Flemish culture is “too white,” an official subcommittee from the Belgian government’s Department of Culture, Youth, Sport, and Media has announced.
The report also revealed that Flemish theaters and dance houses were to be denied grants because of their “lack of diversity.”
The Beoordelingscommissies (evaluation committees) are an official organization of the Department of Culture which, according to their official website, “advise the minister of culture in the assessment of grant projects within the various decrees and regulations of the Flemish government.”
The current minister, Sven Gatz, is a member of the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten, or “Open Vld”).
According to a report in the Belgian De Morgen newspaper, the “Flemish culture is too white” comment “largely explains why some of the world-renowned theater and dance houses barely get a pass mark in the matter of grant distributions.”
The commission noted that the “only non-Western producer in Antwerp’s famous Toneelhuis (”Playhouse”) performing arts theater was one Mokhallad Rasem.
“Diversity is completely absent within the permanent staff of the Toneelhuis, even among the security staff,” the commission said.
The De Morgen article went on to add that this “whiteness” became significant when “reading about how the commission decides to give grants to those cultural groups which attach importance to diversity within their organizations.”
In other words, the Flemish government is actively withholding subsidies from cultural organizations which do not artificially promote nonwhites as part of “Flemish culture.”
The commission also pointed out that a number of leading Flemish dance companies, including Anne Teresa’s De Keersmaeker (Rosas) and Alain Platel’s permanent employees “are not diverse.”
Even worse, the commission said, was the racial makeup of the controlling boards of those dance groups: “All members of the board have the same sociocultural and economic profile. There is no diversity of origin, and also in terms of age, there is a predominance of over-50s…”
In 2012, the then Flemish integration minister Geert Bourgeois (currently Minister-President of Flanders and Flemish Minister for Foreign Policy and Immovable Heritage), ordered the printing of “Starter Kits for Family Migrants” to be distributed from the Belgian consulate in Casablanca, Morocco, to would-be immigrants to Belgium.
These “starter kits” explained that “immigrants” have to follow a “civil integration program” and that leaving their home country will change their lives “radically.”
At the time, Bourgeois defended criticism of the project, telling Flemish TV that “53 percent of the Moroccan community in Belgium lives below the poverty threshold. Eighty percent of the women do not work. Thirty-six percent of Moroccans don’t speak our language well and one quarter of them are not even able to speak to their neighbors. It is a big societal problem.”