NY, NY..

31 Aug

Hello world!
It’s been a while since I last left a post.. I have been rather busy being a change agent. My most recent mission took me to Brooklyn, New York. Flatbush, to be precise. A predominantly West-Indian neighborhood not far from Prospect Park, where I soon got to be known as Miss Amsterdam. In fact, Flatbush, then known as Vlacke Bos, was among the first Dutch settlements in the borough of Brooklyn, established in 1634. Ditmas, Vanderbilt, DeKalb, names most New Yorkers know as streets or subway stops, are all buried at a beautiful little cemetry behind the Dutch Reformed Church of Flatbush, on the corner of Flatbush and Church Avenue. Judging from the fading inscriptions on the tombstones, those Dutch Brooklynites held on to their native tongue for years, even way into the second half of the 19th century, which means for at least 4 generations.. Interesting, while in the Netherlands, right-wing politicians use language as an important and critical factor in their measurement of integration of immigrants. Those who want to apply for a residence permit even need to pass a Dutch language test in their country of origin!
Language does not seem to be a critical factor for integration in New York. In fact, it’s quite possible to live in this city and not speak a word of English. Being Russian, Chinese or Spanish-speaking, you’ll have no problem whatsoever. Newspapers, shops, doctors, restaurants, advertisements all cater to their own audience. Even electoral campaigning is done is different languages. I was blessed to be able to join Gustavo Rivera for State Senate campaign team, which took me all the way from Brooklyn to the Bronx, where I knocked on a total of approximately 400 democrat’s doors, trying to convince them NOT to vote for Gustavo’s opponent, Pedro Espada (an old fashioned crook, who personifies everything wrong about government and doesn’t even live in the Bronx). To my surprise, hardly any of those people I met during my canvassing trips spoke English. Good thing I know my languages!
New York may be multi-lingual, but is New York really that multicultural melting pot that it is so often proclaimed to be? I doubt it. Attacks on Hispanics in Staten Island, an assault on a Muslim cab driver in Queens, and the heated debate over the planned Park 51 community center (the “mosque” near Ground Zero) show the melting pot may be boiling over. Fertile soil for Dutch right-wing politician Wilders, who will speak at a rally on 9/11 organised by “Stop Islamization of America”. Maybe mister Wilders should pay a visit to that little cemetry in Flatbush and contemplate why those graves are all in Dutch.. Or would that be pearls for pigs? Probably..

© Kirsten van den Hul The Change Agent

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One Response to “NY, NY..”

  1. Lucie Harkema September 1, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    Lieve Kirsten,
    Een pareltje deze blog! Visie op deze wereld hangt zo af van een open mind voor culturen, talen en mensen.
    Mister nepblondie met z’n eendimensionale verkokerde frameblik zou dit moeten lezen…
    mumXL

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