“Allochtoon” – ‘Colored’ People Are A Special Kind of Tone

6 Nov

Albino ZebraWhat’s in a Name: The Classification of Non-Native Dutch People
By Eboné Bishop, 2004

“According to data of the Central Bureau of Statistics, there are around three million [allochtonen] in the Netherlands, which is 19% of the total population of 16.1 million inhabitants.”

Is a person living in the Netherlands all his life but born in Germany considered an allochtoon? What about a person from the Dutch Antilles or Sudan? In Dutch society not every non-native Dutch person is considered to be an allochtoon. In this paper we will attempt to define and analyze the untranslatable Dutch term allochtoon as well as reveal its implications for integration and diversity in Dutch society by addressing this question: Can an allochtoon ever be fully accepted in Dutch society? 

Background of Dutch Immigration

Prior to 1960, the Netherlands experienced sizable migration. This changed after 1960 when immigration became more important than emigration. The immigrants arrived in different periods, and the motivations and reasons for their migration to the Netherlands have varied considerably.

The first to arrive were repatriates from the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia) and New Guinea between 1940 and 1950 as a consequence of decolonization. The majority of mixed Indonesian-Dutch descent was entitled to settle in the Netherlands on the basis of their Dutch citizenship. In general, they were well educated and strongly oriented towards the Netherlands. By the mid-1950s the postwar reconstruction efforts had begun to lead to sectoral labor shortages. During the 1960s, Turks and Moroccans came to Holland as guest workers to fill the labor shortage. From 1975 onwards Moroccan and Turkish guest workers brought their families to the Netherlands, making it clear that their stay was permanent.

[From the early 70s on, anticipating Independence of Suriname from the colony, more and most Dutch Surinamese came to the Netherlands. Also a large group of people from the Dutch Antilles came to the Netherlands from the early ’70s on.]

[…] Fifty years of immigration to the Netherlands has changed the ethnic landscape from one of homogeneity to heterogeneity. Such a dramatic shift forced the Dutch to confront the problem of how to differentiate native white Dutch[few white pete are “native” to Holland] from others referred to as buitenlanders and vreemdelingen, literally meaning “foreigners.”  The first term adopted was “ethnic minority,” which was not accepted because the word “minority” was seen as dehumanizing and gave the sense that these “other” people were seen as somehow “less than” native white Dutch.  The second term was “immigrant” or “migrant,” which suggested constant movement and not settlement within Holland.  The third and current term is “allochtoon.”

[…] the way the Dutch deal with difference is by separation. They have now attempted to do the same thing in relation to non-native Dutch by classifying them with another name. These types of solutions only serve to create an  “us versus them” mentality.

Allochtoon: Official and Societal Definitions  

There is much confusion concerning the translation of the word “allochtoon.” The term “allochtoon” is unique to the Netherlands and thus lacks an equivalent in English. The term is from Greek origin and implies the division of “them and us.” Often times, literature concerning this issue applies the term “immigrant” to mean the literal English translation as well as the term “allochtoon,” thus limiting the ability of non-Dutch speakers to grasp both the uniqueness and the complexity of the term.

Allochtoon, as defined in Kramer’s New Dutch Dictionary as an adjective, is “came from elsewhere,” while the word autochtoon, which is also has a Greek origin, is “pure, indigenous; came from the land.” In our research of this term, we have found that the use of the word allochtoon (allochtonen, plural) has two different connotations when used by the government and in a social context.

According to Dr. C.E.S. Choenni, researcher at the Dutch Ministry of Justice, “allochtoon” is used by the Dutch government to “differentiate native white Dutch from others” living in the Netherlands.  It is also a “statistical designator” used to measure the participation and integration of allochtonen.  The government defines “allochtonen” as persons with one or both parents born outside of the Netherlands. The term allochtoon is officially applied to both first and second-generation persons with such a background.  The application of the term for two generations is rooted in the belief that the process of acculturation spans two generations, with the presumption that by the third generation, one is fully integrated into Dutch culture and society. From a governmental standpoint Mr. Choenni asserts that, “allochtoon is an important word for policy making.”  As a statistical designator, for example, the term can show discrimination against groups within the labor and housing markets.

On a social level, “allochtoon” is applied on a racial/ethnic basis and to those groups in Dutch society that are considered troublesome and less integrated.  The groups included in this category are [Surinamese,] Antilleans, [Africans,] Moroccans, and Turks.  It is important to note that the stratification of allochtoon peoples in Dutch society establishes a stigma attached to the use of the term on a social level. On a social level, Dr. Choenni observes that several distinctions are made between individual allochtonen.

The first distinct consists of western allochtonen, meaning people from the western world  (i.e., Western Europe, USA, Japan, and Indonesia). Here, Dr. Choenni notes that the special relationship between Holland and Indonesia enabled Indonesians to successfully integrate into Dutch society, and on this basis Indonesia is considered a part of the Western world. Further, Indonesians have established themselves as a group fully acculturated and contributing positively to society, thus making them an exception to the societal application of the term “allochtoon.”

On a broader level, one could relate the terms “western” and “non-western” on a racial/ethnic basis, further substantiating the societal use of “allochtoon” to draw attention to one’s race or ethnicity, with an implication of the racial/ethnic superiority of native Dutch. One article that makes such an assertion is “Box 1- Coloured Netherlands: ethnic cultural minorities,” by Ben de Pater, in the book Dutch Windows, Cultural Geographical Essays on the Netherlands.

De Pater attempts to draw a distinction between allochtonen based on nationality but reveals an underlying prejudice: “It is sensible for researchers who want to ascertain the number of ‘real foreigners’ and their impact on Dutch culture to restrict themselves to the number of foreigners from countries with a non-western culture.” By defining real foreigners as those from non-western countries, the implication is that persons from such countries are difficult to integrate due to their cultural norms.  This is a dangerous message, implying as it does an assumption that western standards should be the point of comparison.

Gaining Acceptance as an Allochtoon: Is it Possible?

An allochtoon can ostensibly gain acceptance through striving for goals measured against those of his Dutch counterpart.  In short, what is deemed successful for and by a Dutch person must be the goals of the allochtoon if s/he is to be accepted into Dutch society.  According to scholar and professor in transnationalism at the University of Tilburg Ruben Gowricharn, such a definition of success and acceptance “is very Euro-centric because you must live up to their standards. When an allochtoon becomes polished in Dutch culture, in their mentality and behavior, then they become attractive and thus accepted.”

Dr. Hondius, a historian linked to the University of Rotterdam who is now doing research on race in the Netherlands, suggests that integration of allochtoon people is based on conditional acceptance. The reputation of certain groups is an ever-changing process dependent on variables such as integration, positive or negative participation in Dutch society. Hondius notes that, “the allochtonen category is an undefined mix of ‘others’ seen as more or less problematic. Over the last two years, I have noticed that the Surinamese are no longer mentioned in the category of allochtonen. It is not that they are explicitly accepted in to Dutch society, but more they are absent from the problematic category. Allochtonen has both a racial implication and one that suggests negative contribution in the society, i.e., criminality.” In short, a particular group’s perceived reputation in Dutch society affects its level of acceptance.

Many of our interviewees assert that there will always be the assumption that someone is not […] Dutch because of his status as an allochtoon.  The question is this: When will one’s ethnic or cultural background cease to be a variable in measuring “Dutchness”?  There is a sense amongst many interviewees that one’s character is judged according to cultural background instead of by the individual’s behavior.  This is a direct consequence of the use of the term allochtoon, which serves to place people within strict boxes that diminish the possibilities of being judged as an individual and not by the groups with whom they are associated.

Language and Terminology: Weapon of Separation, Tool for Integration

Language is a powerful tool that can provoke separation as well as unity.  The word allochtoon, as used on a social level, highlights difference in a negative manner, and it therefore contradicts Dutch rhetoric of integration.  If specific groups are labeled as outsiders, true integration can never occur.  [The] ideology of equality: understanding that allochtonen and autochtonen are not measured and treated differently. […] Regardless of the level of [assimilation] an allochtoon may achieve, she will fail to be considered Dutch as long as the term allochtoon is in use as a device that creates, highlights, and perpetuates difference.

The United States does not have a word such as allochtoon to differentiate between its citizenry in a manner that stresses one person’s entitlement to American society over another’s. [“Alien”.] Instead, politically correct terminology recognizes one’s ethnic background and his “American-ness” (i.e., African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American, etc).  Each of these recognizes the specific cultural and ethnic background of any given U.S. citizen, but the terms still maintain a commonality based on U.S. citizenship and therefore equal [?] claim to the rights and responsibilities of the United States.

[…] Mariette Hermans, chairwoman of e-quality, a think tank on gender and ethnicity issues, offers more practical solutions. […] She stresses increased specificity in identifying one’s racial or ethnic background.  The terminology used to address people must be more diverse and nuanced. Instead of writing about allochtonen and autochtonen, you must write about Turkish, Surinamese, Moroccan and Antillean allochtonen, and also point out the importance of gender.[Importing gay and gender issues, which is (on) the agenda of this think tank.]

Full article:  http://www .humanityinaction.org/knowledgebase/253




5 Responses to ““Allochtoon” – ‘Colored’ People Are A Special Kind of Tone”

  1. Kushite Prince November 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Another great post! I have to admit you do great research. It always takes me awhile to digest some of your posts. I have a question though. What the hell is that creature at the top of the page ?! It’s really hideous!lol I assume it’s some type of hybrid,right?

    • No Black Pete November 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      You mean the albino zebra?

    • Kushite Prince November 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      Is that what it is?? Oh my! That is a hideous creature. But still better looking than the human albinos!lol

  2. No Black Pete November 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    “Stereotypes are categories of objects or people. Between stereotypes, objects or people are as different from each other as possible. Within stereotypes, objects or people are as similar to each other as possible.
    “Stereotyping can serve cognitive functions on an interpersonal level, and social functions on an intergroup level. For stereotyping to function on an intergroup level, an individual must see themselves as part of a group and being part of that group must also be salient for the individual.
    “Some psychologists believe that although stereotypes can be absorbed at any age, stereotypes are usually acquired in early childhood under the influence of parents, teachers, peers, and the media. If stereotypes are defined by social values, then stereotypes will only change as per changes in social values.”

  3. hunglikejesus November 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    I find this nothing but word play to keep non-natives confused and disengaged.

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