Sohna, Veronika and Lakiescha (from left to right) themselves missed inclusive education at their primary and secondary schools. They think Dutch education is very white, in all subjects.
Sohna, Veronika and Lakiescha (from left to right) themselves missed inclusive education at their primary and secondary schools. They think Dutch education is very white, in all subjects.

Picture: Fred van Diem

It's time for anti-racism

Three young students are committed to banning racism and discrimination from education and society. “Racism is everywhere. It's in our system, it's institutional, interpersonal.”

Lakiescha Tol (21) walks to the library of the University of Amsterdam where she studies Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics. “Nice jacket”, she enthusiastically tells Liberal Arts and Sciences student Veronika Vygon (20), as soon as she sees her. Enthusiasm is a word that fits well with the two young women, who, together with Sohna Sumbonu (20) who is now on vacation, so the three of us founded the anti-racism movement Zetje In two years ago. Their goal is to ban racism and discrimination from education and society.

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It started two years ago with the murder of George Floyd and the new peak of the Black Lives Matter movement that emerged worldwide. The trio started a citizens' initiative in which they argued that racism and discrimination should be compulsory topics in primary and secondary education.

In three weeks, more than 60 thousand people signed their plan and a motion was passed in the House of Representatives with their proposal. “We couldn't believe that so many people would take us so seriously,” says Veronika with a laugh, “three of those young students who want to change education for a while.”

'Racism doesn't just affect the black community or the communities of color, but everyone'

They haven't been sitting still ever since. They have started developing teaching materials for subjects such as social studies and the performing arts. Some time ago they sent out a survey in which teachers could indicate what they need for teaching materials on these themes. They will launch a lesson pilot next year.

Lakiescha Tol gives an example: “We are making a school year calendar that includes all kinds of cultural days and socially relevant dates.” Such as Keti Koti, anti-racism day, international lhbti day, children's book week, independence days of the former Dutch colonies and teacher's day.

“Every month we give a short introduction and an assignment. Using the calendar, the teacher can easily say, “Hey, today is Keti Koti and that's there- and that's why. In this way we make it more accessible for teachers to pay attention to cultural diversity so that the subject is discussed easily and regularly.” If teachers don't have much time, they can still quickly complete an assignment from the calendar.


That's exactly what the trio themselves missed in primary and secondary school: inclusive education. Veronika: "At my primary school there were quite a lot of students who participated in Ramadan, but we never received information about it in class." She thinks our education is very white, in all subjects. “I hated performing arts or music lessons at school, while I love art very much. You can give so much more cultural meaning to these subjects. At school you never hear about why the Netherlands is a multicultural country and what that entails. Many styles of music come from the black communitylike jazz and hip-hop, but you don't learn that at all. Once you get a capoeira lesson, it's from a white dance teacher, without learning anything about the background. It is not intended that way.”

Lakiescha adds: “My secondary school was white and you don't hear much about other groups. Biology books only show white people and that also applies to math books, for example. History classes treat colonialism from a white perspective.”

They both think it is good if you are given an inclusive and realistic world view at a young age. According to them, this means, for example, that you are not only read from books with only white characters, and if there is a black character or character of color in it, then it is not a stereotype.

no go

A long time ago, many people were ready for change,” says Lakiescha. The anti-Black Pete movement was already active in the XNUMXs, she gives as an example. “But some groups of people need more time. For many people, the Sinterklaas party was just part of it and they didn't think about it. It seems that it is now also clear to them that the time is really ripe for a different attitude.”

'Some groups of people need more time'

According to the two young women, it is no longer possible to be neutral towards racism. They ask for an anti-racist attitude. To be anti-racist is to be actively non-racist, according to the pair. “Racism is everywhere. It's in our system, it's institutional, interpersonal. That's why you can't have a neutral attitude or just say you're not racist. You have to be actively involved in it, fighting it daily. Pointing out people's thinking errors or showing them a different view.”

Lakiescha explains: “Imagine: you are a white person and you are in a setting where a racist joke is made about your colleague of color. To act non-racist would be to never make the joke yourself, because you know it's a bad joke. You are anti-racist if you speak up at that moment and point out that that joke is a no-go is. Then you contribute effectively to the fight against racism. I get the sense that people see racism as a problem that only affects the black community or the communities of color, but that really isn't the case. Everyone experiences disadvantages of racism. For example, certain groups are less able to participate in society due to institutional racism, which has an effect on all of us.”

Lakiescha (center): “In history lessons, colonialism is treated from a white perspective.” Image: Fred van Diem

This is how you are anti-racist according to Zetje In:

  • Read up on racism. Check for books, articles and film lists for in-depth material. On Instagram, Zetje In recommends: @the_blackarchives, @asian.raisins, @speak_2019, @zwartmanifest, @blackqueertransresistance and of course Zetje In. 
  • Listen to each other and especially to black people and people of color who experience racism. If someone tells you something and you don't think it's racist at all, don't try to get defensive. You don't experience their racism. 
  • Use your voice. If a racist joke is made in the workplace, say something about it. Make that person see that that joke is not okay. If you come across an assignment in a textbook that is stigmatizing, contact the publisher. 
  • Talk to people around you about racism. Talk to your family who disagree with you. Some people still deny that racism exists.
  • Support black communities and communities of color. Buy something at a black-owned business instead of large companies. Donate to organizations working against racism. If you don't have those financial resources, you can support them by promoting their businesses through social media, word of mouth, or by sharing their content. 

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