As I watch from here in The Hague everything that is happening in Minneapolis and across the U.S. in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd (and many other Black people), I wanted to express my solidarity, and also share how this is spilling over, and spilling back, across borders and continents.
There is growing unrest in Europe on a couple of changing fronts. Five years ago, I experienced a similar political mood here following another intense period of Black killings at the hands of the police and righteous rage and uprising for Black Lives in the U.S. Then as now, a particular brand of European racism (re)surfaces in response to horrible events in the U.S. like George Floyd’s killing. White Europeans point ‘enlightened’ fingers at the backwards U.S. and over-explain how nothing like that could ever happen here in this day and age.
[T]he disregard for Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives and extraction of resources in their homelands are exactly the factors that built the empires and the massive and wealthy economies of Europe and the United States today.
But of course, the disregard for Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives and extraction of resources in their homelands are exactly the factors that built the empires and the massive and wealthy economies of Europe and the United States today. While The Netherlands has a no-nonsense and uncompromising dedication to environmental standards within its own borders, the Dutch have shelled out funding for dirty land and water grabbing projects like Agua Zarca in Honduras and Jakarta Bay ‘reclamation’ in its former colony, Indonesia. While some politicians are willing to publicly shame the U.S. for its unconditional (i.e. human rights blind) military support of Israel, they sign trade agreements that fill our supermarkets with Israeli products grown on stolen Palestinian land in the occupied territories with chemicals that would never be allowed in Dutch greenhouses. And police violence, even the ‘light’ version that does not involve guns, is overwhelmingly targeted at Black and Brown people.
A few weeks ago, I had a phone conversation with Esther Stanford-Xosei, a London-based Afro-descendant climate justice and reparations activist with Extinction Rebellion’s International Solidarity Network. She underscored that healing a wounded planet must include reconciling the wrongs done to people and their communities in the process of breaking it down. “We know that land grabbing and dispossession was and is connected to food plantation economies and that extraction in our homelands is Britain’s new form of colonization,” Esther explained. “Land and food stand at the beginning, and there is a clear link from food to land to the ecocide that we are now witnessing.”
Growing numbers of activists like Esther are pushing for reparations to those enslaved and killed by the colonial project. Esther does this work in her South London community through the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Campaign, which is targeted at the British parliamentary level by pushing for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice. “Ecocide and genocide are interconnected processes that have targeted both African and Indigenous peoples,” said Esther, “so reparatory justice that is based on debt repudiation and not just cancellation must come from all oppressed peoples in the global North and South.” She summarized: “We are elevating our perspectives, solutions, and methodologies to join an international rebellion, and part of that work is winning hearts and minds in Europe.”
There are marches and rallies all over the continent this week, to honor George Floyd and to demand a stop to the systemic racism that killed him and so many others. The best of those coordinated actions are emphasizing that Dutch and other European systems and institutions are likewise guilty of white supremacy and must not slip quietly into the night when the spotlight shines elsewhere.