Eat cheese and be Dutch

When my now-fiancé first told his parents about his new girlfriend a couple years ago, me being Chinese-Canadian, the first question my now future father-in-law asked was, “does her family run a Chinese restaurant?”

Now, I love my father-in-law to pieces, who is a lovely man with not one drop of racist blood running through his veins.  But in his mind and through his experiences, perhaps the idea that a Chinese family can do anything other than running Chinese restaurants is a revelation. As far as I know, no members of my immediate family has ever ventured into the restaurant, grocer or laundry business.  So he might be disappointed that I’m not that good of a cook after all.

The point of the story is that when it comes to the issue of race, there’s a lot missing in the collective European psyche.  Through its own lack of experiences with multiculturalism – unlike in North American and other parts of the New World, where barriers and stereotypes get broken down and built up again, Europe is still stuck on Racial Issues 1.0.

I think this ad was meant to be funny, but is it?

Entitled “Ideal” – and to my eyes without the slightest sense of irony, the narrative goes to say that in an ideal world, the Netherlands is a small village, and then goes on to name various members of the farming community that produces the cheese in question.

After what feels like a great start to a propaganda film made for the Third Reich, where wholesome blonde girls and boys are contentedly occupied with various aspects of farm fun, the camera pans to an obviously dark-haired and ethnic girl – Fatima.

Slight pause, followed by the surprised but still jolly voiceover, oh, what the heck!  The implication being that as long as she’s making cheese – and playing by the rules of the farm, she’s part of the village.

Some might say it’s just the ad poking fun at itself for being too serious about the white picket-fence depiction.  Given the political situation in the country, where the far-right anti-immigration party is now projected to become the second-largest party in the country, and tempers are high on all fronts, is this really a sensible subject to joke around?

Call me hard-assed, but there are unspoken rules about what is appropriate to mock, and where. You don’t get to credibly make jokes about race unless your society has reached some level of racial harmony and mutual understanding on the subject.

So, dear misguided cheese company, until your supermarkets take those “negro kisses” off the shelf, your government starts to have some sensible conversations about immigrants and actually treat their children and grandchildren as your own citizens, those race jokes are not yet yours to make.

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