The Netherlands is internationally recognized as a liberal and progressive country. However, ethnic and racial minorities that live in the Netherlands experience living in the Netherlands differently than those of Dutch descent. It has been widely discussed that while the Netherlands and Europe may dismiss the existence of race and racism, the effects of these social phenomena are observable. Even as the Netherlands is a multicultural society, its population consists predominantly of white Dutch of European descent. In predominantly white societies, there is also an underlying ideology, whiteness, that affects the culture and people that it reaches. As such, the experiences of black people as minorities in spaces that consist of mostly white people become relevant. The present study highlights the experiences of academically educated black Dutchmen from former Dutch colonies, a particularly relevant group of individuals living in the Netherlands. The study aimed to explore and understand how black Dutchmen from former Dutch colonies create and negotiate their identity in Dutch white spaces. For this, an intersectional qualitative study was conducted. The data set consisted of 11 interviews that were thematically analyzed. The main themes addressed the notions of being black and Dutch, living in the Netherlands, Dutch white spaces, and how the participants negotiated their identity in these spaces. The results show that while black and Dutch are factual labels, being Dutch does not hold much significance for the black Dutchmen that were interviewed. All the participants were subjected to a form of (verbal) marginalization while living in the Netherlands, and there were several, vivid examples, of how the existence of the participants has been racialized in the Netherlands. The results furthermore show that even though the Dutch language, clothing, networking, and education were the most used tools to venture into white spaces among the participants, personal and cultural factors are also important.

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Sommier, M.
Media, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Holder, Juneal. (2021, July 12). Underdogs Tilting the Scale in Dutch White Spaces: Experiences and Strategies of Academically Educated Black Dutchmen in the Construction and Negotiation of Their Identity in the Netherlands. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from