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Re: Am I a Burgher?
Posted by: Neville Davidson (ID *****6549) Date: April 24, 2008 at 05:40:01
In Reply to: Am I a Burgher? by The International Ceylon Database of 2355

I fully agree with your assertions; for quite a few months; nay years, I have had welling inside me an anger at the superior, snobby, exclusive attitude pervading missives by some 'Dutch Burgher' contributors to the various internet forums. It seemed as though other Ceylonese were some sort of putrid leftovers from colonization. Anyway, I just couldn't be bothered responding although it irritated me tremendously. You have spurred me on to add my two cents.

Subsequent to reading the many posts citing rather subtly, grandiose declarations of an elitist ethnicity made by some self appointed 'Dutch Burgher' historians and authors over the years, I firmly believe that in the minds of these hapless souls there may have been a crisis in accepting their identity i.e being called a Ceylonese. I suppose they felt that the term 'Burgher' coined by the then very racist British was a way out of the ethnic 'hotchpotch' that was Ceylon at that time; following the Portuguese, Dutch & British occupations.

It must be said is that not only the British, but the Dutch were also a racist society (remember the Dutch Boers/Africaaners and, British ruled together under the Union of South Africa). It is now part of Ceylonese history that during the Dutch occupation of Ceylon the annual census of the local population listed such demeaning titles as Mesties (child of European and half white mother, Casties (child of Mesties -three quarter white), Toepas (Christian halfblood of Portuguese lineage)and Swarte (someone with a darker skin). Which group do the Dutch Burghers belong to? given all the different shades of pale so visible in Ceylon?

You state that the Dutch administration were all men. That is just the tip of the iceberg. All colonizers were men and the muscle they employed; whether from France, Germany, Finland, Spain, Africa, Arabia, England, Sweden, Holland or Belgium were all male. It would be fair to say that in 3-4 centuries, over two million men took local females as either wives, concubines, women of pleasure or as slaves. The Portuguese, Dutch & British didn't come to Ceylon with their wives, girlfriends, sisters and aunts as immigrants. They were conquerors! What exciting and exotic surnames and ethnic pride has consequently sprung up over the years from all these liaisons. Mention must also be made of the 'playing down' of facts over the years and the many embellishments and linguistic license apparent in the writings of some popular 'Dutch Burgher' authors .

An ongoing irritation to me, is that identifying oneself as a Dutch Burgher automatically attaches to that person subliminally, an almost regal persona. One can see and witness this attitude in the older Burghers in their associations with 'other' Ceylonese Burghers or ethnic groups. Thankfully, changing attitudes and tolerance are imminent due to generational change.

Like someone once said, "What's in a name?" Me! I'd rather be the best person I can be!

Thank you for the opportunity.

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