Golden Coach joins Zwarte Piet in racism debate

Illustration on the Golden Coach (Picture: Twitter/@Doorbraakeu). (Illustration on the Golden Coach (Picture: Twitter/@Doorbraakeu))

The Golden Coach has joined Zwarte Piet as another symbol of Dutch culture that can be construed as racist. Action group De Grauwe Koets, The Sooty Coach in English, has organized a demonstration against the famous Dutch coach on the Museumplein in Amsterdam on Saturday. According to the for the demonstration, the coach's panels contain "racist images which glorify the colonial past". "The action group finds it outrageous that the king rids around in a coach on which colonial propaganda is shown as if it were the most normal thing in the world", according to the Facebook page. The group wants the coach to be retired to a museum, "where it can serve as educational material that forms the right context to display the coach." The Golden Coach was a gift from the Amsterdam population to Queen Wilhelmina at her coronation in 1898. It is traditionally used to transport the royal family during events such as royal marriages and Prinsjesdag. Scholars' opinions on the matter differ. "That it is a symbol of slavery is not a good point, because we did not have slaves then. We actually fought for the abolition of slavery", former professor Piet Emmer, expert in the field of slavery, said to the AD. Historian Roelof Jan Minneboo has a slightly more nuanced view. "The picture was not made with racist intent, but in a time when racism was the norm", he said to Het Parool. "At the time we had no qualms about exploiting people for our gain. Showing these symbols without letting commentary of the parliamentary year be part of it, is inappropriate." This is not the first time that protests are held against the Golden Coach. In 2011 parliamentarians from SP and GroenLinks wrote and opinion piece in NRC on the "wrong" illustration on the Coach. Action group De Grauwe Coach also previously tried to demonstrate in the Het Loo palace, where the coach has been on display since August, but were put out of the complex.