Last weekend was a memorable one indeed. At the behest of a good friend of mine, I set off to Maarssen, Utrecht a city on the North-Eastern end of the Randstad. It is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 300,030. For me it was a welcome breath of fresh air, away from the perennially drab demeanor of Delft where I live and study. The train finally drew to halt at 1830 hours just in time for my host to pick me up. I met Bruce after reading his hugely popular novel, War Child. I so moved by the plot that I decided to review it. The author was impressed and invited me over to his abode to share ideas and hear more on my thoughts of the book. After meeting his family and settling in, we began a long chat about his novel, his foundation, future plans and life in general for Africans in Europe. An hour or two later we decided to take a break and I suggested we head out into the night, so I could explore Utrecht famed for its active cultural and night life which they say is second only to Amsterdam. Well dressed and looking phly in the manner Americans would say; we hit the road in search of some fun. Our first port of call was a club in the heart (Centrum) of Utrecht. The music, noise and jive coming from the street the club was located drew my curiosity and so we decided to check it out. At the door of the club named after the Cuban capital, were two huge men dressed in cheap suits and reeking from low quality perfume. We said hello and asked to be let in, but the bouncers refused after sizing-us-up. Incensed my friend asked the men why they wouldn’t let us in. One of them then replied in Dutch, “that they don’t know us” Two others guys came to the door and were let in, another pair showed up and were also afforded right of passage without question right in front of us. The same incident also happened at the doors of the next club we went to and so we ended up settling for a bar around the Centrum.
These incidents marked my first encounter with RACISM in the Netherlands. Unlike my friend who was evidently livid; I was indifferent. Not because it didn’t matter but maybe because they were my first in a country that prides itself as a tolerant and liberal society. More interestingly, Utrecht aims to become the cultural capital of Europe by 2018 which leaves much to be desired, if you ask me. One may be led to believe that the bouncers know all the 300,000 or so inhabitants that live in Utrecht or perhaps they didn’t like our “Zwarte genichten”
It is sad that racism continues to be an issue in the world-especially in Europe I must add. It’s even more frightening when it is thrown unashamedly in your face. There should be some moderation, since its eradication is remotely distant. These thoughts bring to mind the word of Martin Luther King Jnr; when he said “lukewarm acceptance is more bewildering that outright rejection” Truth is people are different; think differently and so one would expect that people would have contrasting opinions about everything. But common we are all human beings, why do we still judge one another on the basis of skin color. “It kills my spirit” Mariam Makeba once commented on Racism.
However my spirit has not been dampened by the incidents. On the contrary they have lifted me and made me see the importance of the issue. Taking my cue from a friend of mine, who happens to be a white, I believe racism is ignorance and racists are ignorant. They lack the ideals and reasoning that men have moved on, from the politics and bickering of skin politics- ask America and its people. Time without number the Americans have shown US ALL the way forward in the true spirit and words of Leontyne Rice; “accomplishments have no color”
In spite of that incident at the Havana Night Club in Utrecht, I managed to have a nice weekend in the city also famed as Centre of Christianity in the Netherlands. One thing is certain in my mind, I will remember that night for a long time to come. “In order to get behind racism, a man once said “we must first take account of race. There is no other way, he says… “And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently…” food for thought from the man known as Harry Blackmun.
“STAND UP AND SAY NO TO RACIAL DISCRIMINATION”