Majority of NL residents against national holiday for slavery remembrance
59 percent of Netherlands residents are against making Slavery Remembrance Day a national holiday, according to a survey by EenVandaag among 30 thousand people. 66 percent also don't think the Dutch State needs to apologize for its role in slavery.
The Netherlands is commemorating the end of slavery today, July 1. Due to the coronavirus restrictions still in place, the traditional Keti Koti, or "breaking the chains" festival, was canceled. There are currently various initiatives in the country to make Keti Koti a national holiday.
In the EenVandaag survey, a clear difference was visible in how people with roots in Suriname and the Antilles and people with roots only in the Netherlands feel about this matter.
620 people whose ancestors came from Suriname or the Antilles participated in this survey. In this group, 70 percent support making Keti Koti a national holiday, and 71 percent are in favor of the Dutch State making apologies. They think a national holiday is a good way to reflect on a piece of Dutch history that the entire population can learn from.
Some drew a parallel with the commemoration of the Second World War on May 4 and 5. "This is our liberation day," one respondent said. Another: "My daughter always reflects on the suffering of the Second World War for two minutes on May 4th. We never had to deal with that. But nobody thinks about the suffering of our ancestors."
They also feel that an apology from the State would be an acknowledgement of the suffering inflicted on their ancestors. "The dehumanization from history still continues. We also see ourselves as inferior. Apologies would bring a bit of recognition, which would do me good," one respondent said. Another said: "People don't realize the impact slavery still has on the descendants. I don't know where I'm from, what my real family name is, can never make a real family tree. I'm reminded of that daily just writing my name. With apologies, we can finally begin the healing process."
But in the Netherlands population as a whole, the idea of a national holiday and apologies for slavery can count on much less support, with 59 percent and 66 percent being against it respectively. Respondents believe it is enough if people who feel the need celebrate the abolition of slavery in their own circle, and that today's generation doesn't need to apologize for something that happened in the past.
"How can you apologize for something from centuries ago that you were not involved in at all? I don't feel responsible for it and don't want to be held accountable for it," one respondent wrote. Another said that if apologies start, there would be no end to it. "The French can also apologize for Napoleon," one said. Another: "And what about African chieftans who sold slaves, they should also say sorry."
Instead of apologies, many respondents would rather see a good teaching package on the subject in schools. "Let children in schools really learn about slavery. Teach them how cruel it was, especially don't make it prettier. Tell them what it meant for the economy, but also how dark this part of our history is. That seems much more useful to me," one respondent said.
Among all the respondents, 24 percent were in favor of a national holiday for Keti Koti and 26 percent were in favor of the Dutch State apologizing. "The crimes were committed by the state at the time. It seems logical to me that the same state now makes a symbolic apology for it."