Next Monday Dutch military troops are set to descend upon my neighborhood for a training exercise. According to the news, between thirty and forty soldiers, in a Battalion formation, will be in Amsterdam New West to train in “a multiculti engagement”* in a predominantly non White environment. Their intention is to “learn how to deal with a different group of people who do not share their same cultural background”. The news are being prominently illustrated with photos of tanks and soldiers in combat outfits.
Now, there is nothing innocent in the choice of neighborhood for this military exercise. The most racist mainstream media in this country, Telegraaf Media Group, refers to our neighborhood as “020-Gaza”**. Our neighborhood has been dubbed, even in official statistics, as “one of the most dangerous in the country”. I live a few blocks away from what, for years, was considered “one of the most dangerous streets of The Netherlands” (number 3 in the chart). When Dutch media discuss the possibility of social unrest of the kind that sometimes erupt in non White French neighborhoods or in the outskirts of Stockholm, my community is the one singled out as “the most likely” to have riots. The youth of my neighborhood, particularly young Men of Color, are regularly singled out as “dangerous”, “sexually aggressive” and “prone to criminal tendencies”. My neighborhood is used as a cautionary tale by racists attempting to make a point about the dangers of the “immigrant Other”.
This military exercise is part of an ongoing process of State mandated gentrification and “clean up” of this community. Real Estate is a precious commodity in Amsterdam and, a mere 10 minutes away from downtown, this neighborhood is, of course, a great location to target for expansion. The exercise cannot be viewed in isolation, as it is part of a bigger political framework of militarization of borders and ongoing rhetorical efforts to turn immigration and People of Color into a de facto enemy of the State. The fact that this now makes the news, associating the community with further stigma and normalizing the presence of troops is not gratuitous. This is a conscious choice by a State that will use whatever method to discipline the Other, to the point of inserting the Military in the heart of a community, contrary to basic principles of democracy and the rule of civil society. In the war against “the Other”, my neighborhood gets to play the role of military prop, to train soldiers in dealing with people like us, either at home or abroad. We should be afraid… very afraid of the doors this might open.
* multiculti is the derogatory word used by Dutch media to denote disdain for multicultural practices of inclusion
** Dutch cities are popularly referred to by the phone prefix that denotes an area. Amsterdam is 020, Rotterdam is 010, Utrecht is 030, etc.
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