Student - July 17, 2020

Blog: Apologies?! 


Politicians expressed remorse for slavery in the past but never apologised. Blogger Livia thinks it strange.

Recently, the parliament debated on whether or not to apologise for the Netherlands history concerning slavery. Politicians have already expressed ‘deep regret and contrition’ in the past but never went so far as to apologise. I thought this rather odd and wonder what meaning an apology for acts of the past may hold today.

Prime-minister Rutte stated that there certainly is racism in the Netherlands. Still, he is reluctant to categorise people as racist and wants to avoid making people feel that way. Thus, he thinks that apologising for slavery, which was abolished almost 160 years ago, will only serve to polarise society further. You might wonder if there is anything that could not polarise people these days, but that’s a different issue.

Making 2023 an official year of remembrance for slavery (exactly 160 years after it was abolished) has been suggested. Apologising for something that occurred in the past may be seen as non-sensical, as what was done, can not be undone. Thus, it is easy political appeasement for past mistakes.

Still, I feel that apologising could serve a purpose in the current debate. Apologising shows judgement. Saying you regret that slavery existed, changes nothing about history, but it does show that from a contemporary perspective, these acts are condemned. It calls for critical reflection and consideration of the present. Because, how can our white members of parliament know whether racism exists? How can they judge whether apologies can contribute to acknowledging how racism is experienced?

During the debate, a white, male politician stated that ‘we really don’t have a problem’ and that a European study shows that the Netherlands is leading in acceptance of people of a different ethnic background. Asking people whether they are racist, rather than asking people whether they experience racism, does not seem the correct take on this issue. The fact that many people claim they accept diversity conveys as little about reality as our constitution stating we are all equal.

First of all, we are to assume there is, indeed, a problem. Racism is rooted in many parts of society and is often subconscious. You need not be a self-proclaimed racist to contribute to racist structures within our society. Ask, listen to the stories, be critical of yourself and society, as the opposition suggested during the debate. Politicians should not blindly follow the path of least resistance by omitting an apology, recognising the past and reflecting on the present. Seize this opportunity, now that the current events provide an excellent incentive for a new debate. As of yet, we are waiting for that particular debate until 2023.

Re:actions 2

  • How to end wars

    Good white people are not responsible for the mistakes or atrocities done by their biological ancestors, and privileged black people are not to be proud by what their biological ancestors fought for.
    We are not to be shamed or proud of what we have not done ourselves.
    Bearing the past over the shoulders of present is a concept of nationalism and nationalism lead to wars.
    In order to have global peace, we should stop connecting ourselves to the past of where we live. the history is to learn from, not to bear it over the shoulders of present generations.

  • moha

    Blogger Livia is a racist person. For her, because we are white, we are responsible for slavery that happened 200 years ago. If we are black, we are a victim. Making categories and generalities based on the skin colour is nothing else but the definition of racism: Blogger Livia is racist.


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  • K. Harmsen

    Slavernij droeg vooral bij aan gewin voorzet gebied van Nederland daf nu Randstad is. Andere Nederlandse provincies waren slechts wingewesten, waar burgers van de Republiek ook als slaven werkten. Tot zover witte privilege voor bepaalde groepen blanken. Excuses maken namens Nederland? Onzin!

  • Roelof Kleis

    Ieder is verantwoordelijk voor het eigen doen en laten en niet voor dat van een ander. Excuses voor het slavernijverleden zijn daardoor misplaatst. Je kunt geen excuses maken voor iets, noch spijt hebben van iets, waar je geen verantwoordelijkheid voor draagt. Laten we ons met de eigen tijd bezighouden. Die is al verwarrend genoeg.

  • Mustela

    In 2002 werd Pim Fortyun vermoord door Volkert van der Graaf. Van der Graaf woonde begin jaren `90 op Droevendaal. Voelt Livia Franssen zich geroepen om publiekelijk excuses aan te bieden voor deze politieke moord namens alle (oud)bewoners van Droevendaal?

    • fret

      kromme beredenering Mustela. Van der G. pleegde deze daad niet voor het algemeen gewin van Droef. Het feit dat hij op Droef woonde staat los van zijn daad. Daarnaast hen ik nergens gezien dat Livia een spokesperson dan wel (soort van) bestuurder is van Droevendaal. Slavernij droeg wel bij aan het gewin van de replubliek, vandaar dat men een excuses verwacht van de Nlse regering, dan wel andere type leiders van het land.

  • Ries

    persoonlijk is dit niet om trots op te zijn, als Nederlander schaam ik me hier wel voor, ik ben op de antillen geweest en in verschillende landhuizen geweest en dan besef je hoe erg het was, hele gezinnen werden uit elkaar gerukt en zagen elkaar niet meer terug.
    Persoonlijk bied ik me excuus aan wat we hebben veroorzaakt.
    Het mooie is op de antillen zijn de Nederlanders niet blank maar wit en daar hebben deze mensen gelijk in.

    Het positieve is wel dat Nederland veel mensen wonen van verschillende landen en culturen en kunnen we zeggen wat we willen.
    Dit is in de meeste landen ondenkbaar.

  • fret