"We really need to stamp out racism": Rutte after discrimination talk

Thousands in Amsterdam turn out in support of Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd in America. June 1, 2020
Thousands in Amsterdam turn out in support of Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd in America. June 1, 2020NL Times / Byron MühlbergNL Times

A meeting between Prime Minister Mark Rutte and activists campaigning against racism was a spirited, positive conversation, the Dutch PM said outside of his official residence. The meeting was attended by rap musician and politician Gideon Everduim, television presenter Sosha Duysker, and students Charnel Sambo and Xenia Wever, as well as Cabinet Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus.

"What you have witnessed for a while in the Netherlands is that the horrible death of George Floyd has stirred up a lot. This triggers something where we say: We really need to stamp out racism," Rutte said outside of his official residence. He added that government efforts to tackle racism have fallen short. "What can you as a society do to combat this poison on the one hand, and at the same time ensure that people are as well-prepared as possible to be successful in this society?"

The conversation was intense and not always smooth because of the emotional aspect of the topic, said Everduin after the event. "The prime minister thought that racism is something that is in our heads, and I then had to make it clear to him that it is something that is within the system, and that mis-education is the most important thing," he said, according to newspaper AD. "I told the prime minister that it is time for leadership and that there is a big difference between racism and discrimination." 

"I am satisfied with the conversation, which is very important that it does not stop here. There really needs to be a concrete approach to do something about this," Duysker said, according to broadcaster NOS.

Rutte called the afternoon meeting both "special and inspiring." Noticeably absent from the day's discussion were activists from Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP), many of whom were largely responsible for organizing the large Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the Netherlands this month.

The government information service announced on Tuesday that Rutte was meeting with people following weeks of Black Lives Matter protests to discuss how the conversation about racism can best be conducted. But Kick Out Zwarte Piet, one of the groups in the Black Lives Matter Netherlands coalition, said that no one in the coalition received an invitation to attend the meeting. 

He conceded that "maybe" he should have invited them for Wednesday's talk, but Rutte also said that today was not meant to speak with organizations which "already have contact with the government anyway." He did say that he would like to sit down with representatives of both KOZP and BLM at a later date.

"The Black Lives Matter coalition in the Netherlands is not a formally organized action group, but a coalition of various groups, parties and individuals who fight against racism in the Netherlands. Neither the coalition nor KOZP were invited to the meeting," the group of anti-racism activists said on Tuesday night. "We were therefore surprised that various media reported that Rutte is talking to representatives of this coalition." 

"The structure of the conversation and the Prime Minister's invitation policy together give the strong impression that this is more about a PR stunt than a sincere conversation to combat institutional ant anti-black racism in concrete terms. The organizers of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations have received no invitation to this conversation," KOZP said.

The meeting was called after three weeks of protests against racism and police brutality throughout the country, and after football commentator Johan Derksen caused a commotion with a "joke" on Veronica inside regarding blackface Zwarte Piet and anti-racism activist Akwasi. Despite various advertisers pulling their spots around the football show, and football teams and players speaking out against the racist remark, Derksen refused to apologize for it.