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The former TV presenter puts the race on the Dutch political agenda

AMSTERDAM (AP) – Silvana Simmons is campaigning for the Dutch general election on what she calls radical equality.

Former TV presenter Simmons, arguably the most prominent black woman in the country, is leading a small party that wants to end racial inequality by focusing on the political stage before this week’s election.

Voting in the 150-seat lower house of parliament begins on Monday and ends on Wednesday. The party that wins the most seats will be the first to form the next ruling coalition, a process that will likely take weeks or months. It remains to be seen whether Simmons’ BIJ1 party, a pun that translates to Together, will get enough votes to take a seat.

In this nation, long considered a beacon of free-thinking tolerance, institutional racism has become a topic of increasingly polarized national discourse, addressing issues such as the nature of racially divisive traditional children, such as racial profiles. Last year, the Black Lives Matter movement gave new impetus to the debate.

“It was good to see so many people say ‘enough’, ‘they came out’ and talked,” Simmons said of the Black Lives Matter protests in the Netherlands last year. “And I hope they will use that same vote when we have our general election.”

Simmons BIJ1 is not the only party with equality issues on its agenda. Among others is DENK, a party he once belonged to, which already has three seats in the 150-seat lower house. The party mainly appeals to Dutch voters of Turkish-Moroccan descent.

The Netherlands has a long history of former colonies, such as Indonesia and Suriname, as well as recent economic migrants visiting Turkey and Morocco. The country’s sometimes brutal colonial history has come under intense scrutiny over the past year amid demands for life-saving demonstrations and the removal of statues and street names associated with historical figures closely associated with the slave trade.

Simmons says racism is a systemic problem in the Netherlands, with reports of police “employment” and bias against people of color in the housing market.

“If your reality in this country is a young person, you will see that from the moment you enter school you enter the system. There is bias և prejudice. People expect less from you. “People judge you differently,” Simmons said.

Right-wing parties reject racist allegations, saying instead that the country’s traditional culture needs protection from what they see as the left elite.

Anti-immigration legislator Gert Wilders, whose Freedom Party is the largest opposition group in parliament, says in his manifesto. “We say our own culture is the best. And we are proud of that. “Unfortunately, the attack on Dutch culture last year went very fast, as dangerous activist groups such as Black Lives Matter and Kick Out Black Pete were glorified.”

According to children’s stories, St. Pete, the assistant of the Dutch version of St. Nicholas, is sometimes depicted by whites with black face makeup, has been at the center of a heated debate in the Netherlands for years.

Disclosures about the use of dual citizenship data by tax officials trying to identify child benefit fraudsters have also contributed to inequality issues in the mainstream.

A tough report released by the parliamentary inquiry into the child benefit scandal prompted Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government to resign in January, although the election was largely symbolic as election day had already been marked.

“We agree that if the whole system fails, we should all take responsibility,” Ruthen said in a statement announcing his resignation.

The parliamentary inquiry did not investigate allegations of racial profile. This was done earlier by the country’s data protection body, which last year said that the use of dual citizenship data by the tax authorities was “illegal and discriminatory”.

Azan Aydin, her Turkish-born husband Aytach, both born and raised in the Netherlands, say they spent a decade fighting with tax authorities after being labeled fraudulent and ordered the return of about 52,000 euros.

The experience has destroyed their confidence in the Dutch government to the extent that they may not even vote.

“What does it mean to me?” said Azan.

“Mark Rutte will be re-elected,” he added. “Well, the mistake was tax, but he was the leader then. I mean, it just shouldn’t be allowed to happen. And he stands for re-election. “

Dozens of victims, including Orlando Kadir, a lawyer who has filed a classic case against the Aytak family, have themselves been targeted by the tax authorities. Kadir was born in the former Dutch colony of Suriname.

“Thus, the racial tone was special. “Morocco-Dutch, Turkish-Dutch, Caribbean-Dutch, Indonesian, Asian-Dutch have become targets based on their dual citizenship,” he said.

Kadir said he had voted for Rutte’s conservative, pro-business VVD for 20 years, but would not vote in this election.

“He is no longer the person who can lead this country,” he said.

Simmons wants to be a voice for the marginalized.

He was insulted by social media trolls for calling racism in this country, where about a quarter of the population is listed by the National Statistics Service as a “migration background”. But all the same, he wants to continue doing it in the parliament of the country.

Even if his party does not secure seats, he still feels like a winner.

“Just being here as a movement is enough,” he said. “Just being here as a vehicle for many unheard voices is enough.”


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