Different colors in family: ‘She said I stuffed my pockets’ | NOW

What will your farmer or sister have to deal with if he or she is darker in color than you? We visited three families with different skin colors. What forms of racism do they encounter? And how do they react to that?

Family Adel-Lepoutre from Weurt

  • Father Tamer Adel (51), born in Egypt
  • Mother Ilse Lepoutre (53), born in the Netherlands
  • Daughter Hana Adel (18), born in the Netherlands
  • Daughter Janna Adel (15), born in the Netherlands

From left to right: Janna, Hana, Ilse and Tamer.


From left to right: Janna, Hana, Ilse and Tamer.

From left to right: Janna, Hana, Ilse and Tamer.

Photo: Job of the Duty

“I was on the bus at the end of the corona time. It was the last day that you had to wear a mouth cap,” says Janna, who looks more like her father and wears a headscarf.

“I was the only person with a foreign appearance on the bus and hardly anyone was wearing a mask anymore. When I decided to take off the hood too, the bus driver spoke to me directly through the microphone. He said: ‘Lady with the headscarf put on your mask!’ While he hadn’t said anything about the rest of the bus,” she says.

Janna was on her way to school, but got off at the next stop. “I was so gutted. It ruined my whole week.”

Her mother Ilse filed a complaint with the transport company. The company then said that it had addressed the bus driver.

“When we were younger, I would deliberately scold my sister in the supermarket.”

Hana Adel

These are events that hurt Janna a lot. Although she sometimes jokes with her sister about the difference in appearance. “When we were younger, I sometimes deliberately called her names in the supermarket,” laughs Hana, who is white and has blond hair, although she has dyed it dark now. “Then I would say things like: go back to your own country! People usually didn’t react to it, because because of our age they saw that it was not serious.”

In the Netherlands, Janna is the only one in the family who suffers from racist or discriminatory comments. Although Hana does hear a lot of such comments about others. “Because I don’t look foreign, people think it’s easier to do that. I often say: act normal. But I can’t always intervene.”

When the Adel-Lepoutre family is in Egypt, it is often the other way around. Then Hana is the only one seen as a tourist and gets preferential treatment. It’s one of the reasons she dyed her hair darker.

“Sometimes I would like to trade places with her”, Janna confesses. “She does look like a golden child† But in the end, I’m proud of my culture and the way I look.”

Family Struijk* from Ede

  • Mother Daphne (54), born in the Netherlands
  • Father Jos (56), born in the Netherlands
  • Son Yoeri (21), born in the Netherlands
  • Daughter Maya (16), born in China
  • *Struijk is a fictitious name. The real name is known to the editors.

From left to right: Jos, Maya, Yuri, Daphne.


From left to right: Jos, Maya, Yuri, Daphne.

From left to right: Jos, Maya, Yuri, Daphne.

Photo: Private photo

When Maya put her bicycle in the bicycle shed at school a while ago, someone shouted: ‘Corona! Put on your mask’, says Maya. “He said that because I’m from China.”

“I tried to give it as little attention as possible and kept walking. I didn’t want to give them the happiness that his comment would have an effect.”

Comments about her origin – Maya was abandoned in China as a baby and adopted by the Struijk family – are not new. Corona has given it new nourishment, but Maya also had to deal with racist comments before that. “They said ‘Hanky ​​Panky Chinese’ or kids pulled their eyes out and called me shit Chinese.”

She tries to react as little as possible, “but it hurts inside”. At home, Maya talks about it with her parents to process the comments.

“They started talking to me in English and I spoke back in English. At one point I spoke back in Dutch and they were very surprised.”

Maya Struijk

Those conversations help, but in the end she’s the only one at home who really knows how hard those comments come in. “It’s not the same if you don’t know what it feels like. But just being able to tell it to people who are open to it is quite nice,” Maya explains.

“When she says that, it makes me emotional”, responds her father Jos. “That she is alone in that. That really moves me.”

What is said to Maya because of her appearance does not always hurt. Sometimes she even laughs about it. Like when she walked in Utrecht with a friend, who is also from China, and they were addressed in English.

The same happened when she once sat on an airplane at Schiphol next to an elderly couple. “They started talking to me in English and I spoke back in English. At one point I spoke back in Dutch and they were very surprised. I didn’t mind, because if I could only speak English, It’s been nice. What hurts are comments that are really meant to hurt.”

Family Zaaijer from Amsterdam

  • David Zaaijer (21), born in the Netherlands
  • Timon Zaaijer (26), born in the Netherlands

Timon (l) and David (r).


Timon (l) and David (r).

Timon (l) and David (r).

Photo: Job of the Duty

“The first time I was aware that I was approached differently from my brother because of my skin color was when I was about twelve years old,” Timon recalls. His father was born in the Netherlands and his mother is half-Antillean.

“We were in a bead shop for my sister (dark hair and a skin color between David and Timon, ed.) and I was accused by the owner of stuffing my pockets full of beads. That was not true. “, Timon continues.

His mother took the children straight from the store. She didn’t buy anything and said she would never go there again. “As a child you do not yet fully understand what has happened,” says Timon.

That changed when he went to study in Groningen. It regularly happened that he was subtly followed by a guard in the supermarket.

“The upstairs neighbor thought I had pills because I am half-Antillean and come from Slotervaart.”

Timon Zaaijer

His upstairs neighbor also once asked Timon if he had any drugs for him. When asked why he asked Timon that, the neighbor replied: “Because you are half-Antillean and come from Slotervaart.”

Timon smiles when he talks about it. “I can feel it, but I have a good immune system for it. If you get stuck in it, it will slow you down. You will always think: see, that makes you negative.”

David adds: “We are laughing about it as a family now. It has become normal for us.”

David has white skin, dark hair and blue eyes. He regularly stands next to his brother when they have to have their luggage checked. Where David immediately gets his suitcase back, Timon’s luggage is turned inside out. “You are guilty until proven innocent,” Timon calls it.

He always tries to remain calm and to respond politely. “In the hope that a police officer, Marechaussee or someone else will think next time: I have to deal with that differently. Judge someone on character and not on appearance.”