Peter Bonus Post – Gekoloniseerd: Dutch Memes and Race

When Jennifer Tosch was talking about Dutch attitudes surrounding race and the perception that Dutch people are “colorblind,” I kept thinking of a famous Dutch meme. Whenever something Dutch comes up in a context where you don’t necessarily expect something Dutch to come up, you’ll see a bunch of Dutch people typing “G E K O L O N I S E E R D” in the comments or something along those lines (example below).

Example of Dutch people using the meme. Translations: “Zeg makker: hey buddy,” “Kokusnoten zijn geen specerijen: coconuts aren’t spices,” “Ingepoldered: you have been poldered” “Gekoloniseerd: colonized”

“Gekoloniseered” translates to colonized and is a reference to a 41 video second video satirizing the Dutch East India company during the Dutch Golden Age. In the video, a Dutchman lands on an island with a Black native and a palm tree. The Dutchman asks the Black native, “spices?” and the Black native responds “ok” and grabs a coconut. The Dutchman says, “that’s going to be a delicious meal,” and the Dutchman and the Black native start dancing. The dancing is halted when the Dutchman says, “say buddy, coconuts aren’t spices.” The Black native responds with a Dutch expletive before he is killed by the Dutchman and the word “GEKOLONISEERD” appears on screen.

This meme is extremely popular on the Dutch internet. But when Dutch people use it, they’re not thinking about the racism embedded in the meme. They’re using the meme because it harkens back to the Dutch Golden Age, when the Dutch were the most powerful country in the world. In the Dutch psyche and the meme, the process of colonization was a good thing because it enabled the Dutch Empire. They don’t really reckon with the pain and suffering that people like Jan Pieterszoon Coen, who oversaw the Banda Massacre of 1621 and also has a meme video made about him, caused.

Instead, the meme is just an example of Dutch nationalism; it’s a way to demonstrate your pride in the fact that the Netherlands has had, and continues to have, more influence than a nation of 17 million people should have. The fact that these implicitly racist attitudes and depictions continue to exist pose a problem when trying to make progress on racism in the Netherlands.

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