Elected officials in Amsterdam are considering issuing an apology to the people of Suriname for the actions and legacy of slavery. And that’s not an outlandish thing to ask for when you consider that the Dutch West India Co., the corporation that oversaw and ran the Suriname colony, wasn’t just based in Amsterdam, but funneled much of the wealth that powered that city’s Golden Age. What if the U.S. followed suit?
With its long history and despite its troubles, it’s hard for me to imagine Amsterdam without its Red Light District. It’d be like imagining Amsterdam without its coffee shops. But that’s another story.
We are our stories, and our stories don’t just deserve to be told, they need to be heard. It’s more than a shame that so many of these stories were never heard during the time their storytellers were alive. But we have a chance to hear some of them today.
Art, after all, doesn’t just exist in the time it was created. It speaks to us from the time of its creation, sometimes whispering and sometimes screaming, always waiting for us to hear. And this particular painting has a lot to tell us about influence, privilege, crime and humiliation.
Amsterdam in 1655 was a boomtown: bustling, crowded, welcoming ships from around the world into is busy port. In other words, it was ripe for an outbreak of plague.
Right-wing alarmists complain that political correctness runs amok. Imagine their despair to learn the Amsterdam Museum banned the phrase “Golden Age.” The reason: the golden years weren’t golden for everyone. But terms like “Golden Age” make history more accessible, and god help us, we need to talk about our history more if we want to change our future.
What you think is “brown sugar” isn’t. It’s just bastardized white sugar. Ah, but there actually IS a brown sugar. Sugar that’s brown because the molasses never left it. And that, my friends. That is muscovado.
If there’s one thing that separates humans from the other animals, I’d say it’s our immense talent for creating divisions among ourselves. Of creating an “us” vs. a “them.” Of tribalism.
Jews, I’m sorry to say, are no different.
Behold, Theodor “Dirk” Kerckring. Son of Dutch East India Co. captain Dirk Kerckring and Margaretha Bas, the daughter of former Amsterdam Mayor Dirk Bas. Scion of wealth and privilege. Son of the republic. I want to punch that smirk right off his face.
Rabbi Aboab da Fonesca was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Until it was time to build a lasting monument to the community he served.