Utrecht, a Dutch city in the Netherlands, has dropped the fee associated with changing one’s name for descendants of African slaves who no longer want to be addressed by their given slave name.
The cost for the name change was 835 Euros, which is $985.86 in U.S. currency, according to BBC News. There was also a ton of bureaucracy to work through. However, the shift in policy has caused many with African ancestry to express interest in changing their slave name.
“As soon as that door opens, I’ll be at the front of the queue,” Guno Mac Intosch told BBC. He wants to change his name to Yaw after taking a trip to Ghana in search of his African roots. Mac Intosh is a Scottish name.
His sentiment is understood by Linda Nooitmeer, chair of the national institute for Dutch slavery history, whose name means “Never Again.” Nooitmeer said the more than 600,000 Africans who were shipped to Dutch cities to work on plantations were subjected to a “dehumanizing” process.
“Everything is stripped. You were part of the cargo, like cattle. It’s not only the name, but rituals, language, your identity, all evidence that you were African was taken away,” Nooitmeer said.
The Black slaves who were freed after abolition and their descendants were often given names related to either their slave owners, the plantations they worked on, or a mash-up of “Dutch cities or Dutch-sounding words,” BBC reported.
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Many of the names given after slavery was abolished were also disparaging when translated, meaning things like “Obedient, Cheap, Tame and Submission,” BBC wrote.
Amsterdam’s Mayor Femke Halsema apologized for the city’s role in the slave trade on July 1. “I apologise for the active involvement of the Amsterdam city council in the commercial system of colonial slavery and the worldwide trade in enslaved people,” Halsema said in a speech.
Removing the fee is another step in helping descendants of African slaves who are interested reclaim some of their ancestral dignity, Nooitmeer said. She added it is “part of the healing process, to give people the freedom and identity back.”
“Maybe it’s not the exact same name our ancestors had, but it was given within the spirit from Africa. And that’s really powerful to give your children and descendants,” Nooitmeer explained.
Mac Intosch, who was the target of one white man’s racist tirade, said despite what anyone may think, Black people deserve to prosper in the country they built with a name they choose.
“Dutch people claim that they are really liberated and the country is liberated, then you see these things, this behaviour,” Mac Intosch said. “We are here, we built this country, and we don’t let people chase us away because they say that we do not belong here.”
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