In White Innocence Gloria Wekker explores a central paradox of Dutch culture: the passionate denial of racial discrimination and colonial violence coexisting alongside aggressive racism and xenophobia. Accessing a cultural archive built over 400 years of Dutch colonial rule, Wekker fundamentally challenges Dutch racial exceptionalism by undermining the dominant narrative of the Netherlands as a "gentle" and "ethical" nation. Wekker analyzes the Dutch media's portrayal of black women and men, the failure to grasp race in the Dutch academy, contemporary conservative politics (including gay politicians espousing anti-immigrant rhetoric), and the controversy surrounding the folkloric character Black Pete, showing how the denial of racism and the expression of innocence safeguards white privilege. Wekker uncovers the postcolonial legacy of race and its role in shaping the white Dutch self, presenting the contested, persistent legacy of racism in the country.
1. "Suppose She Brings a Big Negro Home": Case Studies of Everyday Racism 30
2. The House That Race Built 50
3. The Coded Language of Hottentot Nymphae and the Discursive Presence of Race, 1917 81
4. Of Homo Nostalgia and (Post)Coloniality: Or, Where Did All the Critical White Gay Men Go? 108
5. "For Even Though I Am Black as Soot, My Intentions Are Good": The Case of Black Pete 139
Coda. "But What about the Captain?" 168
?"White Innocence explains why white Dutch people seem unable to grasp the racism of Zwarte Piet: Assured of their own social progressivism, they can a priori think and therefore do no wrong. . . . ? Wekker concludes her work with a plea for 'another "embarrassment of riches,"' for acknowledging the racism staring us in the face. In the United States, we might start by recognizing that there is, and always has been, no more audacious identity politics than white identity politics, as Trump and his white-supremacist ilk gleefully demonstrate. At least the illusion of innocence has been stripped away. Or perhaps not?"
Nick Barr Clingan
"White Innocence exposes how Dutch racism is infused with classism, sexism, and homophobia in discussions of everyday racism that includes [Wekker's] own personal exoticization as a child and criminalization as an adult, TV talk shows and films, experiences of mixed-race families, white gay liberation that constitutes Dutch homonationalism . . . and the 'siloing' of gender and race/ethnicity in politics and academics that makes intersectional policy and scholarship impossible. In doing so, Wekker reveals the very real personal consequences for people of color when their very existence is in service of white people."
Melissa F. Weiner
Journal of Anthropological Research