Understanding why there’s discontent doesn’t mean legitimising discrimination

4 February 2017

Understanding why there’s discontent doesn’t mean legitimising discrimination

Our elections are in sight. At the same time we can see in the United States where discrimination and exclusion on the grounds of nationality, religion, sexual preference or gender can lead: to a society in which people are set against each other, while the 1% make off with the booty. It’s high time we set a new course: radical together.

By Sadet Karabulut

Building walls, excluding particular groups of people, closing mosques, removing anti-discrimination from the constitution, demolishing women’s rights and shouting ‘our own people first’, these are the kinds of measures which may seem to offer a safe haven in a world becoming ever more uncertain. But the question is – why are the politicians of hate gaining growing support? Why are people so angry and disappointed that they allow themselves to be led along by such ideas?

Thirty years of neo-liberal politics has robbed people of their security, freedom and democracy. Amongst other things, unemployment, ‘flexible’ employment contracts, zero hours contracts, theft of pensions and mounting student debt have left many people insecure, frightened and angry. While the 20% richest people have made progress under the present government, the remaining 80% are asking what’s going on. They have less to spend and are forced to cough up to pay for a crisis that they did not cause.

Fundamental rights

Fundamental rights are now at stake, not only in the United States, but also in the Netherlands. Not only should the government be protecting us from discrimination, they must also create the conditions guaranteeing a roof over our heads, work, an adequate income and social security. In recent decades, these fundamental rights have come under increasing pressure throughout Europe. Bad political choices and aggressive neoliberal policies have fuelled support for the extreme right.

Government leaders should take a look more often in the mirror. We are a community of values based on cooperation, human rights, democracy and freedom; so why are more and more human rights being violated? How can it be that more people no longer have any real influence over their immediate surroundings, over the way in which knowledge, power and income are distributed. How can it be that governments are refusing to build bridges while the extreme right builds walls?

Widespread disquiet is understandable and explicable, but understanding why there is discontent does not mean legitimising discrimination. Being able to explain why racism and discrimination are increasingly visible doesn’t ever mean that you accept it. Man, woman, gay, straight or bi, black, brown or white, religious believer or not, everyone is different and it is together that we make up the Netherlands. Instead of hatred, instead of distancing oneself or systematically denigrating the other, we should be battling hand in hand for an alternative – I call this ‘radical together’. Radical together is only possible if we create the social, economic and political conditions for it. Not by setting ourselves at each other’s throats, but by combining our forces behind a social, inclusive politics.

Our common efforts should be directed at providing good quality and affordable language and citizenship classes, so that we won’t simply hear a load of waffle about integration, but actially make it possible. After thirty years of failing integration policies, divisions must be combatted through mixed, decent neighbourhoods and schools. Living together means also that we must tame capital and the way it is moved around, along with working people, among countries, in order to make as much profit as possible. We don’t want to see worker set against worker. We want all working people to receive equal pay for equal work. People aren’t commodities, which is why labour migration must be regulated, so that we can stop exploitation and oppression of working men and women.


If we want to become one society again, then we must finally put an end to discrimination and exclusion in our own country. Companies and organisations which discriminate should be named and shamed. The labour inspectorate must be given more resources and more possibilities to tackle abuses. Nobody should be held back because of the colour of their skin or their class background and not a single young person must any longer be discriminated against. Everyone has a right to his or her own body and to determine their own sexuality.

That is our choice for the coming years. Not only a choice against hatred and division, but also a radical choice for a society of people who are together and in which everyone gets an equal chance. Together, the Netherlands.

This opinion article first appeared, in the original Dutch, on 3rd February on the website Joop.nl

Sadet Karabulut is a Member of Parliament for the SP and the party’s parliamentary spokeswoman on social affairs and integration.

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