Segregation or Assimilation: Dutch Government Research on Ethnic Minorities in Dutch Cities and its American Frames of Reference

Ruud Janssens
2015 European Journal of American Studies  
On 5 November 2004, after the murder of cineaste Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist in Amsterdam, The New York Times editorial under the heading "Deadly Hatreds in the Netherlands" stated: "Something sad and terrible is happening in the Netherlands, long one of Europe's most tolerant, decent and multicultural societies." 1 In the two decades before the murder, immigration had led to heated debates in the Netherlands. The inflow of immigrants from (former) colonies like Suriname and the Dutch
more » ... tilles, labor migrants from Turkey and Morocco, and refugees from a range of countries raised concern about the social consequences for Dutch society. Reflecting the public debate about immigration, politicians made a range of statements from celebrating cultural diversity to condemning Islam and deploring the decline of civilization. 2 Since about half of the immigrants lived in the four biggest cities of the Netherlands, the debate about immigration was often a discussion about ethnic groups in an urban setting. While the confrontations at the local level were regularly about the building of mosques, crime, run down neighborhoods, housing, unemployment, affirmative action, and discrimination, at the national level politicians wanted to formulate a social policy based on equality. National government officials were concerned about ethnic minorities in cities, because they read American sociological studies on immigration and city life, from Robert Park and the Chicago School in the 1920s to recent studies by Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou, and feared segregation, ethnic tensions, crime, and poverty. In their mostly statistical studies, government policy planners described how different ethnic minorities were from Dutch citizens and how important it was that immigrants should integrate into Dutch society. The word integrate might give the
doi:10.4000/ejas.11271 fatcat:j3zu7o4jvfdw7gtatlqxt2hpqi