Zwarte Piet, racism and gaslighting as a culture wide phenomenon in The Netherlands

As I read the statement by Rita Izsák, the UN advisor on Minority Issues and her eloquent remarks about the violent nature of Zwarte Piet’s supporters, I kept thinking of gaslighting and how it’s become such a widespread tool of terror to enforce racism in The Netherlands. I have briefly written about gaslighting as part of the “dominant culture’s toolkit”, however, never before has this mechanism been clearer than with the current debates around Zwarte Piet.


a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

Under the guise of this bizarre claim that The Netherlands is “the most tolerant country in the world”, even when we present undeniable proof of historical and cultural evidence to the contrary, we are told that “we are seeing things” where there are none to be seen. “It’s all in our heads” or, alternatively, “we are making it all up”. This, paired with the rhetoric violence that Dutch white racists unleash on anyone who opposes them is at the very foundation of the Dutch national culture. On the one hand, gaslight those who speak up against racism. On the other, if that doesn’t work, threaten them with violence.

Yesterday, on Twitter, I pointed out that contrary to media claims, the petition to leave Zwarte Piet unchanged was not a grassroots effort. The campaign was initiated by a marketing agency seeking to make a “test case” for their customers on the effective use of social media to gather public support. They are now advertising the campaign on their website as a “success” that proves their expertise on artificially influencing public opinion. Screen capture of this agency’s marketing (link here, but I am screencapping in case they change or remove it): in Dutch, a “portfolio” of this marketing agency’s customers where, at the bottom, there is a message in Dutch stating “The proof that social media works: from 0 to 720,000 “likes” in 20 hours”, followed by a link to the racist petition. (The number of “likes” at the time of this writing is at 2.1 million).

To sum it up, a business is making money out of enforcing anti Black racism and exploiting the legacy of slavery. And yet, two million people will willfully adhere to this campaign claiming it “represents them”, obviously ignoring that each time they support it, they are merely a number for a corporate enterprise to make $$ out of the whole ordeal. Then, a rather significant number of those two million people will viciously attack anyone who opposes them either using the gaslighting described above or, when that doesn’t render the desired results (i.e. silencing opposition), sending open threats of violence (beatings, rape, “I will find you and teach you a lesson” etc etc).

The myth of tolerance in The Netherlands is nothing more than an empty word to hide abuse and terror for anyone who dares resist. The “tolerant” ones, either making money out of enforcing racism or hiding behind gaslighting and rhetoric violence, willing to say anything to maintain the status quo. This is what a culture of abuse looks like.

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