“If you’re thinking about being my brother, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white”, beautiful and oh so true words sung by the King of Pop in the early nineties. Unfortunately, when I was a kid growing up in that era, where I came from, I did matter whether you had a black or a white skin
Today, I want to write a piece on a more serious note, after my mother and I got interviewed by a TV presenter about the differences between the various cultures in Holland. My parents and I were visiting the Oktoberfest in the south of Holland and watching a typical southern civic guard parade. All of a sudden this guy with a cameraman following him, pops up in front of us and asks us why we are attending this very festival. And with ‘we’ he told us, he meant ‘us white folks’. He noticed there weren’t any, at least not a lot, black people at the Oktoberfest and he wondered why. Is it because black people don’t like those kinds of festivals? Is it because so many white people together scare them maybe? My mum and I couldn’t really come up with a quick answer.
This made me wonder about my own skin color. On a side note, according to the town I used to live, I’m black. And the multiracial city of Amsterdam, where I currently reside, thinks I’m kinda white. I’m actually 50% Moroccan, 50% German. It really shouldn’t matter where my blood is originally from, but it was a really big deal back in the days when I was growing up. I was actually the only ‘girl of color’ in the small town I grew up in. That made me a huge target for bullies/racists. My best friend from elementary school was white, so they used to call us ‘Duo Penotti‘, a brand of half white/half brown chocolate spread. Other ‘creative’ names for me were ‘Brownie’, ‘Turkish’ and ‘Barbie doll’. That last name I found rather strange, because the Barbies that were commonly known at that time, were super white with almost platinum blonde hair. It just shows how ignorant and mean kids can be.
The TV host’s show is called ‘De Braboneger verkaast‘, which loosely translated, means ‘Black guy from the South is ‘cheesing up’. In Holland we eat a lot of cheese, that’s a given. So the the main topic of his show, is doing ‘white’ activities, such as skiing, visiting the Oktoberfest and other ‘typical’ Dutch stuff. All of this with a wink to stereotypes and prejudice. So why aren’t many black people visiting the Oktoberfest? Maybe it’s because they are not used to dressing up in lederhosen and eating sausages at 10 am? Come to think of it, us Dutchies even stole this ‘tradition’ from the Germans. So it’s not even typical Dutch, we borrowed it from our neighbors. But we also borrowed a lot of activities and habits from other cultures and countries, such as the Brazilian Summer Carnival in Rotterdam. And we love to eat Surinam and Chinese food. We dance to ‘black’ music, we even have big R&B/hiphop festivals and an unhealthy fascination for Beyoncé.
I guess I really don’t know the answer to the question: ‘why were there more white, than black people’ at the Oktoberfest. Does it really matter though? At the Rotterdam Summer Carnival, there are way more black, than white, people visiting the parade. Why should we even think in black or white? We’re all people, sharing our traditions and customs with one another. We borrow each others music, food and habits. Sharing is caring, right?
Who knows, hopefully in a few years, no one has to ask questions like that anymore, because we will all be colorblind and equal in each others eyes. Until then, I’ll always be ‘caramel pudding, with a dash of cheese’ to some people. But that doesn’t matter, I know who I am and that’s what counts.
Have a great night!