Sit-in to protest racism: ‘In four years, I had only one black professor’

Sit-in to protest racism

‘In four years, I had only one black professor’

Hundreds of people gathered at the Grote Markt on Tuesday night for a sit-in to protest against racism. UG students helped organised the protest.
By Denis Overkleeft, video by Rianne Aalbers
3 June om 10:51 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.
June 3 at 10:51 AM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.

‘It was unbelievable’, says psychology student Mirjam Derko, one of the organisers of the ‘Sit-in against anti-black violence in the US & EU’. ‘I didn’t expect to see so many people, especially during a pandemic.’ 

Mirjam is president of the Women’s March Groningen, who organised the event – one of many all over the world since large protests erupted across the United States last weekend – together with the Groningen Feminist Network and Black Ladies of Groningen.

It’s difficult to say how many people attended the protest exactly. The city of Groningen said it was eight hundred – the number allowed because of the corona pandemic – or maybe a thousand. The organisation thinks there were 1,500 people.

Safe distance

One thing is certain: many people wore face masks and sat down to show their support. They all kept a safe distance from each other, sitting down on the colourful crosses the organisation had drawn on the Grote Markt in chalk. ‘The markings were two to three metres apart’, says Mirjam. All protesters had their own little spot. 

They all watched and listened to the speakers making their voices heard in front of the municipal building. The young black women talked about racist police violence, sang songs about justice, and urged the crowd to sing with them. ‘Our goal was to raise awareness of racism, because it is everywhere. Even in the Netherlands.’

Dutch racism

Amberlee Siland (22), who studies business administration, was also at the protest and experiences Dutch racism herself. ‘At work, people act differently around me because of the colour of my skin’, she says. ‘They’ll stop talking about disadvantaged neighbourhoods once I join the conversation, for example.’

Biomedical sciences student Soeraya agrees. ‘Racism is always an issue; it’s become so normalised.’ It’s the small, innocent-seeming things that can be so insidious. ‘Like people touching my curly hair when I don’t want them to. It’s really annoying’, she says.

Role models

The Dutch form of racism is also apparent in other ways, like the lack of role models in important positions, even at the UG. ‘In the four years that I’ve been studying here, I had only one black professor. That’s it’, says Mirjam.

‘Black students need role models, people to look up to. But it’s difficult if they can’t identify with any of the people in power at the university.’ 

It’s high time for an honest and open conversation about this, she feels. ‘There is no such thing as colour blindness. Racism is deeply rooted in our society and we need to talk about it.’


03 June 2020 | 22-11-2020, 16:20

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