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The current situation regarding racist police brutality in the US has undoubtedly entered your awareness. The institutionalised racism that has been prevalent ever since the European and American policies of slavery is now being documented for the world to see. As white people, we have to reflect on how we can take accountability for instigating change within our communities and society across the pond. Europeans founded the America of today, and the structural influences within its regulatory systems were created by old European ways of treating and exploiting others. Racism and colourism lie at the basis of this.

It is no longer an option for us – white people, young people – to beat around the bush about the underlying forces of the instances occurring in the US and beyond, or to turn our heads from the truth – which is that the education provided at universities like the University of Amsterdam and many other Dutch institutions is highly white-washed and Eurocentric.

Please let me be clear that I am not claiming that every professor in each  Dutch university upholds white superiority. It’s easy to call out people with such open intentions because their ways of communicating this are usually loud and clear. However, it’s harder to recognise the subtler yet systematic ways in which students like myself are not taught about black and indigenous history, and how the lack of white accountability in education has been spilling over into the situations and tragedies we have seen every day for decades now. This uncomfortable conversation must be held. At the University of Amsterdam, students are not taught about black and indigenous history explicitly at all, and if they are, it’s usually to illustrate something that will eventually pertain only white people. I’m saying this explicitly because there’s no other way for the world to move forward in the way that it does, and we believe that reforming the content of general education is a tremendous way for this to change on a substantial scale.

Education truly forms the mindset of thousands of young people. It has the power to shape how people will tread their paths in this world and how they view the systems that regulate them. This is why I’d like this petition and initiative to be educational rather than accusatory, and I hope that we can collaborate on coming up with solutions.

We hereby urge universities to consider the following:

  • Introducing modules exclusively about black and indigenous history – both tragedies and successes – in all studies where it would be even slightly relevant. This includes history, literary and cultural studies, communication science, development sociology, political science, European studies, art history – just to name a few;
  • Creating policies that require staff to dedicate a substantial percentage to diversity in the formation of their curricula, in order to provide accurate and equal representation. This includes mentioning of artists, scholars, writers, and scientists of colour that have paved the way for scientific and epistemological successes, yet are not mentioned in books or classes;
  • Organising more in-depth and effective mandatory diversity training to all staff in light of recent world events, and including discussion and brainstorming sessions about the responsibility that you bear as teachers and educators in giving young people insight into the experience of minorities.

We sincerely hope that you will see this as a top priority in bearing the role that you play in society and people’s personal lives for the future to come. We hope you understand that at this point in time, your silence implies compliance.