It was Elis Juliana, a poet, artist, and intellectual from Curaçao who once said, “The scars of my people’s feet from Dutch enslavement are still bawling pus.” This powerful statement illustrates the Dutch political and economic control of the Black people in Curaçao, St. Maarten, Saba, Aruba, Bonaire, and Statia. The Dutch dominance of these Black nations has a long and violent history originating from Dutch slavery in the region, a history for which the Netherlands made an unexpected apology.
In that apology, the prime minister, Mark Rutte, said: “On behalf of the Dutch government, I apologise for the past actions of the Dutch state: to enslaved people in the past, everywhere in the world, who suffered as a consequence of those actions, as well as to their daughters and sons, and to all their descendants, up to the present day.”
What Rutte neglected to point out, however, is that the apology was delivered without input or consultation from those he was apologizing to. To deliver an announcement of this magnitude in such a unilateral and exclusionary way indicates a hierarchical precedent that still dictates the relationship between the Netherlands and its former colonial territories.
The apology announcement disregards the lives of Caribbean people who not only had to live with the trauma from past enslavement but inherited the violent burden of living under oppressive Dutch economic and political rule, even after abolition.
The apology delivered to former Dutch colonial territories, addressing the descendants of enslaved Black people, is one that severely lacks the intention to rectify the atrocities committed. There can be no true apology for injustices this significant without a real dedication to reparative healing led by and for the Caribbean communities affected by Dutch slavery.
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