There is a lot more connecting the murder of George Floyd, Groningen and the UG than meets the eye. These connections extend beyond the heart-warming show of solidarity where over a thousand people gathered at Grote Markt to protest racial violence and injustice recently.
Like so many people of colour, particularly in America, George Floyd met a violent end at the hands of authority. This sort of violent racism enrages all decent people and is rightly condemned when it occurs. His murder, like so many before it, would have been a note on a police report and forgotten had people not gathered as they did in Groningen and around the world to demand change.
Now, as this movement against racism grows rapidly, monuments to racism are becoming the focus of efforts to create a better world. In keeping with a timeless tradition, statues of racist oppressors like Edward Colston in the UK are being torn down by protestors around the world. Monuments to slavers rightly have no place in a better future.
It is not enough to be a silent ‘ally’ to the victims of racism without challenging the perpetrators
But while a statue commemorating the life of a racist can be taken down, it cannot ‘teach’ a child to be racist, it needs help. This help comes from parents, family, or some trusted person. They teach a child to see another person as inferior simply for their race and point to such symbols to support their assertions.
For example, Zwarte Piet offers a perfect opportunity for a racist to teach a child that Dutch culture and society supports the subjugation of certain races. While many parades recently decided to drop the blackface and change to ‘Sooty Pete’, Zwarte Piet still has its defenders and will no doubt appear in parades throughout the Netherlands.
This cultural racism can be seen in the attitudes of so many students at the university. We all know the disdainful attitude held by some Dutch students towards ‘internationals’ who come to the UG. Occasionally one will even let a comment slip out in public, perhaps emboldened by the fact that no one has challenged their views in private.
Monuments must be taken down, displays such as Zwarte Piet can be changed. But we must always remember to challenge racists from spreading their hate. It is not enough to be a silent ‘ally’ to the victims of racism without challenging the perpetrators.
Become an accomplice in the effort for change.