Abandoned as an infant high in the mountains of Colorado, James was taken in and raised by a family of marmots. They trained him in the art of satire, but warned him: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ He didn’t understand the truth of their words until his adopted rodent brother, Donald Trump’s hair, turned to the dark side.
James could only sit by and watch, helpless and appalled, as his evil brother meme’d his way to the White House. Forever changed by what he had seen, James fled to The Netherlands and vowed to always use his powers for good.
In late February the UKrant published an article about people’s experiences as minorities living in Groningen. The response to this consisted of over 600 unbelievably toxic comments, and threats of legal action against the paper for ‘inciting hate speech’.
‘I am affronted’, read one comment. ‘How dare these black people say things that I don’t like. I mean, I’m not racist, but listening to and acknowledging marginalized people’s experiences? It’s just too much.’
‘It was so one sided’, read another. ‘They call themselves journalists? Where’s the dissenting opinion? It was just a bunch of people of color saying they sometimes feel discriminated against! Where’s the white guy saying, ‘Uh- no. You don’t feel like that’. We need debate!’
Hundreds of other comments expressed similar sentiments. Some people disagreed with them, but still more found fault with the paper itself for stirring the pot.
‘This is so irresponsible on the part of the Ukrant’, read one such comment. ‘It encourages racism! If we’d only just kept on pretending that minorities don’t exist, no one would have had any reason to say nasty those things in the comments.’
An Uncomfortable Topic
The response to the article did not come as a surprise to anyone in the international community. Many international students get their introduction to the topic of race in The Netherlands through a conversation about black pete, and they quickly learn it’s something people would rather not think about.
‘It’s like pulling teeth’, said one international student, who wished to remain anonymous. ‘The minute anything even tangentially related to race comes up someone makes an uncomfortable joke about zwarte piet and then everyone stops talking. I mean, people look at me funny all the time, and the minute I say anything about it to anyone they get mad. It’s like, come on, you’re proving my point here! You’re trying to insist that racism doesn’t exist in The Netherlands while simultaneously actively trying to invalidate and drown out the voices people of color. How can you not see the irony?’