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'New venom is added every day.' In book, presenter Naeeda Aurangzeb lets non-white Dutch people experience what comes over them daily

Even though she has lived in the Netherlands since she was three, journalist and radio TV presenter Naeeda Aurangzeb (47) is still not considered a full-fledged compatriot. In her book 365 days Dutchman she gives in short sketches a disconcerting picture of how non-white Dutch people or Dutch people with a migration background are treated.

Biology teacher against class

'This is what you call olive skin. You can see that Naeeda's face is an ugly colour now. That's because olive-coloured skin is ugly in winter and beautiful in summer.'

Being humiliated in front of an entire group - Naeeda Aurangzeb is not the only Dutch person of colour to experience it. But especially at a young age, such 'innocent' remarks are profound. 'I think the teacher wanted to explain something about different skin colours and didn't necessarily mean it in a bad way. Only she also gave a judgement with it: that it was ugly. That left a deep wound. Until two years ago, every time it turned autumn, I thought: now I'm going to be ugly again.'

At 365 days Dutchman Aurangzeb shows how people of colour are treated in the Netherlands. For each day, she gives a situation sketch, without comment, without a story around it - which makes it even more penetrating. It is a book that makes the insults, (unconscious) prejudices, embarrassing jokes, ignorance, unkind remarks and sometimes overt racism painfully palpable. From the baker to the professor, colleagues to radio programme guests, politicians to the neighbour on the corner - even friends. 'It's a book I would rather not have written, but had to be written.'

Many white Dutch people are convinced that discrimination in the Netherlands is not that bad. Your book shows a different picture.

'I often hear white Dutch people say, "There is no racism in our country. Then give an example." Then you stand there as the only person of colour at a birthday party with 30 people around you. "Yes, then give an example!" But what example should you give? And if you can't answer something directly, then there must be no examples. I also often hear that "we" have to be patient. I have been patient for 44 years, 365 days a year.

The discussion in the Netherlands quickly turns to whether someone is a racist or not. I therefore hardly ever use that word myself. The people in my book who make the insulting remarks are not villains. They are very ordinary people, from the florist to the policeman and everything in between. And unfortunately, they are also very ordinary comments. None of these people I have slapped, scolded or spat at. Nevertheless, as a Dutchman from an immigration background, you do get insulted, ridiculed, treated inferiorly everywhere and always unasked, whether at the bus stop, in a shop, at work or at a friend's birthday. You're not really safe anywhere.'

What does that do to you?

'All those comments may seem small on their own, but it's about the accumulation. A little bit of poison is put in your water all the time. In the end, you keep drinking a big poison cup empty. A friend said: now you've written it down and it's behind you. No, if only it were. Tomorrow it just goes on, every day new poison is added. That destroys my enthusiasm. You slowly lose your shine.'

'For instance, I realised some time ago that I never wear bracelets anymore. For a South Asian woman, not wearing bracelets feels naked; an average woman has at least six. But when I wore them, I was called on the matter: "You are so into bling-bling, aren't you?" It shouldn't make any noise either, because we find that annoying in the Netherlands.'

'The same goes for wearing colourful clothes. After the umpteenth comment, you don't dare to wear so much colour anymore. You surrender more and more of yourself. I feel the weight of that in my heart. But white fellow men don't see how you are pushed further and further into a corner and have to surrender more and more of your identity.'

NTR working meeting, Hilversum

Editor-in-chief: 'You have to have an autonomous personality as a radio presenter.'

Me: 'Okay...'

Editor-in-chief: 'You obviously haven't been taught what autonomy is from your culture. That will still be difficult for you.'

On the programmes you presented, guests mistook you for an intern more than once. Your fellow journalists also turned out to be surprisingly prejudiced.

'Yes, at my job at the editorial office in Hilversum, I did empty the biggest poison cup. That's where the biggest pain and disillusionment is. Journalists learn to be objective, to be above the parties. On the right side.'

'Our profession pretends to be there for everyone, to look at our fellow man without prejudice and to do justice to the truth. That doesn't happen. A director of one of the biggest programmes in the Netherlands said to me several times, "There is no racism in the Netherlands!" He wants to continue to believe what he believes at all costs.'

'Now that we are talking about it, I immediately feel nauseated by the immense sadness and would prefer to cry.'

Did you speak to your colleagues about that?

'Often yes, but you also don't want to be the one to break the harmony all the time. Sometimes I would come back to it later to explain. But at some point you've explained it so many times. Sorry, but you're already the 120ste this week saying all Muslims are retarded or asking why I don't drink wine. You can't respond to a comment twenty times a day, you'll run out of energy. And then others think: it's her again. I increasingly came to a deadlock with myself. Because if you point the finger at others, you start to like yourself less and less. But if you keep your mouth shut, afterwards you hear: you should have said something!

Mail to the editor:

Listener: 'The one with the difficult name is definitely sitting there so you can get subsidy.'

Some comment comes from prejudice, others from ignorance or carelessness. Does one hurt more than the other?

You react differently to everything, but other people's sense of superiority has given me a short fuse. I have no patience for that anymore, I'm really done with it. Many comments are generalisations: "You are always so-and-so. You eat so unhealthy at the Sugar Festival. You like it so much. As if whipped cream cake or New Year's Eve oliebollen are so healthy. And when you explain that many Muslims actually eat sober and healthy for 30 days during Ramadan, no one listens.'

'The other day I once made an old dish of rice with lentils. Said a friend: "That you know that dish! That's Ottolenghi's new dish!" And she then proceeded to tell me how to prepare that dish. The same goes for yoga e[/service]_n meditation. I could meditate rather than talk, but Amsterdam friends tell me that what I do is not real meditation. Something is only real or valuable when white people have embraced it and given it authority.'

Is this a common human trait or typically Dutch?

'It is highly magnified in the Netherlands, though. We think we are the best in the class. Even though the figures contradict and we score badly in international rankings in all sorts of areas, in the Netherlands we still believe that our universities are the best, that our women are the most emancipated in the world. We should be allowed to practise humility more, because that can be a way to really see other points of view.'

Bus stop

Neighbour Corry: 'Yesterday the bus was late too. Always the same bullshit!'

Me: 'Annoying that the bus is always late.'

Neighbour Corry: 'Are you going to complain? In your country they don't even have buses, at least we have a bus.'

Can you laugh about it sometimes, or is it a bruise that will only hurt more with each new stump?

'Sure, a good joke is a good joke. And if it's a painful joke, sometimes you laugh along, like a peasant with a toothache. As painful as that remark about the olive colour, for example, is, it makes me laugh every time too - not because it's funny, but more out of bewilderment at what people say. This book is not a grumble novel. Someone who read it said he felt like a disaster tourist. He couldn't stop reading, but at the same time thought: could it get any worse?'

Perhaps worst of all, even your girlfriends repeatedly say hurtful things.

'Many of my friends of colour now have no white friends for that reason, but I made the decision to want to be friends with white people. If I no longer wanted to be friends with people who make such comments, I wouldn't be left with any white friends.'

How do we get past this?

'The only way to eradicate this is to break the silence. Silent Netherlands is complicit. If discriminatory remarks are made in your presence, more white Dutch people should also dare to speak out against it and say that such remarks are unacceptable. Only then will the sense of what can and cannot be said start to change across the board. No longer being above the other is necessary to come closer together. Then I and other people of colour can feel a lot safer.'

Good to know Good to know

Naeeda Aurangzeb, 365 days Dutchman, Pluim, € 19.99

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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