Flanders is no racist ‘stain’

Assita Kanko
Member of the European Parliament for the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA)
Brussels, Belgium

In his op-ed “Flanders’ dark stain” (October 17), contributor Othman El Hammouchi claims that widespread racism in Flanders is a stain on the region and its reputation in Europe. This is shocking and hurtful.

I am, as the author described, “black or brown.” But primarily, I am Flemish — a Flemish MEP to be precise, directly elected by voters in Flanders and Brussels — and I am proud to call Flanders my home.

I am not a guest or an outsider. I am not a second-class citizen, nor am I ostracized by the white people around me.

Like so many others, I found in Flanders opportunity, acceptance and the kind of future I could have only dreamed of as a child growing up in a little village in Burkina Faso. Once here, the path to integrating into Flemish life was always clear: I learned the language, took the time to understand the people here and actively participated in my community.

It goes without saying that we must fight racism at every turn. There is no place for it in any democracy or society. But to believe that, as a Black person, you will automatically be the victim of racism is to give away your own power. It’s a damaging narrative for a generation of young Black Belgians.

As a Black woman living in Flanders, I have never been defined by the actions of others: I am the product of my own hard work and ambition. Flanders’ societal values and freedoms have allowed me to make my own way. 

Bandying around the term “racist” where it is not warranted dramatically sets back efforts to push for real equality and effective integration. 

In making sweeping statements, the author ironically made generalizations about all white Flemish people, much in the same way he complained they supposedly generalize about Black people.

To believe that to be born white gives you privilege, and to be born Black is a disadvantage, is, in my mind, a road to nowhere.

If we continue to talk about the skin color that divides us, rather than the values that should unite us and the potential we all have, it’ll take us that much longer to achieve any real progress.

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I want to find the weather for in .

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