past me, throwing racial slurs at me. Racial slur would probably be an exaggeration, as it's the ever-same name-calling related to Chinese food or their limited Chinese vocabulary. It has become familiar to me through bumping into the same kind of people every few weeks, and though it's probably not as bad as having the newspapers marking your race as the breed of criminality every few weeks (as happens with Morrocans, Turks and Antilleans in this country), it's still rude, to say the least.

It's funny how tolerance works in this country, working at an Indonesian shop almost all of my life, I have experienced first hand how the people here are interested in multiculturism. Surely it's all praise for the culture at hand, as they come back and share their stories about their all-in holiday in Bali or their shopping-adventures in Hong Kong. Surely they approach you to buy Spring Rolls and tell you how delicious they taste. It's easy to bite the hand that feeds you, though, using the same things their glutton seemed to praise as a means of degrading another human being. They say they value our culture but they don't know what our culture consists of when they strip it off its superficialities ("ni hao", spring rolls, and babi pangang). Babi pangang means roasted pig in Indonesian, by the way. People seem to like taking the wrong language to insult someone from a different background.

If I had let rage consume me every time people questioned the purpose of immigrants, since it's common believe that they're only here to live of the government's insurances, or that they're only causing problems, being as low-schooled as they are, I could probably be as insensitive and nonsensical, saying things such as:
"Before you call us pigs please stand still and realise that these 'pigs' work 60 hours a week paying insane taxes just so you can sit on your ass with your take-away meal enjoying your part-time 9-til-5 job whilst ripping off the government's insurances."

I know that some of my Morrocan friends try to keep calm as they think in their head:
"Before you blame the immigrants that have 'invaded' your country, please stand still and realise how your country's people didn't want to dirty their hands on jobs that required sweat back in 1960, hence they imported low-schooled foreigners as if they were items. Of course, items which serve no purpose anymore are called trash, that's why you're putting out so much trash now."

As you can see, such words would only prove the lesser of us, and would probably result in unnecessary verbal bloodshed.

Because even though those words would only be a result of impulsiveness and the feeling of being attacked, and wanting to counter-attack ... such outbursts bring bias and one-sided nonsense with them which are just as unforgiving as racial slurs.

Fact is that, indeed, back in history The Netherlands had needed more work force, and couldn't help to seek such work force from other countries. Another fact is that, indeed, a lot of immigrants have come this way with dollar-signs gleaming in their eyes. There are as much immigrants that work 60-hours a week as those who live of insurances. Same goes for the native inhabitants. Also, it still stands true that when the government realised there was no need for extra work forces anyore, those helpless immigrants entering the country after governal interverence were welcomed into the arms of Dutch entrepeneurs.

The allochthonous population possesses as much of a free hand in racism as the autochthonous population does. I have often found myself guilty of rage and truly wanting to throw back words at those who assault me. And just to refer back to the discrepancy I wrote about in the second paragraph - the same could apply to a handful of Chinese people. They say they value Western culture but they don't know what this culture consists of when they strip it off its superficialties (famous European brands such as LV or all European citizen's economically fortunate circumstances). Actually, when I walk around China, I know there are those who admire me for my lucky circumstances, and also those who frown at me for denying my blood and not speaking my own language well.

Quite frankly, deep inside I might still be able to criticize both races, but I usually don't because I know I don't possess enough knowledge, and I know that emotions are not to be trusted (usually I'll be able to think clearly after a few hours, which is odd, because with most matters my moments of rage only last a few seconds). Throughout this post it's become evident that rage only results in blaspheming stereotypes, and that at the end of the day, no race truly understands the other. It's funny how such a small incident could still spur a boiling rage inside of me. I have never considered myself traditional. Actually, I barely have any Chinese friends, most are Dutch. Still I question the possibility of multicultural understanding. When I am assaulted I shut my mouth and move on, perhaps boil a bit but that's it. As I do this, a small-scaled argument is avoided, but that doesn't change the bigger problem at hand, which probably lies at the core of feeling misunderstood or mistreated, from both sides of the coin.


  1. To what extent, though, would you consider this "drive-by" racism (insults and slurs thrown on the street) to be actual manifestations of xenophobia?

    It is quite common for aggressive young men, especially under peer pressure, to establish group relationships by insulting outsiders. Anyone who's ever walked in a crowded public place can attest to this. When aimed at men, such insults are often based on sexuality or physical build. When aimed at women, they usually address aesthetics - I've heard public insults based on hair colour, dress, and race. You'll find that these remarks gravitate towards the most obvious physical features of a person, of which race is a prime example.

    Such insults are, of course, as harmful and mindbogglingly stupid as genuine racial slurs, and your indignation is completely justified, but there is a distinction - namely whether the cause is non-acceptance on a national level, or individual attention-seeking.

    As a Caucasian male, it is hard for me to imagine how much of this racism is truly meant. Do you feel it is serious hatred for outsiders, or could it often be as simple as blind animosity aimed at the ostensibly most vulnerable target?

    1. Hi there, nice to see a new face on this page. :)

      Before I go further into your questions I would just like to clarify that I can only speak from my own experiences, from which this spur of frustration manifested when I wrote this blogpost a year ago. During primary school, my fellow classmates would shy away from two other children in particular because their "skin was made out of poop". During secondary school, I've even seen teachers lash out while explicitly aiming at the pupils' Moroccan roots. I must admit that I have barely come across people in my surroundings stooping to that level, ever since attending university. It does however worry me when I still see children coming into my shop, mumbling things about how "Chinese are smelly", and not seeing their parents correct them.

      The latter is by no means a serious remark, and of course I know that kids need to learn, but sometimes I wonder if they are not learning things too late. Like I said, I barely feel the same now that I'm at university, compared to when I went to primary school. I do believe it's a matter of maturity as well. But I wished more awareness was given to how small things can easily grow into a bigger issue. We might be blinded by attention-seeking, we might have learnt to easily target the most vulnerable target, but how will this get any better if teachers or parents are not showing concern? Indifference is just as bad as hatred.

      You certainly have a point; it might not be a racial issue (nowadays it's so easy to tie everything with racism). I do not believe that the children or youngsters I've seen are full of hatred or fear for other cultures, but I do believe that there is barely any understanding, and with that, sometimes respect seems to be lacking too. Again, I'm talking about both sides of the coin: caucasian towards allochthonous and allochthonous towards caucasian. I think it would benefit the world much more of people dared to ask about each other's roots, without either side immediately putting up their defense mechanisms.