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Scrap the A word, say Labour councillors in Amsterdam

Friday 28 September 2012

Labour councillors in Amsterdam have called for the word allochtoon - literally non-native - to be scrapped from all official council paperwork.

Councillor Iman Akel told local television station AT5 the word has 'no added value' and the council should stop differentiating between native and non-native residents.

'There is no such thing as the non-native,' she said. 'What are we talking about? The word has too much emotional value.' Instead, council policy should focus on tackling problems such as obesity in children with a Turkish background, not stating 'non-natives are fat', she said.

Last week Belgian newspaper De Morgen decided to stop using the word because it is stigmatising.

Difficult issue

According to the Van Dale dictionary, allochtoon means migrant, foreigner or alien. However, the word is mainly used to describe non-western immigrants and their children. The third generation of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants are still known as allochtoon despite being born and brought up in Holland.

Politicians in the Netherlands have wrestled with the word for years, and there have been previous attempts to have it banned from official documentation.

In May, the cabinet's advisory group on social development RMO said the government should stop categorising the population of the Netherlands according to ethnicity and parental birth places.

Concepts such as niet-westerse allochtoon (literally non-western non-native) should be scrapped. Instead local councils should only record the birth place of the person concerned, rather than that of their parents, the RMO said.

In January, integration minister Gerd Leers said children born in the Netherlands should no longer be regarded as foreign.

Is the word allochtoon useful or discriminatory? Have your say using the comment box below.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

There is nothing wrong with the word, it is the perception. Maybe using the word "elites" will help a lot. It is also stereotyping people but in a nice way.

By ufo | 28 September 2012 8:14 AM

As long as the Netherlands does not recognize the citizenship rights of the children born in here, this will be discussed over and over again.

By Chan Chur | 28 September 2012 9:05 AM

Allochtoon, rooted in German, means, literally, all colors, colloquially, colored people; hence the subsequent attachment to foreigners such as from Indonesia. It does seem racist to refer to people by their skin tone.

By Puck | 28 September 2012 11:20 AM

It's about time. Indiscriminately discriminating certain groups of people makes no sense, especially when it is based on where their parents were born. Now the national government needs to do the same.

The CBS Definitions are: Someone with a Dutch background = A person whose parents were both born in the Netherlands. Someone with a western background = Someone originating from a country in Europe (excl. Turkey), North America or Oceania or Indonesia or Japan. Someone with a non-western background = Someone originating from a country in Africa, South America or Asia (excl. Indonesia and Japan) or Turkey. See http://www.cbs.nl/en-GB/menu/methoden/begrippen/default.htm?ConceptID=37

Either someone is Dutch = has Dutch citzenship or someone is a foreigner = does not have Dutch citizenship.

By Quest | 28 September 2012 1:46 PM

From wikipedia: "Allochtoon (plural: allochtonen) is a Dutch word (from Greek ἀλλόχθων, from ἄλλος (allos), other, and χθών (chthōn) earth/land), literally meaning "originating from another country".
Actually, it's a Greek word that Greeks never use. We only use the word "autochtoon" which means indigenous, there's never a good reason to emphasize the opposite(come to think of it, is there a word for "not indigenous" in English? Or any other language?). What I mean is that the distinction between "us" and "others", meaning members of the same society who have a different skin colour or cultural background is just discrimination without any possible logical use.

By Aristotle | 28 September 2012 1:47 PM

Some European countries, such as Spain, used to brand their citizens in a similar manner: Spanish of origin as opposed to Naturalized Spanish. The first democratic government abolished this policy.

By phantom | 28 September 2012 2:26 PM

Aristotle,you are correct; unfortunately I posted hearsay before verifying. My bad.

By Puck | 28 September 2012 2:27 PM

It's about time. It's annoyed me for years that a black or brown person from my country would be an allochtone, while a white person from my country would not.

By LM | 28 September 2012 3:39 PM

This word and more importantly the mentality behind this word is the biggest shame of The Netherlands. It is unimaginable for me to see that even third generation Turkish descendants CANNOT call themselves "Dutch" since it would be laughable for these precious "autochtones". Such a disgrace... Yet I doubt if we can get rid of the mentality even if we can get rid of the term.

By Schwartz Kopf | 28 September 2012 4:28 PM

I'm Asian origin married to a Ducht autochtone. We r having a baby soon and I'm disgusted to know that our child to be considered an allochtone. The child is half Ducht will be born & raised in NL & yet will still be a foreigner! How does this make sense to him/her?

By tng | 28 September 2012 4:47 PM

I have called myself an "allochtoon" for the last 10 years (since the rise of anti-foreign populism in NL). I am of a western background and do this out of comaradie for those who are pejoratively labeled in such a negative way. I can't tell you how many times native-Dutch have disagreed with me calling myself "allochtoon", even though officialy I am. After questioning why they object, they finally admit it is because I don't have brown skin. The current use of the word allochtoon is synonymous with racism, much like any other ethnic slur.

By Quest | 28 September 2012 6:32 PM

So if Barack Obama were born in the Netherlands, he would be considered "allochtoon"? It's no wonder there is a pool of talent in minority ethnic groups in the Netherlands that goes unnoticed. Anyway, minorities need to catch up in the economic ladder and this useless word would vanish away. Foreign children born and raised in the Netherlands are more 'Dutch' than Dutch teenagers who have barely spent a year here growing up.

By Abdul Okaka | 28 September 2012 8:14 PM

Does it matter so long as they also fly the dutch flag high when they won a gold medal in the Olympics?

By auto | 29 September 2012 9:03 AM

AAAHHH Aristotle, the ultimate ever right wikipedia built by whom ever can get a word in.

By tobias | 29 September 2012 11:06 AM

It should be pointed out that the entire Royal Dutch family, except two children, are allochtoon.

By Thon | 29 September 2012 1:33 PM

In all the years I have lived in Holland, (50)I have never used of fully understood the meaning of such words. I don't mind being called a Brit, cos that's what I am. Foreign national, okay too, but allochtoon sounds wrong in any language.

The world is my country, its people my brethren. (insert a big smiley here)

By Bill | 29 September 2012 2:20 PM

Don't worry, tng.
It may be interesting to know that my three children were born here. I am British and my wife is Dutch. All my three children received a letter from the Dutch authorities when they were 16, saying that they could apply for a Dutch passport. My seven grandnipper are all Dutch. Three are in full time jobs. I am the only one in our family who uses a British passport. I have the same rights and responsibilities as any full blood Dutchman. The only difference is I don't have voting rights.

I just hope Holland never goes to war with Britain. Only then would I as a British veteran have a problem. (wink wink lol)

By Bill | 29 September 2012 9:44 PM

A very strange thing happened , i was a normal average person..untill i came here.I became elitist ,snob with an unbearable vanity flavour ..wich i am enjoying every minut..And hell,i found so many things to be proud of ,is amazing...

By Mioritic | 30 September 2012 2:46 PM

scrap that "a" word allochtoon as the another "a" word, apartheid was already abolished years ago.

By jakc | 1 October 2012 8:48 AM

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