Mabruchismo: una poco conoscuita storia di violenza coloniale e patriarcale

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di Andrea Tarchi, Euromix ricercatore PhD, 1 luglio 2021

Ragazze libiche su una cartolina coloniale.

In generale, gli italiani non pensano molto al passato coloniale del paese. Ogni evento recente che sembri indicare una correlazione con le vecchie pratiche coloniali, come l’attuale crisi della detenzione di immigrati, viene liquidato dai media come scollegato da un tempo lontano.1 Sulla scia delle proteste di Black Lives Matter che hanno coinvolto il mondo nel 2020, un evento ha cambiato questo stato di cose, provocando una rara copertura mediatica. È giugno 2020, e diverse manifestazioni a Milano prendono di mira la statua del famoso giornalista Indro Montanelli a causa del suo coinvolgimento in una relazione di madamato con una minorenne eritrea durante l’invasione italiana dell’Etiopia nel 1936.2 Il madamato era una forma di concubinato coloniale, o pratica di convivenza forzata, che coinvolgeva uomini italiani e donne dell’Africa Orientale durante tutta la presenza italiana nella regione. Anche se il madamato è la forma più studiata di incontro intimo violento che ha caratterizzato il colonialismo italiano, era poco conosciuto dal grande pubblico.3  In una rottura con il solito disinteresse pubblico per le questioni legate al colonialismo italiano, il dibattito che ha seguito le proteste del 2020 ha innegabilmente puntato il dito contro il madamato, con un numero considerevole di giornali e siti web che hanno spiegato la pratica ai loro lettori.

Mentre questo aumento d’attenzione è senza dubbio un risultato positivo dell’intero dibattito pubblico su Montanelli e il madamato, una tale retorica focalizzata corre il rischio di inquadrare il madamato come una pratica eccezionale specifica della presenza coloniale italiana in Africa Orientale. Questa narrativa, a sua volta, rischia di nascondere il fatto che il madamato fosse solo un risultato pratico delle pervasive strutture di potere patriarcali e razziste che caratterizzarono l’Italia coloniale e che ancora influenzano la nostra società.  Per questo motivo, in questo blog, voglio parlare di un’altra forma meno conosciuta e poco studiata di violenza sessuale razzista e patriarcale: la pratica del mabruchismo o concubinaggio coloniale imposta alle donne libiche dagli ufficiali dell’esercito italiano. Anche se meno praticato del madamato, il mabruchismo esemplificava le strutture di potere razziste e patriarcali che caratterizzavano il potere coloniale italiano in Libia. Data la crescente notorietà del madamato fornita dal rumore mediatico intorno alla statua di Montanelli, è più importante che mai aggiungere questa triste pagina alla storia di violenza e oppressione che ha caratterizzato la storia coloniale italiana.

 

Concubine libiche per ufficiali italiani

Il termine mabruchismo trova la sua origine nel nome arabo Mabroukah, uno dei nomi di battesimo più comuni dati all’epoca alle donne libiche. La sua origine risale all’inizio della presenza militare italiana nel territorio nordafricano nel 1911. Sebbene il comando militare dell’esercito italiano avesse emanato l’ordine di rispettare i costumi della popolazione locale per sedare la feroce ribellione che accolse le truppe italiane al loro arrivo, gli ufficiali italiani iniziarono a prendere fin da subito ragazze libiche come concubine. Vediamo qui la prima contraddizione che caratterizzò la politica italiana nella colonia appena invasa. Da un lato, il comandante in capo dell’esercito Carlo Caneva voleva trasmettere un rispetto retorico verso le tradizioni libiche affermando che “le donne libiche sono solitamente tenute lontane dalla vita pubblica, e gli indigeni ne sono orgogliosamente gelosi. Così, tutti devono astenersi da qualsiasi atto nei loro confronti, il che include anche il guardarle.”4 D’altra parte, però, la convinzione che “gli uomini, in particolare i soldati, avessero bisogno di uno sfogo per le loro energie (etero)sessuali e che l’esercito dovesse fornire loro del sesso ‘sicuro'”5 spinse il comando a permettere agli ufficiali di prendere donne libiche come concubine. È solo il 1916 quando troviamo la prima traccia di mabruchismo in un ordine circolare inviato al governatore della Cirenaica da un ufficiale:

Ho ragione di credere che alcuni ufficiali che risiedono nella colonia abbiano assunto donne indigene come concubine permettendo loro di vivere nella propria casa, o sistemandole in un’abitazione vicina, o permettendo loro di vivere ancora con le loro famiglie […]. Il regolamento di disciplina militare considera inaccettabile qualsiasi forma di concubinaggio. Tale divieto deve essere seguito ancora più rigorosamente nell’ambiente coloniale per ovvie ragioni di dignità e decoro degli ufficiali.6

Anche se questo ordine sembra coerente con la posizione degli italiani riguardo al rispetto delle donne libiche, bisogna sottolineare che nessun ufficiale fu punito in Libia per aver preso donne come concubine prima del 1931. Ciò che era più urgente per gli amministratori coloniali non era far rispettare la disciplina militare, ma mantenere l’immagine di una potenza colonizzatrice attenta alle tradizioni locali riguardo alla sfera privata. Nonostante tutti i proclami riguardanti il rispetto dei costumi musulmani e delle donne libiche, l’approvazione del mabruchismo continuò fino l’ascesa al potere del fascismo e almeno fino agli anni trenta. La retorica e le politiche dei primi anni di governo fascista in Libia assomigliavano molto ai precedenti governi liberali, con gli italiani che si ritraevano come protettori della popolazione libica. Nel frattempo, il fascismo si impegnò in brutali operazioni militari per reprimere la resistenza anti-coloniale. Alla fine, grazie alle tattiche militari del generale Rodolfo Graziani, i cui risultati gli garantiranno il titolo di vicegovernatore della colonia, insieme al pesante uso di armi tossiche illegali, la resistenza fu completamente schiacciata.

 

La proibizione del Mabruchismo in una colonia segregata

Non è un caso che le prime punizioni militari contro il mabruchismo avvennero solo nel 1931, quando la militarizzazione della colonia cominciò lentamente a placarsi per il compimento della repressione della resistenza libica. L’anno 1932 avrebbe visto le prime ondate della colonizzazione demografica di massa della Libia, che comportò la deportazione dei cirenaici che abitavano le terre fertili nei campi di concentramento e l’arrivo di molti coloni italiani.7 Il nuovo contesto caratterizzato da unnumero consistente di coloni, unito alla svolta fascista verso l’ideologia e la politica razzista e segregazionista negli anni ’30, portò a un vero e proprio divieto del mabruchismo. Dal 1931, iniziamo a vedere ufficiali italiani che vengono denunciati al comando militare della colonia per aver preso donne libiche come concubine:

Un comandante di guarnigione responsabile di un campo di concentramento per indigeni ha trovato due ufficiali impegnati in relazioni sentimentali con le donne indigene del campo di concentramento.8

Un ufficiale, che era in servizio in un campo di concentramento, si intrattenne in una trattativa con una donna indigena sul prezzo da pagare per i favori di sua figlia, agendo quindi in modo lesivo della dignità di un ufficiale.9

Mentre era in servizio in un forte vicino a un campo di concentramento sotto il controllo dell’Autorità Politica, un ufficiale iniziò a negoziare con un indigeno prigioniero il prezzo da pagare per il possesso di sua figlia.10

Non ci vuole molto perché Graziani, capo militare fascista nella regione e esecutore della politica segregazionista del fascismo nella nuova colonia demografica, prenda provvedimenti contro una pratica non più ammissibile. In questa circolare del 1932, intesa come risposta ai rapporti citati, Graziani fornisce un quadro completo della nuova posizione del regime sul mabruchismo:

Ho rimpatriato quattro ufficiali (uno di loro recentemente) perché hanno fatto transazioni finanziarie (o comunque negoziato vigorosamente) per acquisire donne indigene per tenerle per sé come concubine. Questo mabruchismo è una delle piaghe che infestavano la colonia. Ce ne sono ancora alcune tracce, o meglio, alcune nostalgie; tuttavia, intendo sradicarlo.11

Graziani definisce il mabruchismo “una delle piaghe che hanno infestato la colonia”, confermando così che gli ufficiali rimpatriati non erano i primi ad avere concubine nella colonia ma solo i primi ad essere puniti ufficialmente. Tale sviluppo era dovuto al fatto che la colonia era diventata uno spazio per coloni italiani, il che comportava la necessità per gli amministratori fascisti di essere meno tolleranti verso le intimità che superavano i confini razziali. Graziani ebbe un ruolo nella repressione del mabruchismo e del madamato nell’Africa orientale italiana.12 Fu l’uomo scelto dal fascismo per porre fine alle pratiche di sesso interrazziale nelle colonie italiane, dove la purezza razziale degli italiani era più a rischio. La proibizione o la tolleranza del mabruchismo oscillava secondo i piani politici delle amministrazioni italiane e le mutevoli ideologie, con un totale disprezzo per i costumi locali o per le donne libiche, qualunque fosse la retorica nei loro confronti.

Anche se non registrabile attraverso le voci delle donne libiche assenti dagli archivi, il carattere di sfruttamento del mabruchismo è chiaro dalle fonti analizzate. Sappiamo dalle sanzioni agli ufficiali che i loro genitori vendettero alcune di loro agli italiani, altre devono essere state rapite, altre ancora potrebbero essere state ex prostitute o schiave in cerca di maggiore sicurezza economica. Possiamo supporre che tutte queste ragioni, o una combinazione di queste, possano averle portate a lasciare le loro famiglie molto più che l’amore o l’affetto per gli ufficiali italiani che le tenevano come concubine, sebbene anche questo possa essere stato possibile. Alla fine, ciò che è certo è che furono destinatarie della violenza patriarcale coloniale da parte degli ufficiali italiani che le comprarono per il loro comfort sessuale e domestico, mentre venivano usate come pedine politiche dalle varie amministrazioni coloniali. Il loro sfruttamento fu formalmente proibito solo quando il partito fascista italiano si orientò verso un’ideologia razzista e segregazionista, rendendo il sesso interrazziale completamente inaccettabile in Italia e nell’impero.

 

Conclusione

In risposta al dibattito pubblico sulla statua di Montanelli e la memoria del madamato, un giornalista del quotidiano di destra “Il primato nazionale” scrisse che “coloro che condannano Montanelli insieme all’usanza del madamato, dovrebbero lodare allo stesso tempo il regime fascista, poiché ha messo fine a questa pratica.”13 Questo ragionamento mette in evidenza l’ignoranza che la maggior parte dei media italiani e il pubblico hanno riguardo al colonialismo italiano. Mabruchismo e madamato furono proibiti dal regime non a causa di una improvvisa epifania sulla loro intrinseca violenza. Furono terminati perché il nuovo contesto ideologico e materiale del regime non poteva più permettere queste relazioni. In ogni caso, la proibizione, la tolleranza o addirittura l’approvazione di queste pratiche seguiva esclusivamente le esigenze politiche, ideologiche e materiali dei colonizzatori, con un totale disinteresse per le donne colonizzate sulle quali esercitavano la loro violenza.

Il dibattito pubblico sulla statua di Montanelli ha avuto il merito di evidenziare l’ignoranza e l’ipocrisia del pubblico italiano sul passato coloniale del paese. Esaminando la controparte libica del madamato, meno conosciuta e studiata, questo blog ha cercato di aggiungere un po’ più di sfumature e complessità a questa fase della storia italiana. Prima di impegnarsi in un altro dibattito infruttuoso e superficiale sulla memoria delle celebrità che si sono impegnate in pratiche coloniali, sarebbe meglio che il pubblico italiano fosse consapevole di come anche le pagine più oscure della storia d’Italia abbiano creato il paese così come è oggi.

 

Bibliografia

Barrera, G. 2004. ‘Sex, Citizenship and the State: The Construction of the Public and Private Spheres in Colonial Eritrea.’ In Gender, Family and Sexuality: The Private Sphere in Italy 1860-1945, edito da P. Wilson, 157-172. Londra, Palgrave Macmillan.

Bryder, L. 1998. ‘Sex, Race, and Colonialism: An Historiographical Review.’ The International History Review 20 (4): 806-822.

Campassi, G. 1987 ‘Il madamato in Africa Orientale. Relazioni tra italiani e indigene come forma di aggressione coloniale.’ Miscellanea di storia delle esplorazioni (12): 219-260.

Cresti, F. 2011. Non desiderare la terra d’altri: la colonizzazione italiana in Libia. Roma: Carocci Editore.

Del Boca, A. 2011. Italiani, brava gente?. Vicenza: Neri Pozza Editore.

Ponzanesi, S. 2012. ‘The Color of Love: Madamismo and Interracial Relationships in the Italian Colonies.’ Research in African Literatures 43 (2): 155-172.

Sòrgoni, B. 1998. Parole e corpi: antropologia, discorso giuridico e politiche sessuali interrazziali nella colonia Eritrea: 1890-1941. Napoli: Edizioni scientifiche Italiane.

Mabruchismo: An Untold Story of Colonial Patriarchal Violence

leggi in italiano

by Andrea Tarchi, Euromix PhD Researcher, 1 July 2021

Libyan girls on an Italian colonial postcard.

Overall, Italians don’t think much about the country’s colonial past. Any recent event that seems to indicate a correlation with former colonial practices, such as the current crisis of immigrants’ detention, is brushed off by the media as disconnected from a time long gone.1 In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the world in 2020, an event changed this state of affairs, causing a rare media noise. It is June 2020, and several demonstrations in Milan, Italy, target the statue of famous journalist Indro Montanelli due to his involvement in a madamato relationship with an Eritrean minor during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936.2 Madamato was the colonial concubinage, or forced cohabitation practice, that involved Italian men and Eastern African women throughout the Italian presence in the region. Even if madamato is the most researched form of violent intimate encounter that characterized Italian colonialism, it was hardly known by the general public.3 In a rupture with the usual public disregard for issues related to Italian colonialism, the debate that followed the 2020 protests undeniably pointed the finger at madamato, with a considerable number of relevant newspapers and news websites explaining the practice to their readers.

While this increase in attention is undoubtedly a positive outcome of the whole public debate on Montanelli and madamato, such focused rhetoric runs the risk of framing madamato as an exceptional practice specific to Italy’s colonial presence in Eastern Africa. This framing, in turn, risks hiding the fact that madamato was only one practical outcome of the pervasive patriarchal and racist structures of power that pervaded colonial Italy and that still influence Italian society.  For this reason, in this blog, I want to talk about another less known and hardly researched form of racist, patriarchal sexual violence: the practice of mabruchismo or colonial concubinage imposed on Libyan women by Italian army officers. Even if less practiced than madamato, mabruchismo exemplified the racist, patriarchal structures of power that characterized Italy’s colonial power in Libya. Given the increasing notoriety of madamato provided by the media noise around Montanelli’s statue, it is more important than ever to add this sad page to the history of violence and oppression that characterized Italian colonial history.

 

Libyan Concubines for Italian Officers

The term mabruchismo found its origin in the Arabic name Mabroukah, one of the most common first names given to Libyan women at the time. Its origin dates back to the beginning of Italian military presence in the Northern African territory in 1911. Although the Italian army’s military command had issued orders to respect the local population’s customs to sedate the fierce rebellion that welcomed Italian troops on their arrival, Italian officers started taking Libyan girls as concubines from the get-go. We see here the first contradiction that characterized Italy’s policies in the newly invaded colony. On the one hand, the army’s commander-in-chief Carlo Caneva wanted to convey rhetorical respect toward Libyan traditions by stating that “Libyan women are usually kept away from public life, and the indigenous are proudly jealous of them. Thus, everyone must abstain from any act towards them, which includes even looking at them.”4 On the other hand, however, the belief that “men, particularly soldiers, required an outlet for their (hetero)sexual energies and that the army must provide them with ‘safe’ sex”5 pushed the command to allow officers to take Libyan women as concubines. It is only 1916 when we find the first trace of mabruchismo in a circular order sent to the governor of Cyrenaica by an officer:

I have reason to believe that some officers who reside in the colony have hired indigenous women as concubines by either allowing them to live in their own house, or by settling them in a dwelling nearby, or by allowing them to still live with their families […]. The military discipline regulation deems unacceptable any form of concubinage. Such prohibition must be followed even more strictly in the colonial environment for obvious reasons regarding the officers’ dignity and decorum.6

Even if this order seems coherent with the Italians’ stance regarding the respect of Libyan women, it needs to be stressed that no officer was punished in Libya for taking women concubines before 1931. What was more pressing for the colonial administrators was not to enforce military discipline but to maintain the image of a colonizing power that was careful to the local traditions regarding the private sphere. Despite all the proclamations regarding respect of Muslim customs and Libyan women, the endorsement for mabruchismo continued through Fascism’s rise to power at least until the 1930s. The rhetoric and the policies of the first years of Fascist rule in Libya closely resembled previous liberal governments, with Italians portraying themselves as protectors of the Libyan population. Meanwhile, Fascism engaged in brutal military operations to repress the anti-colonial resistance. In the end, due to the military tactics of General Rodolfo Graziani, whose accomplishment would grant him the title of Vice-governor of the colony, coupled with heavy use of illegal toxic weapons, the resistance was wholly crushed.

 

The Prohibition of Mabruchismo in a Segregated Settler Colony

It is no coincidence that the first military punishments against mabruchismo happened only in 1931 when the colony’s militarisation slowly started to subside due to reaching the end of the repression of the Libyan resistance. The year 1932 would see the first waves of Libya’s mass demographic colonization, which entailed the deportation of Cyrenaicans who inhabited fertile lands to concentration camps and the arrival of many settlers.7 The new settler environment, coupled with Fascism’s turn to racist and segregationist ideology and policy in the 1930s, brought to an actual prohibition of mabruchismo. By 1931, we start to see Italian officers being reported to the colony’s military command for taking Libyan women as concubines:

A garrison commander in charge of a concentration camp for indigenous people found two officers engaged in romantic relationships with the concentration camp’s indigenous women.8

An officer, who was on duty in a concentration camp, fell into negotiations with an indigenous woman over the price to be paid for her daughter’s favors, acting therefore in a manner that was detrimental to an officer’s dignity.9

While on duty in a fort near a concentration camp under the Political Authority’s control, an officer started negotiating with a captive indigenous man the price to be paid for his daughter’s possession.10

It does not take long for Graziani, the Fascist military leader in the region and enforcer of Fascism’s segregationist policy in the new settler colony, to take action against a practice that is not admissible anymore. In this 1932 circular order intended as a response to the quoted reports, Graziani gives a complete picture of the regime’s new stance on mabruchismo:

I have repatriated four officers (one of them recently) because they made financial transactions (or anyway vigorously negotiated) to acquire indigenous women to keep them for themselves as concubines. This mabruchismo is one of the plagues that infested the colony. There are still some traces of it, or better still, some nostalgia; however, I intend to eradicate it.11

Graziani calls mabruchismo “one of the plagues that have infested the colony,” thus confirming that the repatriated officers were not the first to have concubines in the colony but only the first to be officially punished. Such development was due to the colony becoming a settler-colonial space, which entailed the need for the Fascist administrators to be less tolerant towards intimacies that crossed racial boundaries. Graziani played a role in the crackdown of both mabruchismo and madamato in Italian Eastern Africa.12 He was Fascism’s chosen man to end practices of interracial sex in the Italian colonies, where the racial purity of Italians was most at risk. The prohibition or tolerance of mabruchismo swayed according to the Italian administrations’ political plans and shifting ideologies, with a total disregard for local customs or Libyan women, no matter what the rhetoric toward them was.

Although not recordable through the voices of Libyan women absent from the archives, the exploitative character of mabruchismo is clear from the analyzed sources. We know from the sanctions to the officers that their parents sold some of them to the Italians, others must have been kidnapped, others again might have been former prostitutes or slaves looking for more economic security. We can assume that all these reasons, or a combination of those, might have brought them to leave their families much more than love or affection for the Italian officers that kept them as concubines, although that might have been possible as well. In the end, what is certain is that they were the recipient of colonial patriarchal violence by the Italian officers who bought them for sexual and domestic comfort while being used as political pawns by the various colonial administrations. Their exploitation was formally prohibited only when the Italian Fascist Party steered toward a racist and segregationist ideology, making interracial sex completely unacceptable in Italy and the empire.

 

Concluding Remarks

In response to the public debate over Montanelli’s statue and the memory of madamato, a journalist of the right-wing Italian newspaper Il primato nazionale wrote that “those condemning Montanelli alongside the custom of madamato, should praise at the same time the Fascist regime, as it put an end to this practice.”13 This reasoning highlights the ignorance that most Italian media and the public have on Italian colonial times. Mabruchismo and madamato were prohibited by the regime, not because of a sudden epiphany over their inherent violence. They were ended because the regime’s new ideological and material context could not allow these relationships any longer. In any case, the prohibition, tolerance, or even endorsement of these practices followed solely the colonizers’ political, ideological, and material needs, with a total disregard of the colonized women upon which they exerted their violence.

The public debate on Montanelli’s statue had the merit of highlighting the Italian public’s ignorance and hypocrisy over the country’s colonial past. By going over the less known and researched Libyan counterpart of madamato, this blog attempted to add a little more nuance and complexity to this ignored phase of Italian history. Before engaging in another fruitless and superficial debate over the memory of celebrities who engaged in colonial practices, it would be best for the Italian public to be aware of how even the darkest pages of Italy’s history created the country as it is today. The only way to do so is to put aside easy rhetoric and shallow debate to favor a nuanced analysis of the historical facts.

 

Bibliography

Barrera, G. 2004. ‘Sex, Citizenship and the State: The Construction of the Public and Private Spheres in Colonial Eritrea.’ In Gender, Family and Sexuality: The Private Sphere in Italy 1860-1945, edited by P. Wilson, 157-172. London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Bryder, L. 1998. ‘Sex, Race, and Colonialism: An Historiographical Review.’ The International History Review 20 (4): 806-822.

Campassi, G. 1987 ‘Il madamato in Africa Orientale. Relazioni tra italiani e indigene come forma di aggressione coloniale.’ Miscellanea di storia delle esplorazioni (12): 219-260.

Cresti, F. 2011. Non desiderare la terra d’altri: la colonizzazione italiana in Libia. Rome: Carocci Editore.

Del Boca, A. 2011. Italiani, brava gente?. Vicenza: Neri Pozza Editore.

Ponzanesi, S. 2012. ‘The Color of Love: Madamismo and Interracial Relationships in the Italian Colonies.’ Research in African Literatures 43 (2): 155-172.

Sòrgoni, B. 1998. Parole e corpi: antropologia, discorso giuridico e politiche sessuali interrazziali nella colonia Eritrea: 1890-1941. Naples: Edizioni scientifiche Italiane.

70 jaar Molukkers in Nederland: het ‘pijnlijke probleem’ van gemengde huwelijken en relaties

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door Betty de Hart, hoofdonderzoeker Euromix, 11 juni 2021

Bron: Het Parool, 11 mei 1951

Inleiding

In mei 1951 nam de gemeenteraad van Huizen een Algemene Politie Verordening aan die het de meisjes uit Huizen verbood rond te hangen bij de omheiningen van het kamp waar recent gearriveerde Molukse koloniale migranten werden gehuisvest. Het bericht in Het Parool dat hierover berichtte, citeert de burgemeester die zei dat hij ‘misselijk’ werd van de 15 en 16 jaar oude meisjes, die contact zochten met de ‘Ambonezen’.

In het licht van de activiteiten die dit jaar worden georganiseerd om de 70 jaar lange aanwezigheid van Molukkers in Nederland te herdenken, is het de moeite waard om na te gaan hoe deze koloniale migranten werden ontvangen, met name wat betreft de regulering van gemengdheid. Zoals we zullen zien, was de APV in Huizen geen uitzondering, maar onderdeel van een patroon van regulering van gemengde relaties en huwelijken tussen Molukkers en Nederland, die werden benoemd in termen van ‘rassenvermenging’.

 

Molukse migratie naar Nederland  

Het einde van de Tweede Wereldoorlog betekende niet allen het einde van de bezetting door de Nazi’s, maar ook het einde van de koloniale macht van Nederland in Azië, hoewel Nederland dat slechts met moeite accepteerde. Indonesië had zich in 1945 onafhankelijk verklaard. Nederland weigerde de onafhankelijkheid te accepteren tot in 1949 waarin Nederland uiteindelijk de onafhankelijkheid moest aanvaarden en waarna een bloedige koloniale oorlog volgde.  Daarop werd het KNIL, het Koninklijke Nederlands Indische Leger, ontbonden en in de jaren 1950 en 1951 werden meer dan 17.000 voormalige KNIL-militairen, hun gezinnen en andere Molukkers naar Nederland overgebracht. Voorafgaand aan de onafhankelijkheid waren zij door Nederland als loyale onderdanen gezien, maar na de onafhankelijkheid werd de Indonesische nationaliteit tegen hun wil aan hen opgedrongen. Ze waren dus geen Nederlanders, maar Indonesiërs en laten werden ze beschouwd als staatlozen. Zowel Nederland als de Molukkers zelf gingen ervan uit dat hun verblijf in Nederland tijdelijk zou zijn.

De Molukkers werden gehuisvest in kampen verspreid over Nederland, vaak in kleine steden of dorpen en landelijke gebieden, in oude kloosters of voormalige concentratiekampen waar tijdens de oorlog joden gevangen werden gehouden, gescheiden van de Nederlandse samenleving.1 Hun integratie werd als problematisch beschouwd, niet alleen hun economische en sociale integratie, maar ook in de zin van moraliteit.2 Eén van de punten van zorg bestond in de intieme relaties die ontstonden met Nederlandse mannen en vrouwen. Met name de relaties met Nederlandse vrouwen verontrustten de autoriteiten, zoals het artikel in Het Parool laat zien.

 

Nederlandse meisjes van de kampen weghouden

Meer dan slechts bezorgdheid, uitte de burgemeester van Huizen, gevoelens van afkeer naar de meisjes die contact zochten met de Molukse jongens. Van Driel was een jurist, voormalig advocaat en lid van de ARP (Anti-Revolutionaire Partij). Zijn zorg over het zedelijke gedrag van Nederlandse minderjarige meisjes resoneert met de vooroorlogse ‘zedelijkheidsbeweging’, bestaand uit sociale en politieke elite groepen die zich zorgen maakten over het ‘zedelijk verval’ in de Nederlandse samenleving, met name van arbeidersjongeren.3 Van Driel wilde voorkomen dat Nederlandse meisjes op de Molukse kampen kwamen en hij stond daarin niet alleen.

Integendeel, de APV in Huizen paste in een landelijk beleid om Nederlandse meisjes te verbieden de Molukse woonoorden te betreden. Er werd in het Nederlandse parlement hierover gedebatteerd en het beleid werd door politici van verschillende politieke gezindten, met en zonder confessionele achtergrond, ondersteund.

Dit beleid werd jarenlang voortgezet. Het Parool artikel dateert van 1951, toen de Molukkers net waren gearriveerd. Jaren later, in februari 1958, vreesde Eerste Kamerlid Luijckx-Sleijfer (Katholieke Volkspartij) dat het verbod voor Nederlandse meisjes om de woonoorden te betreden onvoldoende was om ‘ongewenste bezoeken’ tegen te gaan. Ook al was de politie op de kampen aanwezig, het verbod was moeilijk te handhaven. Dat was ook, zo zei het Senaatslid, omdat:

Zij [de minderjarige meisjes] tonen in hun bezoeken een hardnekkigheid, een betere zaak waardig.4

Zij suggereerde dat de inzet van het strafrecht een effectief middel zou kunnen zijn.

Minister Marga Klompé

De eerste vrouwelijke Minister in Nederland, Marga Klompé (Katholieke Volkspartij) van Maatschappelijk Werk nam deze suggestie over, die ze zei te zullen aanbevelen.5 Een jaar eerder had ze in een notitie aan de Ministerraad haar zorg geuit dat het loslaten van de zogenaamde ‘tijdelijkheidsgedachte’ zou resulteren in wat ze noemde ‘rassenvermenging’.6 Ze waarschuwde ook dat voorzichtigheid geboden bleef en dat ze er alles aan zou doen om ongewenste toestanden te voorkomen. Ze wees hierbij op de verantwoordelijkheid van de ouders van de meisjes, sociaal werkers en de kampoudsten.7 Soms vroegen de ouders zelf de politie of het Ministerie van Justitie om hun dochters van de kampen weg te houden.8 Soms werkten de Staat en ouders dus samen om te voorkomen dat paren samen konden zijn.

Mediaberichtgeving en onderzoeken gebaseerd op archiefonderzoek laten zien dat de zorg niet slechts draaide om ‘onfatsoenlijke’ relaties tussen Nederlandse witte minderjarige meisjes en Molukse jongens, maar ook om gemengde huwelijken. Kranten berichtten over dergelijke gemengde huwelijken als een ‘pijnlijk probleem’.9 Sociaal werkers beoogden ouders te waarschuwen, zodat ze in kunnen grijpen. De huwelijken werden gezien als gedoemd om te mislukken en eveneens gezien als gedwongen – wat betekende dat het meisje zwanger was. Een onderzoeker die dertig inwoners uit Vught interviewede merkte op dat  alle respondenten gekant waren tegen gemengde huwelijken met Molukkers. De onderzoeker voegde eraan toe:

Ik stel mij hier op het standpunt van de zending met haar eeuwenlange ervaring, gemengde huwelijken als ongewenst te beoordelen. Niet uit hoofde van een kastepolitiek, maar uit medelijden met de nakomelingen uit deze huwelijken. Er zijn reeds grote aantallen mensen op de wereld die het predicaat ‘displaced persons’ dragen.10

Een groeiend aantal gemengde huwelijken werd gezien als een bedreiging voor de toekomst. In 1956 reflecteerde Johan Scheps (PVDA) op de toekomst van de Molukkers in de woonoorden en hij noemde gemengde huwelijken als bedreiging en oorzaak van sociale onrust:

In zekere zin is het heden in de kampen rustig. In bepaald opzicht is er, ondanks de strijd om de zelfverzorging, nog niets aan de hand. Het aantal gemengde huwelijken valt nog te overzien. De blanke vrouw wordt in het midden van de Ambonese kampgenoten nog hartelijk opgenomen. Hoe zal het echter in de toekomst gaan?11

Zoals ook weer in dit citaat werd het probleem van gemengde huwelijken gevat in termen van ‘rassenvermenging’, jaren nadat de Tweede Wereldoorlog het denken in termen van biologische rassen onacceptabel zou hebben gemaakt.12

Ook opvallend is het belang van gender: alleen relaties en huwelijken van Nederlandse meisjes en Molukse jongens werden als probleem gezien, niet de omgekeerde combinatie. Dit is in lijn met zowel de bevindingen van het Euromix project als met de academische literatuur: er is sprake van een obsessie van statelijke autoriteiten met ‘vermenging’ door witte vrouwen, aangezien vrouwen de natie representeren en met hun gedrag en relaties de natie in gevaar kunnen brengen.13 Ten slotte is het opmerkelijk dat de Nederlandse witte meisjes hardnekkigheid wordt verweten; blijkbaar worden zij gezien als de initiatiefnemers die het contact met Molukse jongens opzoeken, meer dan het omgekeerde. We komen niets te weten over de vraag of de Molukse jongens zaten te wachten op deze aandacht en hoe ze reageerden. Ook dat is in lijn met bevindingen elders: de schuld wordt bij witte vrouwen gelegd voor het ontstaan van gemengde relaties. In tegenspraak met de gebruikelijke genderrollen in de jaren 1950 en 1960 en de raciale grenzen, bleven zij niet passief maar vertoonden zij gedrag dat in meerdere opzichten als ongepast werd gezien.

 

Voorkoming en surveillance van gemengde huwelijken  

Het Commissariaat Ambonezenzorg werd opgericht als een staatsinstelling om zich met deze kwesties bezig te houden. Het Commissariaat speelde een belangrijke rol in de formulering van een nationaal beleid, dat resulteerde in interventie in privérelaties, beschreven door historicus Charlotte Laarman.14 Het Commissariaat was niet alleen opgericht om zich met gemengde huwelijken bezig te houden, maar zag dat wel als een belangrijk onderdeel van de taak. Laarman beschrijft de houding van het Commissariaat als paternalistisch: elke Molukker werd begeleid door een sociaal werker. Sociaal werkers legden honderden rapporten aan over gemengde huwelijken. Dergelijke huwelijken, met name die van Nederlandse vrouwen en Molukse mannen, waren een bron van zorg. De CAZ trachtte dergelijke huwelijken te voorkomen en ontmoedigen en als koppels toch trouwden, werden ze begeleid, soms gedurende meerdere jaren waarin ze geregeld door sociaal werkers werden bezocht. Ze werden per definitie als probleem gezien, ook als er geen problemen waren met gezondheid of criminaliteit; hun gemengd-zijn was het probleem.

Over huwelijken tussen Molukse vrouwen en Nederlandse witte mannen werd niet gerapporteerd, omdat zij als Nederlandse gezinnen werden gezien, en vaak buiten het kamp leefden. De Molukse vrouwen werden tot 1964 door het huwelijk met een Nederlandse man ook automatisch Nederlandse. Deze gezinnen ontsnapten aan de surveillance door de staat.

Als het gezin zich ‘Nederlands’ gedroeg, werd dat positief geëvalueerd: met geracialiseerde opvattingen over properheid, spaarzaamheid en Nederlandse taalbeheersing.15 Toch was de overtuiging dat er elk moment problemen zouden kunnen ontstaan in het huwelijk als de man de Nederlandse culturele dominantie van zijn vrouw niet langer zou accepteren. Als de Nederlandse vrouw zich aanpaste aan de Molukse cultuur, bijvoorbeeld door de taal te leren, Moluks te koken, en contact te onderhouden met Molukse vrouwen, werd dit als probleem gezien en gedefinieerd als ‘dweperig’ en ‘griezelig’.16

Aan de andere kant bekommerde de CAZ zich niet over de juridische gevolgen van het gemengde huwelijk voor de Nederlandse vrouw: waar de Molukse vrouw die met een Nederlander trouwde automatisch Nederlandse werd, verloor de Nederlandse vrouw die met een Molukker trouwde automatisch de Nederlandse nationaliteit.17 Toen jurist W. Schols, CAZ-directeur van het district Zuiden, op dit juridisch gevolg wees werd zijn brief terzijde gelegd met de opmerking: ‘het ligt u.h.v. niet op onze weg ons hierin te mengen’.18

 

Concluderende opmerkingen

Zoals uit het voorgaande is gebleken, werden Molukkers onderworpen aan verschillende vormen van regulering van gemengdheid: er was sprake van segregatie, aangezien ze werden gehuisvest in aparte kampen en later woonwijken, en hun intieme relaties en huwelijken werden onderworpen aan controles door politie en sociaal werkers. Lokale en nationale autoriteiten waren betrokken in pogingen om zogeheten ‘rassenvermenging’ te voorkomen. In dat opzicht werden ze geheel anders behandeld dan de andere belangrijke groep van koloniale migranten uit Indonesië, de Indische Nederlanders, die  onderworpen werden aan een assimilatiebeleid.19

Zoals altijd, ondanks alle pogingen om ze te voorkomen, kwamen gemengde huwelijken en relaties veelvuldig en al vroeg na de komst van de Molukkers voor. De Molukse gemeenschap die naar Nederland kwam was al ‘gemengd’, aangezien 1 op de 4 huwelijken met een niet-Molukse vrouw uit Indonesië was. Na hun aankomst in Nederland was tot 1959, 1 op de 3 huwelijken ‘gemengd’ met een Nederlandse man of, vaker, vrouw.20

Een onderzoek uit 2020 Van het Centraal Bureau voor Statistiek naar Molukkers in Nederland laat zien dat een minderheid van de Molukkers een partner heeft die ook Moluks is. Net iets meer dan 10% van de kleinkinderen van de eerste generatie Molukkers heeft drie of vier Molukse grootouders.21 Gemengde huwelijken en afkomst worden niet langer zo sterk geproblematiseerd als in de jaren vijftig, zij zijn blijkbaar nog steeds interessant genoeg om geteld te worden.

Recent hebben de burgermeesters van gemeenten met een hoog aantal Molukse inwoners de landelijke overheid opgeroepen om het leed dat hen destijds is aangedaan te erkennen en in de Molukse gemeenschap te investeren. Daaronder was ook de burgemeester van Huizen.22

 

70 years Moluccans in the Netherlands: the ‘painful problem’ of mixed marriages and relationships

lees in het Nederlands

by Betty de Hart, Euromix Principal Investigator, 11 June 2021

Source: Het Parool, 11 May 1951

Introduction

In May 1951, the local council of the town of Huizen in the Netherlands adopted a local police regulation (Algemene Politie Verordening) prohibiting town girls from hanging out at the gates of the camp where recently arrived Moluccan colonial migrants were housed. The newspaper article in Het Parool reporting on this regulation quoted the town mayor saying that he got ‘nauseous’ by the 15 and 16 year old girls, who sought contact to the ‘Ambonese’.

In light of the various events organised this year to commemorate the 70-year presence of Moluccans in the Netherlands, it seems appropriate to go further into the way these colonial subjects were received, especially in relation to the regulation of mixture. As will be demonstrated, the local regulation in Huizen was not exceptional, but part of a pattern of regulation of mixed relationships and marriages between Moluccans and Dutch nationals, that was framed in terms of ‘racial mixture’.

 

Moluccan migration to the Netherlands

The end of the Second World War not only brought an end to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands but also to the Dutch colonial power in Asia, although the Netherlands had a hard time accepting this. Indonesia had declared its independence in 1945. As the Netherlands refused to accept this, what followed was a bloody colonial war, until in 1949 the Netherlands finally had to accept Indonesia’s independence.  Subsequently the KNIL, the Royal Dutch Indisch Army, was dissolved and in the years 1950 and 1951 more than 17,000 former KNIL-military personnel, their families and other Moluccans were transported to the Netherlands. Before independence, they were considered ‘loyal’ colonial subjects, but after independence, Indonesian citizenship was forced upon them against their wishes, Hence, they were not Dutch nationals, but Indonesians, and years later they were considered to be stateless. Both sides expected their stay in the Netherlands to be only temporary.

The Moluccan families were housed in camps spread across the Netherlands, often in small towns and rural areas, in old monasteries or former concentration camps where Jews were jailed during the war, separated from the rest of Dutch society.1 Their integration was considered problematic, not merely in terms of economic and social integration but also as an issue of morality.2 One of the issues of concern was intimate relationships with Dutch men and women that developed. Especially those between Dutch women and Moluccan men worried authorities, as the Parool article exemplifies.

 

Keeping Dutch girls away from the camps

More than just concern, the mayor of Huizen, Van Driel, expressed aversion towards the girls from Huizen who sought contact with the Moluccan boys. Van Driel was a trained legal scholar and former lawyer, politically affiliated with the Anti-Revolutionary Party. His concern with the moral behavior of Dutch minor girls is resonant of the ‘morality movement’ before the Second World War, consisting of social and political elite groups that worried about ‘moral decline’ in Dutch society, especially working-class youth.3 Van Driel aimed to prevent Dutch girls from entering the Moluccan living areas, and he was not alone.

In fact, the need to prohibit Dutch minor girls from entering Moluccan living areas was part of a nationwide policy. It was debated in the Dutch Second Chamber and Senate and the concern was shared by politicians with and without a confessional background.

The debate on Dutch girls and the Moluccan living areas continued for years. The Parool article was from 1951, when the Moluccans had just arrived. Years later, in February 1958, Luijckx-Sleijfer, member of the Senate for the Catholic K.V.P. worried that prohibition for Dutch minor girls to enter the Moluccan living areas did not suffice to make an end to these ‘undesired visits’, as such prohibitions were difficult to enforce even though the police was surveilling the camps on a daily basis. This was also, the Senate member pointed out, because:

They [the minor girls] show in their visits an obstinacy that would fit with a better cause. 4

The Senate Member suggested that criminal prosecution of the girls might help.

Minister Marga Klompé

The first female Minister in the Netherlands, Marga Klompé (Catholic Party), of Social Affairs, took over this suggestion that she said to encourage.5 A year earlier, in a memo to the council of ministers, she had expressed concern that letting go of the thought that the stay of the Moluccans would be temporary would result in what she called ‘racial mixture’ (rassenvermenging’).6 She also warned that caution remained necessary and that she would do everything possible to prevent undesired circumstances. She pointed out that this was also a task for the parents, the social workers and the camp elders.7 Sometimes the parents of the young women themselves asked the police or Ministry of Justice to keep their daughter from entering the camps.8 Hence, in regulating mixed couples, sometimes the state and the parents worked together to prevent the couple from being together.

Media reports as well as studies based on archival research demonstrate that the concern was not just about ‘indecent’ relationships between minor Dutch white girls and Moluccan boys, but also about mixed marriages. Newspapers reported on such mixed marriages under headings such as ‘painful problem’.9 Social workers intended to warn the girl’s parents so that they could intervene. These marriages were seen as doomed to fail and seen as forced – meaning that the girls got pregnant. A researcher who interviewed thirty inhabitants of the southern town Vught in 1958 found that almost all opposed marriages with Moluccans. The researcher added:

I share the opinion of the mission with its century-long experience, that mixed marriages are undesirable. Not as a form of caste-policy, but out of pity with the descendants of such marriages. There are already large numbers of people on the world categorised as ‘displaced persons’.10

A growing number of mixed marriages was seen as a threat for the future. For instance, in 1956, Johan Scheps (Social Democrat PVDA), reflecting on the future of the Moluccans in the living areas, saw mixed marriages as a threat and a possible cause of social unrest:

At the moment it is quiet in the camps to a certain extent. In a way, except for the struggle on self-determination, nothing is going on. The number of mixed marriages is still manageable. The white woman is still warmly welcomed in the circle of Ambonese camp inhabitants. But how will this be in the future?11

The problem of contact and marriages between Dutch girls and Moluccan boys was framed in terms of racial mixture, years after the Second World War was supposed to have done away with thinking in such terminology of biological race.12 Also striking is the relevance of gender: only relationships and marriages between Dutch girls and Moluccan boys were considered a problem, not the reverse combination. This is in line with our findings in the Euromix project as well as academic literature: there is an obsession of state authorities with mixture by white women, as women represent the nation, their relationships and behavior are problematised as endangering the nation.13 Finally, the discourses blame the Dutch white girls for their obstinacy, apparently; they are seen as the initiators, seeking out contact with the Moluccan boys, rather than the other way around. We learn nothing about whether the Moluccan boys welcomed this attention or how they responded. This is again in line with what we found elsewhere: that the white woman is to blame for mixed relationships; contrary to the socially ascribed gender roles in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as racialised boundaries, she does not remain passive but is exerting improper behavior by initiating these relationships.

 

Preventing and supervising mixed marriages

To deal with these issues, the Comissariaat Ambonezenzorg (Commission care for the Ambonese, CAZ) was established, as a national state institution that played an important role in formulating a policy that resulted in government intervention in private relationships, described by historian Charlotte Laarman.14 The Commission was not established especially to deal with mixture, but mixture was seen as an important part of their task. Laarman describes the attitude of the Commission as paternalistic; every Moluccan was supervised by a social worker of the Commission. Hundreds of reports were drafted by social workers on such mixed couples.

Mixed marriages and relationships, especially those of Moluccan men and Dutch women, were a major cause of concern. The CAZ tried to prevent such relationships. Discouraged marriages and couples that married anyway came to be supervised, sometimes for a duration of several years. As a rule, they were seen as problematic cases, even if there were no health issues, criminality or other problems: being mixed was their problem.

It was the Commission’s conviction that mixed families needed guidance. As ‘problem cases’, they were under surveillance with regular visits by social workers. Marriages between Moluccan women and Dutch men were not reported, because they were considered Dutch families and also because they often lived outside the camps. Contrary to families of white women and Moluccan men, the families of Dutch white men and Moluccan women escaped state surveillance.

If the family ‘behaved Dutch’, this was evaluated positively: with racialised notions of being clean, saving money, speaking Dutch.15 Nevertheless, there was always the assumption that problems would arise at any moment, as the husband may no longer accept the Dutch cultural dominance of his wife. If the Dutch woman adapted to Moluccan culture, e.g. by learning the language, cooking Moluccan meals and having contact with Moluccan women, this was considered problematic, put into terms like ‘fanatic’ and ‘creepy’.16

On the other hand, the commission was not concerned about the legal consequences of marriage for the Dutch women, who lost their Dutch citizenship from the moment they married their Moluccan husband.17 When lawyer W. Schols, CAZ-director for the Southern district pointed out this legal consequences, his letter was put aside after commenting: ‘It is not our task to interfere’.18

 

Concluding remarks

As demonstrated, the Moluccans were faced with different types of regulation of mixture: they were housed in living areas segregated from the wider Dutch population, and their intimate relationships and marriages were surveilled by police and social workers. Local and national authorities were involved in efforts to prevent ‘racial mixture’. In this respect, they were treated very differently from the other major group of colonial migrants from Indonesia, the Indische Nederlanders, Eurasians of mixed descent, who were the target of assimilation policies.19

As always, in spite of all these state efforts to prevent them, mixed marriages and relationships happened frequently and from an early stage. The Moluccan community that was brought to the Netherlands, was already ‘mixed’, as around 1 in 4 of the marriages was with a non-Moluccan wife from Indonesia. After their arrival in the Netherlands, one-third of all marriages concluded in Moluccan living areas, until 1959, was with a Dutch men or, more frequently, women.20

A 2020 Central Bureau of Statistics study of Moluccans in the Netherlands revealed that a minority of Moluccans has a partner who is also Moluccan. Not more than just over 10% of the grandchildren of the first Moluccan generation has three or four Moluccan grandparents.21 Such relationships may not be problematised as in the 1950s, it seems that they continue to be interesting enough to be counted.

Recently, the mayors of municipalities with a high number of Moluccan inhabitants called upon the national government to acknowledge the harm done to them and to invest in the Moluccan community, including the mayor of Huizen.22

De obsessie met witte vrouwen met interraciale relaties: de casus van politiek leider Sigrid Kaag

read in English

door Betty de Hart, hoofdonderzoeker Euromix, 2 april 2021

Inleiding

In de aanloop van de Nederlandse verkiezingen op 17 Maart 2021, waaraan vier vrouwelijke partijleiders deelnamen, voerden Nederlandse media een discussie over het seksisme en de haatberichten waarmee deze vrouwen te maken kregen op sociale media. De aanleiding daartoe was een onderzoek gepubliceerd door opinieblad De Groene Amsterdammer over het grote aantal haatberichten dat vrouwelijke politici krijgen.  De Groene concludeerde dat vrouwelijke meer dan mannelijke politici op zeer persoonlijke manieren warden aangevallen: met commentaar op hun sekse, hun uiterlijk en de jurken die ze dragen, en op hun gezin.1

Sigrid Kaag, leider van D66, ontving de meeste haatberichten; een vijfde van de reacties die ze kreeg was gecategoriseerd als haatbericht en seksistisch.4  Aan de andere kant ontvingen ze ook veel steun en beiden werden gekozen en zijn nu kamerlid.

Dit blog richt zich echter op Sigrid Kaag, om te verkennen hoe de aanvallen op haar kunnen worden verklaard uit haar gemengde huwelijk en gezin. Met name wordt de vraag onderzocht hoe deze aanvallen kunnen worden verklaard uit de obsessie met witte vrouwen in gemengde relaties, met name wanneer de partner moslim is.

Nederlandse media over het gemengde gezin van Sigrid Kaag  

Kaag werd de politiek leider van D66 in 2020, zes maanden voordat de verkiezingen plaatsvonden. Tijdens de campagne, die resulteerde in een winst van vier zetels, presenteerde Kaag zich als ‘een nieuw type leider’: positief, progressief, en inclusief. Ze deinsde er niet voor terug om zich uit te spreken over racisme, bijvoorbeeld tijdens de Black Lives Matter protesten, en tegen seksisme. Op Internationale Vrouwendag, bijvoorbeeld, uitte ze publiekelijk kritiek op premier Mark Rutte omdat hij vrouwelijke ministers vaker zou interrumperen dan mannelijke ministers tijdens kabinetsbijeenkomsten.5 Als ze sprak over racisme, noemde ze regelmatig haar Palestijnse man en hun vier ‘gemengde’ kinderen, en vertelde over haar eigen ervaringen met racisme. Ze zei naar de maatschappij te kijken door de ogen van haar kinderen en haar man.6

De aanvallen op Kaag begonnen in 2017, toen ze Minister voor Buitenlandse Handel en Ontwikkelingssamenwerking werd. Haar politieke loyaliteit werd in twijfel getrokken omdat haar man Palestijns is, met name door extreemrechtse partijen en op sociale media. Het is echter opvallend hoe vaak op mainstream media haar Palestijnse man noemden, ook wanneer dit niet relevant was voor haar politiek. Zo werd er bijvoorbeeld gevraagd naar de verdeling van taken met haar man wat betreft de opvoeding van de kinderen, en het feit dat de kinderen haar achternaam en niet die van haar man gebruiken bij sollicitaties.7

Tijdens het slotdebat, de avond voorafgaand aan de verkiezingsdag, noemde de  extreemrechtse politiek leider Geert Wilders haar een ‘verrader’ omdat ze een hoofddoek had gedragen tijdens een bezoek aan Iran als Minister voor Buitenlandse Handel en Ontwikkelingssamenwerking.8

Op verschillende momenten verklaarde Kaag de kritiek die ze kreeg op sociale media uit het feit dat ze deel uitmaakt van een gemengd gezin. Op de vraag wat ze verkeerd had gedaan, zei ze: ik trouwde met Anis (haar man).9

Kortom, terwijl sommigen haar loyaliteit aan de natie in twijfel trokken vanwege haar gemengde gezin, presenteerde Kaag zichzelf als iemand met een breder perspectief op ‘ras’ en diversiteit, voortkomend uit haar positie als een witte vrouw met een gemengd gezin.10 Gezien de electorale winst voor haar partij, sprak dat althans een deel van de kiezers aan.

In de Nederlandse context is het uitzonderlijk dat een politicus, of welke publieke figuur dan ook, zich uitspreekt over zijn of haar gemengde gezin en, vanuit dat standpunt, over racisme en discriminatie in de Nederlandse samenleving.11 Toch is ze niet de enige politicus die de eigen gemengde relatie naar voren bracht als onderdeel van het politieke profiel. Een van hen is Niels Van den Berge (GroenLinks) die zei: “Sinds ik getrouwd ben met een fantastische vrouw van kleur, komen discriminatie en uitsluiting dichtbij. Ik zie wat het met haar en andere kleurrijke Nederlanders doet.”12 Een andere is Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) wiens echtgenote Syrisch-orthodox uit Turkije is en politicus is in dezelfde partij. Kaag was echter de enige die hierop zo publiekelijk en frequent werd aangevallen vanwege haar gemengde gezin.

Gender en het overschrijden van groepsgrenzen  

Hoewel ook witte mannen groepsgrenzen overschrijden wanneer zij een interraciale relatie aangaan, wordt dit gelegitimeerd door wit mannelijke privilege. Vanuit dit perspectief is het niet vreemd dat Kaag, als witte vrouw, de politicus is die de meeste haatreacties van het Nederlandse publiek krijgt.

Dit is omdat vrouwen de grenzen van de natie ‘belichamen’ en de last van representatie dragen als symbolische dragers van de collectieve identiteit en eer.13 Bewaking van de grenzen van witheid vereist dus de surveillance van het gedrag van witte vrouwen.14

Daarom worden witte vrouwen die geracialiseerde groepsgrenzen overschrijden als een grotere bedreiging gezien voor de witte identiteit. De consequenties daarvan ervaren vrouwen vooral op terreinen die het meest in het oog springen, zoals seksueel gedrag en partnerkeuze.15 De kosten van het overschrijden van geracialiseerde groepsgrenzen zijn dan ook hoger voor witte vrouwen dan voor witte mannen. De vijandige reacties waarmee Kaag werd geconfronteerd zijn daarmee te zien als een form van sociale bestraffing voor haar ‘afwijkende’ partnerkeuze.

In ons Euromix onderzoeksproject hebben we vastgesteld dat wetgevers, politici, bureaucratische nationale en lokale autoriteiten en politie in verschillende tijdsperioden en in verschillende nationale contexten geobsedeerd waren met relaties van witte vrouwen en geracialiseerde mannen. Zelfs als hun aantallen klein waren, konden zulke relaties angst, woede, vijandigheid en geweld uitlokken. Vertogen en nieuwsmedia richtten zich vooral op zulke relaties en ambtenaren trachtten ze te ontmoedigen door regulering, variërend van verboden interraciale huwelijken, relaties en seks, tot huwelijksvoorlichting waarmee witte vrouwen warden gewaarschuwd voor de gevaren van het huwelijk met ‘andere’ geracialiseerde mannen.

Ook in Nederland lag de focus van dagbladen en Populaire cultuur vooral op relaties van Nederlandse witte vrouwen en geracialiseerde mannen.16 Zelfs een enkel huwelijk kon omvangrijke publieke en media-aandacht uitlokken, waarbij elke stap van het paar onder een vergrootglas werd gelegd.17Aan de andere kant vonden we een gebrek aan aandacht voor zwarte vrouwen in gemengde relaties.18 Concluderend, de aanzienlijke media-aandacht die Kaag kreeg is niet alleen te verklaren vanuit seksisme gericht op vrouwelijke politici, maar ook uit de obsessie met gemengde relaties van Nederlandse witte vrouwen, waarmee de gendered en geracialiseerde grenzen van de Nederlandse natie worden getrokken.

Trouwen met een moslim   

Een ander reden voor de vijandige reacties op Kaag is dat haar man een Palestijn is van islamitische achtergrond.  Hoewel hij zichzelf identificeert als atheïst, wordt hij sociaal geclassificeerd als moslim, vanwege de stereotype en oriëntalistische samensmelting van Arabische landen en bevolking met islam.

De obsessie met Nederlandse vrouwen die een moslimman trouwen is al evenmin nieuw en terug te voeren op de koloniale periode van voormalig Nederlands-Indië. Het was in het bijzonder sterk aanwezig in de jaren zestig en zeventig van de vorige eeuw, toen arbeidsmigranten uit Turkije en Marokko werden geworven om in de Nederlandse industrieën te werken en sommige van hen met Nederlandse vrouwen trouwden. Hoewel het aantal huwelijken klein was, ontwikkelde de Nederlandse overheid huwelijksvoorlichting om Nederlandse ‘meisjes’, zoals ze vaak werden genoemd, te waarschuwen tegen de gevaren van een huwelijk met een moslim.19

In het huidige Nederlandse debat dat beïnvloed wordt door Islamophobia zijn het vooral vrouwen die de gevolgen ondervinden van de Nederlandse obsessie met islam.20 Islam wordt gepresenteerd als achtergebleven, statisch en traditioneel, terwijl de ‘Westerse cultuur’ wordt geconstrueerd als modern, dynamisch en progressief.21 Omdat Nederlandse vrouwen die met een moslim trouwen dit vrijwillig deden, keren de liberale en geëmancipeerde neigingen die Nederlandse vrouwen worden toegeschreven zich tegen hen: hun keuze voor een man die moslim is, toont aan dat ze koppig zijn en naïef: tegen beter weten belanden ze in een dergelijk huwelijk, dat ongetwijfeld op een ramp zal uitlopen. Ze verliezen daarom de kwaliteiten die worden verbonden aan de ‘wij’ en krijgen de karakteristieken van de ‘zij’ toegeschreven, resulterend in een verlies van sociale status.22

Hoewel Kaag een vrouw is in een geprivilegieerde positie van politieke macht, worden haar eveneens de karakteristieken van de ‘ander’ toegeschreven. Als vrouw getrouwd met een Palestijn wordt ze verbonden met terrorisme (‘terroristenliefje’) en islam.  De haar toegeschreven identiteit wordt bepaald door het stereotype, geracialiseerde identiteit van haar echtgenoot en aan haar loyaliteit wordt getwijfeld. Haar sociale straf is dat ze niet langer als ‘echt’ Nederlands wordt gezien en niet langer als een van ‘ons’.

Conclusie

Kaag kreeg te maken met negatieve reacties, niet alleen omdat ze een vrouwelijke politieke leider is, maar ook als sociale bestraffing als witte Nederlandse vrouw met een gemengd huwelijk, omdat ze met de ‘verkeerde’ man trouwde. Het is onderdeel van gendered en geracialiseerd ‘grensonderhoud’, dat dergelijke vrouwen uitsluit van de reproductie van de natie. Het laat zien dat gemengde relaties tot op de dag van vandaag geproblematiseerd worden. De sociale straffen, met inbegrip van online-intimidatie, blijven aanzienlijk.

Of Kaag’s positionering als een witte vrouw met een gemengd gezin ook leidt tot een daadwerkelijk andere politiek, is een andere kwestie, zoals sommige critici hebben gesteld. 23 Dat is bovenal een politieke keuze.

The obsession with white women and interracialized relationships: the case of political leader Sigrid Kaag

lees in het Nederlands

by Betty de Hart, Euromix Principal Investigator, 2 April 2021

Introduction

In the run-up to the Dutch elections on 17 March 2021, with four female party leaders, Dutch media discussed the sexism and hate messages that they faced on social media. This happened in response to opinion magazine De Groene Amsterdammer’s analysis of the large number of hate messages that female politicians receive. De Groene concluded that women more than male politicians were attacked in very personal ways: with comments on their gender, their looks and the dresses they wear, as well as their families.1

Sigrid Kaag, leader of the progressive-liberal D66, received most hate messages; one-fifth of the reactions she received was hateful and sexist.2 In her own words, this was because she represents everything that is the ultimate horror to part of the public: a powerful woman, a cosmopolite, married not to just any foreigner, but to a Palestinian, Muslim husband. She was faced with fantasies about her sex life and complot theories on her collaboration with Islam. She has been labeled a ‘terrorist-lover’ and ‘Palestinian hugger’.

Obviously, she was not the only female politician meeting with the combination of sexism and racism. Especially black female politician Sylvana Simons (BIJ1) who has suffered severe harassment continuously for years since she publicly spoke out against racism for the first time in 2015 on national television, and Kauthar Bouchallikht (GreenLeft) who is of Moroccan descent, Muslim and wears a headscarf, were the targets of racist hate reactions.3 On the other hand, they also received a lot of support and both were elected and are now Members of Parliament.

This blog, however, focuses on Sigrid Kaag, in order to explore how the attacks on her can be explained from her having a mixed family. It addresses the question what these attacks reveal about the obsession with white women in mixed relationships, especially those with Muslim husbands.

Dutch media on Sigrid Kaag’s mixed family

Kaag became leader of the political party D66 in 2020, six months before the elections took place. During the campaign, resulting in her party gaining four more seats in parliament, she presented herself as a ‘new kind of leader’: positive, progressive, and inclusive. She was not shy in speaking out against racism, for instance during the Black Lives Matter protests, as well as against sexism. For instance, on International Women’s day, she publicly criticised prime minister Mark Rutte for frequently interrupting female cabinet ministers, more than the male ones during cabinet meetings.4 In addressing racism, she regularly referred to her Palestinian husband and their four ‘mixed descent’ children, bringing in her own experiences with racism. She said that she looked at society through the eyes of her children and husband.5

The hateful attacks started when she became Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. in 2017. Her political loyalty was put into question because her husband is Palestinian, especially by extreme-right parties and online posts. Hateful attacks were uttered mainly on social media. However, it is striking how frequently the mainstream news media too mentioned her Palestinian husband, even where it is not relevant to her politics. For instance, she was questioned about the division of tasks between her husband and her in the upbringing of their children and the fact that the children used her and not her husband’s last name in job applications.6

In the final TV debate the night before election day the extreme-right political leader Geert Wilders called her out as a ‘traitor’ because she had worn a headscarf during a visit to Iran as Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.7

At several instances, she explained the critique she met with on social media from being a member of a mixed family. Answering the question on what she did wrong, she said: I married Anis (her husband).8

In short, while some tried to question her loyalty to the nation because of her mixed family, Kaag herself aimed to present herself as someone with a broader perspective on race and diversity, stemming from her positionality as a white woman having a mixed family.9 Considering the electoral gain for her party, this appealed to part of the voters.

In the Dutch context, it is exceptional that politicians, or any other public figures for that matter, speak out about being a member of mixed family and, from that standpoint, reflect on racism and discrimination in Dutch society.10 Although there are few, she is not the only Dutch politician putting forward their mixed relationship in building a political profile. An example is Niels Van den Berge (GreenLeft) who stated: ‘Since I have been married with a fantastic woman of color, discrimination and exclusion are close by. I see what it does to her and to other Dutchmen of color’.11 Another is Pieter Omtzigt of the Christian-Democrats (CDA) whose wife is a Syrian-orthodox from Turkey and also a politician in the same party.  However, Kaag has been the only one who was so publicly and frequently attacked because of her mixed family.

Gender and crossing group boundaries  

Even though white men also violate racialised group boundaries when they engage in interracialised relationships, this is legitimised by white male privilege. From this perspective, it is not surprising that Kaag, as a white woman, is the politician facing the most hostile reactions from the Dutch public.

This is because women ‘embody’ the boundaries of the nation, carrying the ‘burden of representation’ as ‘symbolic bearers of the collective identity and honour’.12 The reaffirmation of boundaries of whiteness thus requires the surveillance of white women’s behavior.13

Hence, white women transgressing racialised borders are seen as the greater threat to white identity. Women are particularly likely to experience gender backlash in domains where gender roles are highly salient, such as in the domain of sexual behavior and partner choice. 14 Consequently, the costs of crossing racialised group boundaries are higher for white women than for white men. The hostile reactions that Kaag received can be understood as a form of social punishment for her ‘deviant’ partner choice.

In our Euromix research project, we have established that regulators (e.g. legislators, politicians, bureaucratic national and local authorities, police) across time and place were obsessed with relationships of white women and racialised men. Even if their numbers were low, such relationships incited anxiety, anger, hostility and violence. Discourse and news-media largely focussed on such relationships while state officials tried to discourage them through regulations ranging from prohibitions of interracial marriage, relationships and sex, to premarital counselling ‘warning’ white women of the dangers of marrying ‘other’ racialised men.

In the Netherlands, too, newspapers and popular culture have largely focussed on relationships of Dutch white women and racialised men.15

Even one marriage could incite a huge amount of public and media attention surveilling and scrutinizing the couple’s every move.16 On the other hand, we have found an absence of attention for black women in interracialized relationships.17 In conclusion, the considerable amount of media attention that Kaag received, apart from the more general sexism directed at female politicians, can be attributed to this obsession with mixed relationships of Dutch white women through which the gendered and racialised boundaries of the Dutch nation are drawn.

Marrying a Muslim   

Another reason for the hostile response is that Kaag’s husband is of Palestinian and Muslim background. Although he is a self-identified atheist, he is socially classified as Muslim, because of the stereotyped and orientalist conflation of Arab countries, and people, with Islam.

The obsession with Dutch women marrying Muslim foreign men is hardly new and goes back to the colonial period of the Dutch East Indies. It was particularly strong in the 1960s and 1970s when labor migrants from Turkey and Morocco were recruited to work in the Dutch industry and some of them married Dutch women. Although the actual numbers of such marriages were quite low, the Dutch government developed premarital counseling in order to warn Dutch ‘girls’, as they were commonly called, of the dangers of marrying Muslim men.18

In the current Dutch debate, in which Islamophobia is omnipresent, it is especially women who face the repercussion of the Dutch obsession with Islam.19 Islam is presented as backward, static and traditional, while ‘Western culture’ is constructed as modern, dynamic and progressive.20As Dutch white women who married a Muslim did so willingly and intentionally, the liberal and emancipated inclinations attributed to Dutch women as representing Dutch modern culture, now turn against them: their choice for a Muslim husband demonstrates their stubbornness and naivety; against better judgement, they ‘dabble’ into such a marriage, which will undoubtedly turn out to be a disaster. They lose the qualities attached to ‘us’ and are attributed the qualities of ‘them’, resulting in a loss of social status.21

Although Kaag is a woman in a privileged position of political power, she is attributed these characteristics and consequently othered. As a woman married to a Palestinian, she becomes aligned with terrorism (‘terroristenliefje’) and Islam. Her ascribed identity becomes dependent on that of the stereotyped, racialised identity of her husband, and her loyalty questioned. Her social punishment is that she is no longer considered ‘truly’ Dutch and no longer considered one of ‘us’.

Conclusion

The negative reactions that Sigrid Kaag met with were not only because she is a female political leader but also part of her social punishment for being a white Dutch woman with a mixed marriage, for marrying the ‘wrong kind’ of man. It is part of gendered and racialised boundary work that excludes such women from those who reproduce the nation. It shows that mixed families and relationships continue to be problematized until today. The social punishments, with continued online-harassment, remain severe.

Whether Kaag’s positionality as a white woman with a mixed family also results in a different kind of politics, is a different matter, as some critics have pointed out.22 In the end, that is a matter of political choice.

Black Women and Interracialized Relationships

By Nawal Mustafa, Euromix PhD Researcher, 19 March 2021

SOURCE: Lambeth Archives.

Introduction

The end of the Second World War signified the start of the large-scale migration from former British colonies and Commonwealth countries to the United Kingdom. The increasing numbers of the newly arrived immigrants were not something new. In fact, there was an increase in the number of “coloured immigrants” since the First World War.1 As a result, people who are differently categorized based on race, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic background had the ability to engage with each other in close proximity. They would encounter each other at work, in living quarters and in places of leisure.

My PhD research focuses on romantic relationships that were formed between black and white people in the period 1950s-1970s in the United Kingdom. Particularly, I aim to centralize black women in interracialized relationships because I found that their stories often do not expand beyond the scope of a footnote or a paragraph in studies about interracialized relationships. Even when neglected or forgotten, black women remained resilient, vocal, and demanded attention by popping up in places where they are least expected.

Black British studies and research focus mainly on Black men and women’s studies and research centralized the experiences of white women.2 In the field of (Critical) Mixed  Race Studies a similar tendency can be seen.3 There is an absence in the archives and a lack of research that centralizes the experiences of black women. The category of black women is a category within a category. It is the entanglement of race and gender. By focusing on the experiences of black women in interracialized relationships, my hope is to further complicate and enrich the concepts of race and gender.

Black and British

There is a re-emergence of efforts to capture and document the experiences of black people in Britain. An example is the critique of the centralization of the Windrush generation as a symbol of the arrival of black people to the metropole and the start of British multiculturalism.4 The term Windrush is derived from the ship MV Empire Windrush, which docked in Tilbury on 22 June 1948.  It carried 492 passengers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and other islands. These passengers were looking for job opportunities in the metropole where there was a shortage of labour. Although this specific moment is important in the Black British history, it should be conceptualized and placed in a more comprehensive historical trajectory that includes Black Romans, enslaved African people in Britain, historic black seafarer communities and colonial students as well as black servicemen in the two world wars. By broadening the scope and excavating the long history of encounters between black people and the white British, historical facts that have become “truth regimes” concerning black people’s history in Britain can be challenged. This will show what is canonized or is seen as important for the formation of national identity, is created through processes of selecting, editing and omitting certain facts and experiences.

As a result of these processes, academic literature and archival materials that focus on the history of Black and British post-second world war largely failed to include the experiences of black women in the metropole. The racist encounters the new immigrants faced led to the formation of unifying categories. During the Notting Hill riots of 1958, white youth attacked everyone who they perceived to be black, including black women.5 People started to organize and resist their conditions and the racist violence under an umbrella of a unifying blackness.6 For instance, the category of the West Indian was used by all who came from different Caribbean Islands. The in-group differences mattered less when one is being attacked based on one’s perceived racial identity. As a result, the knowledge and insight that can be gained by studying the similarities and differences between black people when race, class, gender, and sexuality are accounted for are lost. Instead, using an intersectional approach when researching the “black experience” would particularize and show the multicity of identities.7

Racialized and Gendered Sexual encounters

The women and, to an extent, the men I write about are wayward adventures.8 They were resilient and courageous enough to travel to countries they only knew through schoolbooks or stories told by relatives. They were people with “a vision of hope sustained through centuries of exploitation”.9 They were not naïve, nor did they fully believe in the mother country’s promise of richness. They were aware of race and gender dynamics as well as economic exploitation. They were brave in a way that is hard to re-imagine. They made choices that would change the course of their life forever. The complexity of their realities and the racism they faced was beyond unemployment or struggles with housing and included social interactions.

I am interested in finding small acts and instances that unsettle what we think we know about the lived experiences of the newly arrived immigrants, especially the women. As Anne Stoler has argued, the regulation of the sexual economy was part of the colonial enterprise’s management ethos.10 It was also a crucial part of the structure of the slave society. Therefore, there has been a historical obsession with the sexuality of black men and women in general. Nonetheless, gender and class influence the ways in which sexual relationships are regulated. Black women know a long history in which sexual exploitation was part of their subjugation. They produced laborers for the plantations while enslaved since the children they had with black men, and with white men were seen as the property of the slave master.11 Along the same line, during the colonization period, white colonizers who already had extremely sexualized notions of non-white women were encouraged to “go native” and have relationships with the daughters of the chieftains they interacted with.12 In comparison, the sexuality of (middle-class) white women, as the bearers of the nation, was regulated more closely. For instance, during the first part of the colonization, white women were not allowed to travel to the colonies.13

The archival materials I have been using in my research show that many newspapers, tv shows, and radio items that discuss mixed couples and interracial dating often start with whether one would allow their daughter to date a black man. Furthermore, the survey for the Gallup International Poll of 1964 in the United Kingdom questioned whether white families would be willing to accept “a coloured man as a son-in-law”. 71% indicated that they rather not have a coloured man as a son-in-law or that they thoroughly disliked the idea. The reversed question of whether white families would (dis)approve their son’s marrying “coloured women” was also asked in the Gallup Poll of 1964. 70% of the interviewees stated that they would rather not have a “coloured woman” as a daughter-in-law or that they would completely dislike it.14 This was the first poll since 1937 where the question of interracialized relationships was raised. The poll reflects the societal issues that the public was concerned with; racial imbalance in society. Moreover, prior to the 1964 poll, questions about race were asked but not explicitly linked to interracialized intimacies. It is also striking that the relationship between black women and white men was included as a question to the poll, because the concerns regarding interracial mixing usually referenced relationships between white women and black men.15

The poll’s outcome indicates that interracialized relationships are considered a problem regardless of the race of the women. However, through newspapers, TV shows, and books, the public imagination indicates that there is hierarchization in the type of interracialized relationships that are deemed to be a problem. The fascination in popular culture and media show that there is an emphasis on relationships where the woman is white, and the man is black. The hyper focus on this specific constellation of interracialized relationships shows that white women are trapped in the traditional role ascribed to them. They have to secure the continuity of familial ties and, in extension, are burdened with reproducing the nation. White women became hyper visible, and their sexual escapades are of the interest of the nation.

In contrast, even though there is an awareness that black women in interracialized relationships are under-researched,16 the sexual encounters of black women do not necessarily threaten the (white) nation.17 Therefore, they seemed to be less of a problem and are less heavily policed. Whenever I came across references made to black women in the official government documents related to mixed relationships, it was to state that the lack of their availability is the reason for the rise in interracialized relationships. However, between 1952 and 1961, 93.500 black women arrived in the metropole, this is approximately 39.3% of the total number of new immigrants.18 These numbers contradict the assumption that immigration was dominantly a male endeavour; furthermore, they show that the so-called rise of interracialized relationships between black men and white women cannot be explained away by the lack of the availability of black women.

Conclusion

Although for different reasons, both white women and black women are expected to be the gate-keepers of endogamy, while white men in particular and black men to a certain extent are expected to engage in relationships beyond the colour line by virtue of their maleness.19 The consequence for black men who engage in interracialized relationships is that they are often surveilled and targeted by the police whereas white men have little or no consequences at all when they transgress. However, I am interested in how the relationships of black women developed beyond the gaze of the state. Much attention was given to the policing and the surveillance of the sexuality of black men. I argue that this created a space for black women to pursue their desires. Were they able to escape the notion of respectability by transgressing the boundaries of both race and gender? I hope to move away from homogenizing black women’s experiences in the post-war UK with my research. I wish to shed some light on the complexity of how desire was manifested and experienced by black women who refused to be monolith and dared to date outside of the race even with the looming danger of being fetishized.

Black Lives Matter en ‘gemengde’ relaties en gezinnen in de media

read in English

door Betty de Hart, hoofdonderzoeker Euromix, 16 oktober 2020

Waarom dit blog

In de afgelopen maanden van de Black Lives Matter-protesten en de vele discussies die daarop volgden in de Verenigde Staten en in Europa, inclusief Nederland, waren ‘gemengde’1 paren en relaties aanzienlijk vaker aanwezig in de media dan gewoonlijk. Deze media-representatie van gemengde relaties was ook anders dan daarvoor. In ieder geval in continentaal Europa is de media-aandacht voor gemengde relaties veelal gericht op veronderstelde culturele verschillen en reacties van familieleden en vrienden, meer dan op structureel racisme.

Vele mediaberichten over gemengde relaties tijdens de BLM-debatten bespreken hun rol in het debat over racisme vanuit het perspectief van één of beide partners of ouders, of vanuit het perspectief van de jongeren van gemengde afkomst, soms geschreven door betrokkenen zelf. Dit blog heeft tot doel deze mediaberichtgeving en de complexe positionering van gemengde relaties in het debat over racisme kritisch te analyseren. Het verdient opmerking dat we niet weten hoe deze nieuwsberichten tot stand zijn gekomen, of de paren en partners zelf hun verhaal wilden doen of door de media benaderd werden, welke vragen journalisten stelden en in hoeverre zij zich bewust waren van de context waarin hun verhalen werden geplaatst. Deze analyse is gebaseerd op berichten in de media (voornamelijk krantenartikelen die digitaal beschikbaar zijn) uit de Verenigde Staten, het Verenigd Koninkrijk, Nederland en België. Het moge duidelijk zijn dat de context in deze landen verschillend is: in de Verenigde Staten en het Verenigd Koninkrijk is het gebruikelijk om over kwesties van ‘ras’ en racisme te praten en over ‘interraciale’ relaties. In Nederland en België is dit debat in de mainstream media pas recent echt begonnen.

 

‘’Gemengde relaties brengen de kleurenblinde wereld dichterbij’’

Hoewel gemengde relaties historisch gezien geproblematiseerd en gepathologiseerd zijn, worden ze in het dominante vertoog waarin de norm van kleurenblindheid wordt gehanteerd, beschouwd als de oplossing voor racisme. Het argument luidt dat als we allemaal verliefd worden en trouwen met iemand van een andere kleur, racisme als vanzelf zal verdwijnen. De Amerikaanse krant Washington Times verklaarde in een redactioneel:

Er is geen raciaal geladen lezing, demonstratie, rel of oorlog die beter de door racisme versteende harten kan doen smelten dan de onschuldige ogen van een kind geboren uit de liefde van een interraciaal paar. Er is maar één blik nodig om de simpele waarheid, die niemand redelijkerwijs kan ontkennen, te herontdekken: all lives matter.2

Dit uiterst problematische argument beoogt assimilatie, ontkent dat racisme vaak gericht is tegen gemengde koppels en kinderen van gemengde afkomst en negeert machtsstructuren en institutioneel racisme. Zulke argumenten ontkennen ook het historische feit dat gemengde relaties niet noodzakelijkerwijs gelijk staan aan anti-racisme. Een voor de hand liggend voorbeeld is dat in het koloniaal verleden gemengde relaties geregeld voorkwamen, maar vooral tussen witte mannen en gekoloniseerde vrouwen, en dat deze relaties gerelateerd waren aan macht en onderwerping. Ze dienden het racistische koloniale systeem en hielden de scheiding tussen geracialiseerde groepen in stand.3

Tegen deze achtergrond zou men de toegenomen media-aandacht voor gemengde relaties tijdens het Black Lives Matter-debat met enige achterdocht kunnen bezien. Ze zouden naar voren kunnen worden geschoven als bewijs dat racisme, als het al bestaat, spoedig zal verdwijnen.  In een alternatieve representatie zouden gemengde relaties kunnen worden gezien als ‘bruggen’ die begrip kunnen kweken tussen verschillende gemeenschappen en ‘toegankelijker’ zijn voor het publiek (lees: een wit publiek) waarvan gedacht wordt dat zij zich makkelijker kunnen verplaatsen in de ervaringen van een witte persoon die getrouwd is met een zwarte partner dan in de ervaringen van een zwarte man of vrouw met racisme. In dit opzicht voelde een Nederlandse nieuwsuitzending over BLM die een Nederlandse witte vrouw in een gemengd gezin in de Verenigde Staten, haar kinderen van gemengde afkomst, maar niet haar zwarte man aan het woord liet over de betekenis van BLM en racisme en daarnaast  nog verschillende andere personen van gemengde afkomst ongemakkelijk aan.4 Het deed denken aan TV reclames die ‘diverser’ willen zijn door gemengde gezinnen en personen van gemengde afkomst te verbeelden, maar geen zwarte families.5 Dit betekent dat de opvallende aanwezigheid van gemengde koppels in het BLM-debat op zichzelf niet positief is; het maakt uit hoe hun ervaringen naar voren worden gebracht en welke boodschap daarmee wordt beoogd.

 

Witte partners niet altijd bondgenoten in de strijd tegen racisme; zwarte partners ontbreken veelal

In de representatie van gemengde koppels wordt het verschil in positionering van witte en zwarte partners enerzijds en ouders en kinderen anderzijds duidelijk. Ten eerste, niet alle witte partners zijn antiracistisch; soms ontkennen zij het bestaan van racisme of maken zelf racistische opmerkingen; oftewel, de witte partners zijn niet noodzakelijkerwijs bondgenoten in de strijd tegen racisme. Hoewel Amerikaanse en Britse onderzoeken uitwijzen dat witte partners in gemengde families, vooral witte vrouwen, zich bewuster zijn van het bestaan van racisme dan andere witte personen,, is dit zeker niet vanzelfsprekend.6 Tijdens BLM kwamen verschillende jongeren van gemengde afkomst aan het woord over de pijnlijke ervaring dat zij niet met de witte ouder of de wijdere witte familiekring  over hun ervaringen met racisme kunnen praten; zij kregen geen steun, hun ervaringen werden genegeerd of ontkend.7

Voor sommige witte partners fungeerden de moord op George Floyd en de BLM-protesten die daarop volgden als een ‘wake-up call’. Terwijl zij het bestaan van institutioneel en systematische racisme eerder negeerden of ontkenden, hadden zij, vooral de ouders van gemengde kinderen, het gevoel dat ze dit niet langer konden blijven doen en zich moesten uitspreken.8 Het ziet er naar uit dat het feit dat meer witte partners zich zijn gaan uitspreken één van de redenen is waarom gemengde relaties zichtbaarder zijn in het BLM-debat. Er zijn er echter ook die dit al voor BLM deden, zoals de Nederlandse minister Sigrid Kaag, een Nederlandse witte vrouw die getrouwd is met een Palestijnse man.9

Met betrekking tot gemengde relaties en het BLM-debat waren de zwarte partners minder aanwezig en als zij dat wel waren, dan was dit bijna altijd als deel uitmakend van een stel en niet alleen. Een uitzondering vormde het essay in het Nederlandse magazine Oneworld van Valerie Ntinu, een zwarte vrouw met een gemengde relatie. Zij zette uiteen waarom zij de negatieve reacties tegenover haar witte partner door haar zwarte familie en vrienden anders beoordeelde dan negatieve reacties van witte familie en vrienden, omdat de eerste reacties voortkwamen uit hun ervaringen met racisme.10 In de Nederlandse en Belgische context konden zwarte vrouwen die zich in het debat mengden, rekenen op negatieve of zelfs agressieve reacties van vooral het witte publiek. Dit gebeurde Peggy Bouva die in een podcast over haar tot slaaf gemaakte voorouders in Suriname, samen met journaliste Maartje Duin, twijfelde of zij wel blij zou zijn als haar dochter een gemengde relatie zou hebben met een witte partner.11 Haar mening werd beschouwd als ‘omgekeerd racisme’ (racisme van zwart naar wit). Dit label ontkent echter op flagrante wijze haar ervaringen: Peggy had gemengde koppels in haar familie waarvan de witte partners het bestaan van racisme ontkenden. Sabrine Ingabine had in een interview verteld dat zij niet langer witte mannen wilde daten, hoewel ze dat in het verleden wel had gedaan, omdat ze genoeg had gekregen van hun racistische opmerkingen over haar uiterlijk en seksualiteit.12 De getuigenissen van deze vrouwen waren niet welkom, omdat ze de mythe dat gemengde relaties de kleurenblinde samenleving naderbij brengen, waaraan veelal een vooruitstrevend, wit publiek wil vasthouden, verstoorden.

 

De noodzaak voor zwart-witte koppels om samen over racisme te praten

De meeste media berichtten over de ervaringen van gemengde relaties met racisme en de noodzaak om te praten over racisme tussen leden van gemengde gezinnen onderling; tussen partners onderling en tussen ouders en kinderen. Een voorbeeld vormt de Amerikaanse actrice Tika Sumpter van de TV-serie ‘Black-ish’ die andere zwarte vrouwen in gemengde relaties opriep om met hun witte partners over racisme te praten:

Beste zwarte interraciale paren met een witte partner (steekt hand op),’’ zegt ze. ‘’Wij hoeven hen NIET te beschermen. Ik beloof het: zij zullen oké zijn. Zij moeten voor ons blijven vechten. Als ze zich beledigd voelen wanneer je met ze praat over racisten. Dan heb je een groter probleem.13

Dergelijke artikelen gaan niet uit van kleurenblindheid, maar benadrukken dat niet racistisch zijn niet hetzelfde is als antiracistisch zijn.14

De meeste interviews waren met ouders die vertelden over het racisme dat hun kinderen ervaren en hoe zij hiermee als ouders omgaan. Het houden van ‘The Talk’ (het voorbereiden van kinderen op het racisme dat ze zullen ervaren als ze ouder worden) is bekend in de Amerikaanse, maar niet zozeer in Europese context. Tijdens de BLM-debatten bleek echter dat ‘The Talk’ ook in Europa plaatsvindt, en daarmee een verschuiving markeert van een culturalistisch naar een antiracistisch vertoog over gemengde relaties.15

 

Jongeren van gemengde afkomst

Jongeren van gemengde afkomst uitten hun behoefte zichzelf te positioneren in het BLM-debat. Sommigen vroegen zich af of ze zich wel konden uitspreken over racisme, aangezien ze het gevoel hadden dat ze werden beschouwd als ‘niet zwart genoeg’.16 Een afbeelding die circuleerde op sociale media bevatte de tekst: Gemengde zwarte mensen. Jullie hebben het recht om je uit te spreken over kwesties van ras, want jullie zijn zwart.

Voor anderen diende de BLM-beweging eveneens als een ‘wake-up call’. In Nederland trok Johan Fretz, een publicist en cabaretier van gemengde Surinaams-Nederlandse afkomst, de aandacht met een essay waarin hij toegaf dat hij racisme had genegeerd, maar zich nu realiseerde dat hij dat niet langer kon blijven doen; hij zwoer nooit meer te zwijgen.17 Zijn essay werd breed gedeeld op sociale media en beschouwd als eerlijk en moedig.18

Andere verhalen gingen over het intergenerationeel aspect. Jongeren van gemengde afkomst onderkenden het racisme dat hun zwarte ouder moest hebben ervaren gedurende zijn of haar leven, zelfs als zij het daar nooit over hadden gepraat. Zulke nieuwsberichten richten de aandacht op de verschillende manieren van oudere en jongere generaties in de omgang met racisme.19

 

Concluderende opmerkingen

In de maanden waarin het BLM-debat op zijn hoogtepunt was, waren gemengde gezinnen en koppels zichtbaarder in de media dan in de decennia ervoor en waren zij uitgesproken over racisme. Voor de Europese context betekent dit een opvallende verschuiving van een culturalistisch vertoog over gemengde relaties naar een vertoog over structureel racisme.

Op sommige momenten, echter, werden gemengde koppels ingezet om het dominante vertoog over kleurenblinde toekomst en het bouwen van ‘bruggen’ te bevestigen. Andere mediaberichten  zagen dit als een mythe en benadrukten systematisch racisme. Dat de witte partners in gemengde relaties het meest zichtbaar waren in de media roept vragen op over wiens stemmen gehoord worden. Deze vragen zijn des te dringender nu is gebleken dat zwarte vrouwen die het beeld van gemengde koppels als racisme-vrije zones in twijfel trokken, negatieve en agressieve reacties kregen te verduren. Het toont aan dat voortdurende kritische interventie van leden van gemengde gezinnen nodig is om bij te dragen aan het broodnodige debat over hun rol in BLM en antiracisme.

Black Lives Matter and ‘mixed’ couples and families in the media

lees in het Nederlands

by Betty de Hart, Euromix Principal Investigator, 16 October 2020

Why this blog

In the past months of the Black Lives Matter protests and the many discussions that followed in the US and in Europe, including the Netherlands, ‘mixed’1 or interracialized couples were significantly more visible in the media than normally. This media presence was also of a different nature than usual, as normally, media representations of mixed couples are, at least in continental Europe, about cultural differences and reactions by family and friends rather than structural racism.

Numerous media articles addressed the position of those families within the debate on racism, from the perspective of one or both partners or parents, or from the perspective of youngsters of mixed descent. This blog aims to critically analyse this media coverage, in order to address the complex positioning of mixed couples within this racism debate. A caveat is that we do not know how these news stories came about, whether the couples and partners volunteered to tell their stories or what questions journalists posed to them, or the extent to which they were aware of the context in which their stories would be presented. The analysis is based on a collection of US, UK, Dutch and Belgian media reports (mainly newspaper articles available online), without claiming to be exhaustive. Evidently, the context in these countries is very different: in the USA and the UK it is common to talk about issues of race, racism and ‘interracial’ couples. In the Netherlands and Belgium this debate has only just started.

 

“Mixed couples bring the color-blind world closer”

Although mixed couples have been historically problematized and pathologized, in dominant discourses of a colour-blind world, mixed couples are perceived as the solution to racism. If we all fall in love and marry ‘across the color-line’, the argument goes, racism will disappear. This discourse was brought forward during the Black Lives Matter debate in the US newspaper Washington Times. In its editorial, this newspaper stated:

There is no racially charged lecture, demonstration, riot or war that can better melt hearts hardened by racism than the innocent eyes of a child born form the love of an interracial couple. One look is all it takes to rediscover a simple truth that no one can reasonably deny: all lives matter.2

This highly problematic argument is assimilationist, denies the racism often directed at interracial couples and children of mixed descent, and ignores power structures and institutional racism. Such arguments also deny the historical fact that mixed relationships do not equal anti-racism. As an obvious example, in the colonial past mixed relationships occurred frequently, but only between white men and colonized women as relationships of power and submission that served the colonial racist system. and kept the color-line in place.3

Against this background, one may observe the increased media attention for mixed couples during the Black Lives Matter debate with some suspicion. They may be put forward as proof that racism, if it exists at all, will soon disappear. In an alternative representation, mixed couples may be seen as ‘bridges’ that foster understanding between communities, and are more ‘accessible’ to the public (read: white audiences) who are thought to relate more easily to the experiences of a white person married to a black person than the racism experiences of a black man or woman. In this respect, a Dutch TV news broadcast on BLM featuring a Dutch white woman in a mixed family in the US, her children of mixed descent but not her black husband, and several other persons of mixed-descent explaining the meaning of BLM and their experiences with racism appeared somewhat awkward.4 It is similar to advertising wanting to become more ‘diverse’ by picturing mixed families and persons of mixed descent, but no black families.5 Hence, the strikingly frequent presence of mixed couples in the BLM debate is not in itself positive; it matters how their experiences are voiced and what message is brought forward.

 

White partners not always allies in anti-racist struggles; black partners largely absent   

When the experiences of mixed couples are presented, the different positioning of the white and black partners on the one hand and parents and children on the other hand becomes clear. First of all, not all white partners are anti-racist; they may deny the existence of racism or even make racist comments themselves; in short, the white partners are not necessarily allies in anti-racism struggles. Although there is some US and British research to testify that, compared to other white people, white partners in mixed families, especially white women, are more often aware of racism this is certainly not self-evident. 6 During BLM, several youngsters of mixed descent testified how they were painfully unable to talk with their unwilling white parent and wider white family circle about their experiences with racism; they were not supported, and their experiences ignored or denied.7

As some white partners confessed, the murder of George Floyd and the BLM protests that followed served as a wake-up call. While they had either ignored or denied the existence of institutional systemic racism before, they felt they could no longer do so and had to speak up, especially those who were parents of mixed-race children.8 It seems that white partners speaking up is one of the reasons why mixed couples have become visible in the BLM debate. However, there are also those who did this before BLM, such as Dutch Minister Sigrid Kaag, who is a white Dutch woman married to a Palestinian husband.9

With regards to mixed couples and the BLM debate, the black partners were less present, and if they were, this was almost always as part of a couple rather than alone. An exception was the essay in the Dutch magazine Oneworld by Valerie Ntinu who explained why, as a black woman in a mixed relationship, she valued the negative reactions towards her white partner by black family and friends differently than negative reactions by white family and friends, because the former came from their experiences with racism.10 In the Dutch and Belgian context, black women who intervened in the debate could count on negative or even aggressive reactions from largely white audiences. This happened to Peggy Bouva who in a podcast on the enslavement of her ancestors in Surinam, together with journalist Maartje Duin expressed doubt whether she would be happy with her daughter entering a mixed relationship with a white partner.11 Her opinion was considered ‘reverse racism’ (racism from black to white). This label, however, flagrantly denies the experiences that she retold: Peggy had interracial couples in her family of which the white partner denied the existence of racism. Sabrine Ingabire who said in an interview to no longer want to date white men, had done so in the past, but got fed up with their racist comments on her looks and sexuality.12 The testimonies of these women were unwelcome because they disturbed the myth of colour-blindness that mixed relationships are supposed to exemplify to a liberal white audience.

 

The need for black-white couples to talk about racism together

Most media reports mixed couples and families’ experiences with racism and the need to talk about racism within mixed families; between the partners and between parents and children. In one such article, actress Tika Sumpter of the TV-series “Black-ish” called on other black women in mixed families to talk about racism with their white partners:

Dear Black interracial couples with a significant other who is White (raises hand),” she said. “We DO NOT need to protect them. I promise, they will be A. OK. They need to continue to fight for us. If they get offended when you talk about racists. You have a bigger problem on your hands.13

These articles do not start from color-blindness, but on the contrary stressed that being non-racist is not the same as anti-racist.14

Most interviews were with parents talking about the racism that their children experienced and how they dealt with it as a couple. Having “The Talk” (preparing the children how to respond to racism they would experience as they grew older), is well-known in the US but not in the European context, Now,  “The Talk” occurred across Europe, marking the shift from a culturalist to an anti-racism discourse.15

 

Young people of mixed descent

Young people of mixed descent were represented as feeling a need to position themselves within the BLM debate. Some were wondering whether they could speak up at all about racism, as they felt they were considered ‘not black enough’.16 An image circulated on social media saying: Mixed black folks. You have the right to speak out about black issues because you are black.

For others, the BLM movement also served as a wake-up call. In the Netherlands Johan Fretz, a publicist and comedian of mixed Surinamese-Dutch descent, drew considerable attention with an essay in which he admitted that he used to ignore racism, but now realised that he could no longer do so; he vowed never to be silent again.17 His essay was widely shared on social media and considered honest and brave.18

In other stories, the intergenerational aspect comes forward, of youngsters of mixed descent acknowledging the racism that their black parent must have experienced their whole life, even if they hardly ever talked about it. Such news reports reflected on the different ways of addressing racism across generations.19

 

Concluding remarks 

In the months in which the BLM debate was at its height, mixed families and couples were more present in the media than in decades before and outspoken about racism. For the European context, this signifies an important shift from a culturalist discourse about mixed relationships to a discourse about anti-racism. However, at times, the presence of mixed couples was used to confirm the dominant discourses on ‘color-blind’ futures and of building ‘bridges’, Other media representations deviated from this dominant discourse and challenged it as a myth, by emphasizing systemic racism.

The observation that the white partners of mixed couples were most prominent raises questions about whose voices are being heard. This is all the more important as black women who questioned the image of mixed couples as racism-free zones received negative and aggressive reactions. It demonstrates that continued critical intervention by members of mixed families is needed to contribute to the much needed debate on their position in the BLM and anti-racism struggle.

Mixed (race) couples through the Brexit looking glass

Mixed (race) couples through the Brexit looking glass1

by Elena Zambelli, Euromix Post-doctoral Researcher, 21 September 2020

Does race2 affect how people perceive the impact of Brexit on their everyday lives? And if does, where is this difference discernible, and what does it say about perceptions of belonging to the place which is, or becomes, home? Briefly, my research shows that race does indeed shape how people perceive the impact of this political decision on their lives, and their narratives reveal the workings of political affectivities sedimented through centuries of European and British colonial and imperial history.

Over the past three years, I’ve been conducting ethnographic research on the role of law in reproducing racialized hierarchies of power between and amongst citizens and migrants in Europe, and specifically in different urban sites across the Netherlands, Italy and the UK. Each of these countries shares a history of colonial domination of different parts of the globe, and involvement in the trade of enslaved people (albeit across different routes); in recent years, they’ve all adopted increasingly restrictive migration policies, within a political context largely dominated by right-wing political formations holding hostile views towards migrants and asylum seekers. Against these shared historical traits, each country’s colonial and imperial history is specific, inasmuch as specific are the forms in which race gets to be politicized (or not) in public debates.

Brixton Road, London, April 2019.

In the UK, the decision to withdraw its membership from the EU (i.e. ‘Brexit’) has been deeply influenced by the wish to ‘take back control’ of the country’s frontiers – a desire that some scholars have interpreted as an expression of a peculiar, ‘postcolonial melancholia’3 for Britain’s lost imperial prestige and power. At the institutional level, this popular decision has been particularly thorny to deal with, opening a long period of political uncertainty which, at the time of writing, has not been entirely solved yet.4 Amidst massive street and online protests against the departure from the EU, and reports of intimidation, abuse and violence against MPs over their handling of Brexit,5 violence against EU citizens, and British and migrant people who are classified and/or identify as Black or as People of Colour (PoC) escalated.6 It is during this time that I undertook fieldwork in England, mostly in the South East and London regions, and in some major cities in the South West (Bristol) and North (Liverpool, Manchester).

In my research, I’ve been exploring the racialised workings of the law by looking at the everyday experiences of ‘mixed (race) couples’ – i.e. couples constituted by partners whose bodies, heritage and/or nationality are socially ascribed to supposedly distinct ‘racial’ categories. More narrowly, I’ve focused on mixed (race) couples consisting of a partner ascribed to ‘whiteness’ and one to ‘blackness’. Interviews with them have always begun with questions on whether and how they related to the ‘mixed’ and ‘interracial’ couple labels. Subsequently, they’ve been invited to share their couple experiences in different domains – relations with kin and friends, pathways to living together (particularly if this entailed the migration of one of them), neighbourhood and school choice, mobility and safety; and to reflect on whether and how they considered that race had affected these experiences in some ways. I’ve also always included context-specific questions; in England, these concerned the impact of Brexit on their lives. To my surprise, few talked at length about the latter issue. Possibly, such brief commentaries reflected what journalists epitomized as ‘Brexit fatigue’ – a form of saturation with the dragging political debate over how to deal with the poll’s results. However, when partners did speak about it, they did so in diverging ways, expressing – as I contend – their differently racialized socialization and positionality.

White British and EU nationals associated Brexit with the anticipated loss of the freedom of movement ensuing from possession of EU citizenship. For the first, this amounted to losing the possibility to move in and across the EU at will; for the latter, it constituted a challenge to their permanence in the UK. For both, Brexit appeared to represent a radical rupture with the unrestrained mobility in space and permanence in place which they had been enjoying in virtue of their race and nationality. For British and migrant Black and mixed-race partners, however, Brexit was in itself a largely ordinary event; a cyclical manifestation of the structural racism permeating the UK state and society. Hence, even if at the core of the xenophobic rhetoric underpinning part of the pro-Brexit camp stood a largely white group of European immigrants, they recounted feeling challenged again in their right to feel at home in the UK.

In couples constituted by at least a first-generation migrant, this different perception of the meaning and impact of Brexit mapped onto attitudes towards the reliability of the documents supposedly enshrining their right to stay in the UK after Brexit (e.g. British citizenship; Permanent Residence Certificate). Whereas white partners largely looked at these papers as a property which, once acquired, would be inalienable, Black and mixed-race partners were far more uncertain about their long-term validity – a perception that the ramming ‘Windrush scandal’7 could not but exacerbate.

Finally, for partners in same sex mixed (race) couples, post-Brexit UK was associated with the risk of exacerbating homophobia and misogyny typically characterizing ethno-nationalist political projects. For Black and mixed-race partners, however, this anticipated danger was compounded by the racisms they had been, and still were, incessantly exposed to.

These observations do not have the ambition to portray an average mixed (race) couple’s perception of the effects of Brexit neither on its present life, nor on its orientation towards the future. What they can provide, is rather a glimpse of how partners’ differently racialized socialization and positionality can be revealed by looking at how they engage with contemporary political events, in the relentless shadow of colonial and imperial relations of power sedimented in history. Future research will possibly explore whether the differences here foregrounded will bear an impact on couples’ more or less constrained choice of where to make, and feel at home.