Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Children are our future

It is the mid-1980s. The couple who were our two best friends bought a house in a cheap neighbourhood in the east of Amsterdam. Like us they had two young daughters.
The man was already an important figure in the local Labour party. He was instrumental in having a small playground built not far from their house.
At the invitation of our friends, we went with them and their daughters to have a look at the playground on the Sunday after it was finished. It looked impressive but it was empty.
The two daughters, who were 8 and 6 years old, stayed there to play when we adults returned to the house.
After about a quarter of an hour the girls came running back, crying. Their faces were very red. A group of immigrant children had come into the playground and had started to slap them.
Our friends consoled them and were very caring. However, they also "understood" how difficult it was for immigrant children, being a minority and poor. So they did not take any further action.
They did tell their daughters that in the future they should immediately come home if they saw those children in the playground again.
Since then the neighbourhood has gone through a lot. Much of the indigenous population left and their places were taken by migrant families. There was a period with drug-related problems.
Now, thirty years later, Amsterdam is in the midst of a housing boom. The well-off are moving back into the city and buying, not renting, flats and houses.

The local paper has just run a story about a new problem in the neighbourhood. The indigenous children of the well-off, who are now the minority, do not dare to play on the streets and in the playgrounds. They are scared of the migrant children.

A youth worker blamed the problem on the indigenous children. He said they were not streetwise enough.

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