A blog about (hidden) Amsterdam

What do we mean by BIPOC history?

At Badass Tours, our goal is to tell the stories that have been hidden or ignored by traditional historians. In the Netherlands, that often includes people of African, Caribbean, or Asian descent. We refer to this as BIPOC history, but the term isn’t without its controversy.

Let’s start with what BIPOC means. It stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and it was developed to expand on the old term “People of Color” to refer to people who are subject to institutional and nationalized racism. It was developed in the US to highlight the fact that there are similarities in the experiences across groups, as well as historic challenges faced by Black Americans and Indigenous Americans. It’s been adopted internationally because many nations see a similar pattern, and advocates need a word to describe the communities and people that societal racism cuts off.

There are some problems with the term, as this NY Times article describes. For starters, it covers millions of people with very different experiences and histories. Putting them all into one term can make it seem like these differences aren’t there. It also implicitly puts the white person as the viewer, naming everything else as other.

So why do we use this term? One thing that it does do well is to describe the overlapping experiences these groups faced in Dutch history. The Dutch East India Company colonized parts of Africa, Indonesia, and India while making incursions into China and Japan. The Dutch West India Company colonized other parts of Africa and the Americas. When slavery finally ended in the Dutch Caribbean, the formerly enslaved were replaced by indentured laborers from India, China, and Indonesia.

All of this history means that people of very different backgrounds had shared experiences over the course of centuries. Some were based on force and violence, such as natives of South Africa being forcibly brought to the Indonesian island of Java or the massacre of an entire island to seize the spice trade. Some were based on cultural sharing, like Suriname’s mix of Caribbean, African, Chinese, and Indian cultural artifacts. Some were part of the legacy of colonization, like the similarities between what Surinamese and Indonesian immigrants experienced when they moved to the Netherlands.

Ultimately, it’s too complex a topic to be reduced to a couple paragraphs. That’s why we tell stories to begin with; history is the people who lived it. We tell the stories of people’s varied experiences with Amsterdam and the Netherlands to try to explore it. People of African, Caribbean, and Asian descent have done incredible things throughout this history, and we want to bring their stories to more people. To do so, it’s a bit easier to talk about them together, as their experiences shine a light on each other.

We talk about the BIPOC history of Amsterdam because there are interwoven threads connecting the experiences of Amsterdammers whose ancestors came from around the world. They are part of what makes Amsterdam special. Talking about their experiences together helps paint a fuller picture of both them and our city.

BIPOC History

Ready for one of our tours?

Public Group Walking Tour

Plantage Storytelling Walk

Forget canals and piles – Amsterdam is a city built on stories. Some of its most interesting, though, have been overlooked by history. We stroll through the spacious Plantage neighborhood and stop to hear the untold stories of Amsterdam’s layered history.

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Public Group Walking Tour

LGBT+ History Storytelling Walk

When the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage, four couples were married by the Mayor of Amsterdam. But did you know that the city’s LGBT+ history stretches back to the medieval ages?

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Private Group Walking Tour

Customized Private Storytelling Walk

See Amsterdam through the stories of the hidden badasses who helped create it. You choose one or several of the themes: women, Jewish people, LGBT+ people or BIPOC. You can also ask for an interest area, such as artistic, academic, leaders or warriors. The tour can be up to three hours and customized by pick-up/drop-off location.

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