The Dutch foreign ministry on Monday rendered an apology after a report determined it was plagued with institutional racism. According to VOA, the independent report highlighted that abusive words such as “monkeys” were used to describe people with ethnic heritage.
The inquiry, which was initiated as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, established that the ministry’s workers of color usually felt ostracized and snubbed by their White colleagues. The report added that even though workers were “not usually abused in person”, they were usually subjected to “verbal aggression” as they heard people make negative comments that focused on someone’s skin color, religion or origin.
“A number of employees have said that people have been referred to as ‘monkeys’, ‘bokitos’, ‘negroes’ and ‘Black Pete’ because of their skin color,” the report stated. “African countries have been described by one employee as ‘monkey countries.'”
As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, Black Pete – also known as Zwarte Piet – is a controversial Dutch tradition where White people wearing blackface with conspicuous and exaggerated red lipsticks partake in an annual parade ahead of Christmas. The festival is also held in Belgium. Bokito is also the name of a gorilla who escaped from an enclosure in Rotterdam Zoo and attacked a woman. The incident happened in 2007.
The European nation’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wopke Hoekstra, described the report as “painful and confrontational”. “What a number of colleagues in the department and missions worldwide have experienced is unacceptable and this touches me deeply,” he shared on Twitter.
More than 30 people were interviewed for the report. They included “bi-cultural” foreign ministry employees stationed in the Netherlands and outside the country, VOA reported. Embassy staff as well as White workers were also interviewed.
The report determined that a large number of the people who were interviewed felt “ignored and passed over.” It also highlighted that locally hired embassy staff especially did not feel included. The report added that the outcome of the inquiry had “raised the question of whether there is institutional racism. We conclude that this is the case.”
Though the Netherlands has paraded itself as a country that is liberal and multicultural, the European nation has recently come under scrutiny for its role in colonization as well as the slave trade, per VOA. There are also reports that the Dutch government is working on issuing an official apology for slavery this month. But groups from former colonies have called for its postponement because they claim officials haven’t approached them for discussions.