. . . and on the other side, the bright
look of innocence, the white dove
of peace, magical heavenly light
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
This book has been a long time in the making and thinking through. In
the course of the past two decades, after coming back to the Netherlands
from Los Angeles in 1992, where I had done my PhD, looking at the Nether-
lands with fresh eyes regularly sent frissons of discomfort and alienation
up my spine. My anthropological eyes, making the familiar world strange,
received strong, new impulses to make sense of the Netherlands, where I
had grown up after I was one year old. After my return, I often had the feel-
ing that I was involuntarily seeing the emperor, the Netherlands, without
his clothes on, in his most detestable nakedness. It now often struck me
that interracial situations, conversations, and phenomena that would be
totally unacceptable in a U.S. context would pass without any frowns or
critical comments in the Netherlands. Starting from the 1990s and into
the first decade of the twentieth century, this process was intensified by an
unprecedented turn toward a neorealist discourse (Prins 2002), when the
murders of populist politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and filmmaker Theo
van Gogh in 2004 gave rise to an exceptional bluntness in the interracial
domain. The evasive attitude around race that had been customary in civi-
lized circles—somewhat like our impulse, as Toni Morrison (1992a) re-
marked about the United States, “not to talk with the hunchback about his
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