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18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

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16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

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13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

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10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

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9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

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7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

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1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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Do away with ‘allochtoon’

4 September 2006 – The Amsterdam social-democrats (PvdA) want to do away with the term ‘allochtoon’, which refers to non-Western immigrants and their children. The Socialist Party (SP) called the plan ‘absurd’, but that is premature. Let us first see whether the plan is for real.

Next Wednesday, PvdA party leader Manon van der Garde will propose in city council not to use the term ‘allochtoon’ anymore in official municipal documents. Why she will present this proposal, is not entirely clear.

On the one hand, she finds it nonsense to make distinctions: ‘they are just Amsterdammers like me’. But in some cases she wants to make even more detailed distinctions, for example by using the term ‘Iraqi Amsterdammers’. Apparently, she wants to use such labels specifically when it regards problems such as unemployment or criminality.

As far as SP party leader Remine Alberts is concerned, the idea might as well go straight to the wastebasket. She sees a pattern: “when the term cleaning lady changed into ‘interieurverzorgster’ [litt. ‘person who takes care of the interior’ – Ed.], she still kept cleaning the toilet. The change in name was only symbolic; it obscured what was really at stake”.

PvdA alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb says the same, only in a more complicated way: “we must keep realising that semantic solutions are no solutions to real problems”. Earlier, Minister Rita Verdonk had said that the government must not play ‘language police’ in such matters.

However, it is premature to treat this merely as a language issue, as long as we do not know yet what the PvdA actually wants. The real question is not what term you use. The real question is: how long should the government go on treating – and counting – certain groups as a separate category.

It is understandable that immigrants are seen as a separate category. They have to deal with specific issues, such as learning the language, lower AOW pensions due to a shorter stay in the Netherlands, and sometimes remigration. But why would the municipality treat their children as a separate group?

You can give people subsidies because they face some sort of problem or because they have a brilliant idea – but surely not because they are children of immigrants? And one may hope that criminals will be dealt with because they have broken the law – not because of their parents’ country of birth. Descent should play no role here.

The research institute of the municipality, O+S, recently changed the definition of an ‘allochtoon’. Their share in the population decreased from 40 to 34% as a result. However, the principle remained the same: people are still considered a separate group on the basis of their parents’ country of birth.

Next Wednesday, it will hopefully become clearer what Van der Garde’s plan is actually about. If it is more than just a play of words, she will ask O+S to start counting immigrants’ children as Amsterdammers.

UPDATE 6 September 2006 - The PvdA has withdrawn the proposal, because D66 was the only party that supported it.

See also the Expatica comment: “The City's marketing slogan is ‘I (am)sterdam’ but the subtext for many of the city’s residents is ‘U R allochtoon’.”


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