“It is time to engrave the great injustice of colonial slavery into our city’s identity. With big-hearted and unconditional recognition,” Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema said Thursday (July 1), offering a formal apology for the city’s role in slave trade. “Because we want to be a government for those for whom the past is painful and its legacy a burden,”
According to a report by The Guardian, the apology came after years of debate about Amsterdam’s role in slave trade, which was reinvigorated after the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis last year. The Dutch government has previously expressed regret for its role in slavery, but fell short of offering a full apology, the outlet reported. Prime Minister Mark Rutte reportedly worried that offering an apology would fuel racial tension.
“Not a single Amsterdammer alive today is to blame for the past,” Halsema said in her remarks, emphasizing that the legacy of slavery is still present. “The city officials and the ruling elite who, in their hunger for profit and power, participated in the trade in enslaved people, in doing so entrenched a system of oppression based on skin color and race,” she said.
“The past from which our city still draws its distinctive commercial spirit is therefore indivisible from the persistent racism that still festers," she added. At different points throughout history, the Dutch colonized numerous nations around the world including Brazil, Senegal, Ghana, Angola, Mauritius, Japan, among others.
Halsema spoke during a ceremony on a national holiday which marks the abolition of slavery in Dutch Colonies on July 1, 1863.