‘I won’t be told I’m racist’

I hesitated about writing this down, because as a white man, I’ve already done everything wrong and I’m not allowed to have an opinion. Well, tough luck. I do have an opinion, and as I live in a free country, I’m going to express it, too.

First things first, we do have a serious racism and discrimination problem. Not just in America, but in the entire world. Every black man who dies from police brutality, every Jew who’s harassed with antisemitic slurs, and every woman who receives a lower salary for being a woman, is one too many.

But the things that are said in the article about the UU’s ‘racist climate’ aren’t going to change any of this. They will only increase the gap that’s felt between white and black people. Criticising Black Pete is fine, but whinging when the police comes to check when you’re loading a scooter onto a trolley: I’ve been stopped by police for less. And then that’s followed up by an odd story about the fear of being shot by police. Thankfully, the Dutch police aren’t as trigger happy as their American colleagues. I was unable to find when the last time was that Dutch police shot a black man, but given the sensitivity of the subject, we all would’ve known if it happened recently, like in the case of Mitch Henriquez. Being afraid the Dutch police will shoot you because you’re black is in itself a form of racism: because white cops in America do this, white cops in the Netherlands surely will, too. Quite the stereotype, if you ask me.

Then comes the quote “I’m a black man, so I identify with the victim”. That, too, is a weird train of thought to me. Because someone has the same skin colour, you identify with him? Doesn’t that make you part of the problem if you, as a professor, more easily identify with a drug dealer who committed violent robberies than with another professor who happens to be of a different colour? Personally, as a white Dutch person, I identify much more with my black classmates than with, let’s say, the white cop who killed Floyd. I think colour isn’t such an interesting criterion, you know.

It gets even better. Our very own campus columnist dares to say things are easier in the US, because “I was at a very progressive university, and it was very easy to socialise in circles where it’s known that when you’re white, you’re racist.” I wouldn’t call a place, where it’s “known” that people of a certain colour have a certain negative characteristic, ‘progressive’; I’d call it scary, disgusting, narrow-minded and plainly racist. If I were to claim here that it’s “known” that black people have a certain negative characteristic, I’d be publicly vilified immediately – and rightly so. A campus columnist who dares to say such things isn’t worth being a campus columnist, I’d say. And, weird, isn’t it, that people don’t like it when you call them racist?

Moving on. The scientist in the article plainly says that it’s due to racism that his course evaluations are less favourable here than in the US. Excuse me? As a scientist, shouldn’t you be the first to know that correlation does not equal causation? Maybe Dutch people are more direct (that’s said to be in our nature, after all), which leads to them giving more negative evaluations. But no, criticism is hard, and so I’ll just claim it’s due to the fact that my students are racist. Easy as pie.

And then, at the end of the article, we reach the point that it’s all about: the university is too white. Although this discussion was had in depth last year, and the UU had to admit in the end that it wasn’t true, we still managed to find a professor who refuses to understand the data. The UU is whiter than the city of Utrecht, true, but that isn’t that weird, as the UU isn’t just there for Utrecht, but for all of the Netherlands. If you compare it with the Netherlands, the university isn’t even that white. And there’s exactly nothing wrong with the throughput of students from high school vwo to academia (see the Higher Education throughput monitor), and in fact, vwo students with a migrant background actually go to university more often than their native Dutch classmates. What do you mean, barriers? And that’s where we get to the point: we need quotas for ethnicities. Dis-gus-ting. I thought we’d moved past that stage of thinking in boxes and judging people for the accidental colour of their skin. Can you imagine:

“Dear x, unfortunately, we can’t accept you into our study programme. We do have some spaces left and you meet the criteria, but we’re only allowed to accept white/black/Asian/whatever students now.”

Now that is racism