Oct 30, 2023 at 2:00 PM Update: 4 minutes ago
Municipal officials with a migration background experience structural discrimination and racism by colleagues, according to research seen by NU.nl. This is yet another confirmation of these types of abuses within the government. What is new is that the researchers state that this also affects citizens en masse.
The results of the research by the Inclusive Collaboration Knowledge Platform (KIS) are shocking. Procedures and rules within municipal organizations appear to encourage discrimination and racism, the report states. This also applies to the socially ingrained behavior of civil servants.
According to the researchers, there is a culture of fear in municipal workplaces to discuss and tackle persistent discrimination and racism.
The conclusions of this first national study into the social problem within municipal organizations are not surprising. It is in the same vein as our previous reporting on ingrained discrimination and racism within the government. But because this concerns municipalities, this so-called institutional racism affects society even more, according to the KIS researchers.
“This is extra problematic, because municipalities have the legal duty to tackle racism and discrimination for their residents,” explains researcher Hanneke Felten. “Then they must also have this in order for themselves. Otherwise they cannot set a good example for citizens and companies.”
Nationally, the “shocking results” according to the KIS researcher could be even more negative. “These were municipalities that were happy to participate in the research and therefore find the subject important.”
From racist ‘jokes’ to bullying
Participating civil servants who said they had to deal with discrimination gave the example that they were criticized if someone with the same migration background as themselves showed negative behavior.
Participants also said that colleagues who spoke out about discrimination or racism were subsequently bullied away. This ensured that other colleagues, with and without a migration background, kept their mouths shut in the event of the next abuse. They were afraid of losing their job or being labeled ‘difficult’.
While many employees were happy that they were allowed to return to their workplace after the corona lockdowns, many municipal officials with a migration background were disappointed. “They thought: ‘shit, we have to endure those nasty comments again,'” Felten explains. “They actually found working from home to be a blessing.”
Many racist comments are disguised as a ‘joke’. Felten finds it shocking that this often involves openly racist behavior in the workplace.
Afran Groenewoud is a society and inclusion reporter
Afran writes about inequality in society and colonial history. Read more stories from Afran here.
Municipalities are becoming less and less a reflection of society
It is striking that many participating managerial civil servants observed the same behavior as their ‘affected’ employees. But they usually didn’t see a problem with it.
Meanwhile, according to the research, many municipal officials with a migration background are leaving their work due to structural racism. It is also regularly a factor that they had less chance of promotion than their colleagues without a migration background.
According to the KIS researchers, this makes the municipal organization less reflective of society. And that can have a negative impact on the services provided to people with a migration background.
Also a disadvantage for citizens without a migration background
But not only residents with a migration background can be disadvantaged by a municipality that does not tackle discrimination and racism itself in order.
“Discrimination in your municipality, that’s what it’s for
no one is more comfortable. Not even for people without a migration background,” Felten explains. “There is then a greater chance of tensions and more polarization. That is not good for solidarity in the neighborhood. Everyone suffers from that.”
The research in figures
The KIS researchers draw their conclusions after two years of research and extensive conversations with 31 executive municipal officials and 20 managers from 6 different municipalities. These numbers are representative of the 342 municipalities in the Netherlands, says researcher Felten. “The participating municipalities vary in size, political color and location in our country. And the interviews all give a similar picture.”
This was also the case with a study that concluded that racism in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a broad phenomenon, and with a study into the difficult approach to discrimination in the social sector.
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