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Dutch Fans in Blackface to Imitate Ruud Gullit, One Agrees to Stop

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Dutch fans in blackface dressed as Ruud Gullit at the Poland vs Netherlands European Championship match in Hamburg on June 16, 2024, sparked controversy and discussions about racism and cultural sensitivity.

Three Dutch fans caused outrage in the international media and online by wearing blackface to dress up as Ruud Gullit. Ruud Gullit a famous Dutch football player who won the 1988 European championship with the Netherlands national team. After the backlash one of the fan told RTL Nieuws anonymously that he decided to stop wearing blackface.

Photos of the three fans dressed as Ruud Gullit widely shared on social media and in newspapers. The Daily Mail wrote Dutch fans accused of doing blackface to dress up as legend Ruud Gullit during the Euro 2024 victory over Poland. Many other newspapers covered the incident as well.

One of the Gullit lookalikes told RTL Nieuws that he got only nice reactions when he wore his costume but he has decided not to wear it again. He said, the fuss made me think. It might still make some people feel bad even though I really like Gullit and dress like him because I admire him. I accept that.

Many people outside the Netherlands think of blackface when they think of the country because of Zwarte Piet. This Sinterklaas character played by white people wearing blackface makeup, afro wigs, bright red lips and gold earrings.

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The tradition is changing and Piet is now taking different forms, but this has not happened without some pushback. Every year anti-racism protesters face blackface Zwarte Pieten during Sinterklaas celebrations.

Sociologist Aspha Bijnaar, who knows a lot about Dutch colonial history, told RTL Nieuws that people outside the Netherlands often do not understand why the Dutch do not see blackface as racist.

Aspha Bijnaar said this is partly because of how the Dutch see themselves. We think the Netherlands is a tolerant country and that we can say anything. This comes from arrogance. Who are they to tell us not to follow our traditions?

She explained that blackface started during Dutch colonial times and slavery to make fun of black people. This makes it hurtful even if hurting wasn’t the goal. It’s easy to say it was not mean to be hurtful, Bijnaar said. But this ignores the fact that actions can still hurt people no matter the intention.

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The Gullit impersonator interviewed by RTL Nieuws fell into that misunderstanding. He admitted that he now understands and will no longer wear blackface. I have learned that I hurt people with it and that’s the last thing I wanted. So I have decided to stop, he said. He’s concerned that he might have offended his hero. It’s important to me. I even tried to reach out to him to ask if he thinks what I did was racist.

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