Flemish people are not racist, according to Bart De Wever, leader for the rightwing N-VA party and mayor of Antwerp, said in light of the current debate about racism and discrimination in Belgium.
80% of youth in Antwerp who were asked for their opinion about their local police in a survey, gave a positive score, according to the police in the city. However, the survey also showed that people with a migration background indicate twice as much that they have been subjected to an identity check by the police.
“You are never going to get a one-to-one ratio in that, given, for example, the offender profiles,” De Wever said in the current affairs television programme Terzake, while also acknowledging that he understands that his can lead to frustrations.
“It is important that these checks are done in a correct and friendly way, and we are working on that,” he added.
De Wever does not agree with the term “structural racism” and said that the debate must be seen in a broader historical context.
“Historically, racism is not at a high point, but rather at a low point,” he said. “We have just become very sensitive to this issue. It comes to the surface much more, but the problem was infinitely worse and was certainly structural in previous generations,” De Wever added.
“Racisme staat nu op een historische dieptepunt. We zijn er nu gevoelig voor. Vorige generaties was racisme wel structureel. Dat is vandaag niet het geval. Maar de omvorming van een samenleving kost tijd. Ik begrijp dat jongeren nu oplossingen willen.”@Bart_DeWever#terzaketvpic.twitter.com/LUb4WmkrNt
“The transformation of a society does not happen with a magic wand. That takes a lot of time,” he said, adding that the diversity in the police force is increasing, as are the projects on youth work.
“If you keep that up for years, you will move towards more harmony in society, and that is the only thing that can help us,” De Wever said.
The debate surrounding the anti-discrimination “field tests,” in which fictitious applications are used to check whether employers or landlords are guilty of discriminatory practices, has become “totally poisoned,” according to him.
The city of Antwerp does not use these field tests as such, but monitors the situation. “You have to measure to know. We want to investigate where discrimination happens, and why we do not trust each other to rent out an apartment or give a job, for example,” De Wever said.
He acknowledges that in a small number of cases, racism will be the main reason. “But I do not believe that the Flemish people are racist. I do believe that there is a big problem with identity and diversity in our society, but you are really not going to solve that the hard way,” he added.