A wave of apologies for slavery and small funding set aside has been forthcoming from such legacy institutions as Harvard University. The Netherlands announced that it would soon be making its own apology for the slave trade. Bloomberg was one of the first major media outlets to report on this action and announced that there could be a fund that accompanies said apology.
While Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s office has declined requests for specific details on the fund, sources report that the Netherlands plans to pay $204 million in slavery reparations sometime between the end of 2022 and early 2023.
What is interesting to note is that in 2021, Rutte said he was not willing to apologize for slavery, though he admitted racism was an issue in the Netherlands. However, just months later there was an abrupt about-face after his visit to the former Dutch colony Suriname on the northeast Atlantic coast of South America. This realization could be the culmination of a growing number of events over the past several years around race, including the “Black Pete” Netherlands tradition, seen by many in the U.S. as so demeaning to African Americans that even civil rights legend Rev. Jesse Jackson was moved to write a letter to Prime Minister Rutte calling for greater sensitivity to this annual event.
As part of Christmas traditions in the Netherlands, Black Petes are portrayed by white people in blackface with oversized lips and Afro wigs. Collecting candy from the Black Petes is a rite of Dutch childhood, but one from which many Black children feel excluded.
This impending Dutch apology comes as several countries are consistently more pressured to address the socioeconomic impact of the slave trade. This was even cause for a recent debate in Britain in light of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Topics ranged from barbaric torture in Africa during her early reign to the means of acquisition for some of the most valuable crown jewels still in possession by the royal family. While many British scholars are quick to point out that England was the first to abolish slavery, that fact by no means absolves the country of responsibility for its massive economic foundation and the devastation stemming from such laws.
Similarly, the Dutch were among the first colonizers to join the trans-Atlantic slave trade. While they may be known for colonizing Curaçao and St. Eustatius by sending enslaved Africans there along with Suriname, of particular note is the Dutch slave history with the U.S., the east coast, in particular, and specifically New York City.
Indeed, remnants of the past still remain on the lips of everyone today whether referring to Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, Ha(a)rlem, and many other areas of the city. In fact, New York did not even fully abolish slavery until 1827.
In 1628, the Dutch West India Company put enslaved Africans to work in its colony of New Netherland. Some may claim that once the Dutch lost this colony to the English, they lost any benefit from slavery in this area of the U.S. However, author Dr. Andrea C. Mosterman, a professor of Atlantic and early American history at the University of New Orleans, states that such a defeat not only strengthened Dutch slavery and slaveholding in the region but actually increased Dutch reliance upon it and was the catalyst for dehumanizing legislation and brutality. Mosterman wrote the 2021 book “Spaces of Enslavement: A History of Slavery and Resistance in Dutch New York.”
At one point, close to 75 percent of free white families in what is now known as Kings County, Brooklyn, had enslaved Africans in their homes.
Such history directly contributes to the wealth gap and socioeconomic disparities today in the No. 1 market in the U.S.
As the strategy and plans begin to be made for the forthcoming apology from the Dutch, many African Americans will be closely monitoring them to see what reference is made to the U.S. and how funds may or may not be directed to this country for Black people who could most certainly use the support now more than ever. Tweet Mark Rutte @MinPres on Twitter for more encouragement.
Photo: One of New York’s oldest streets, Stone Street incorporates two 17th-century roads in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. (Photo: Gryffindor), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Gryffindor
Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a Digi-Cultural Trend Analyst and Producer. She’s the founder of http://lnkagency.com/ and Vapor Media, and a commentator on public sentiment and tech on MSNBC.
Agency representation: Leading Authorities. Author: “America’s Most Wanted: The Millennial” an Amazon, “Best: New Media Studies” pick: http://amzn.to/KmsuJ8