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Article 1 of the constitution is not a description of reality

This is an unendorsed translation of an article by Paul Cliteur.

What is the problem with the contemporary reenactment of the ‘racism discussion’? It is that people interpret article 1 of the constitution as a description of reality and not as a norm. It might sound strange that it’s that simple, but really, it’s that simple. Minister Ollongren and others taking Yernaz Ramautarsing to task about suspected racism make the elementary mistake of thinking that article 1 of the constitution furnishes us with a description of reality. It doesn’t, because it describes a norm, a norm that people must be treated equally even though they are unequal in many ways.

There is a big difference between investigating how the world is put together, on the one hand, and making normative statements about what rights people have, on the other.

It could be the case that psychology shows that women are more intelligent than men, on average. But that doesn’t mean that men are worth less than women, or that men’s rights should be stripped away.

It could also be the case that Asians are more intelligent, on average, than Europeans or Africans. That doesn’t mean that different rights should be assigned on the basis of this difference.

Science inspects the way the world is. The law, and morality determine what rights people have.


The problem occurs when people mix these two things together. Then we get the following picture:

I find it unacceptable that the earth isn’t the center of the universe, so Galileo is wrong

I don’t like the idea that humans are part of the animal kingdom, so Darwin cannot be studied.

The idea that criminality is caused by anything other than social factors is unpleasant to me, so Buikhuisen must be banned from the university

Article 1

Okay, now take a breath. The same applies to commentary about nationality, race, culture, ethnicity etc. and intelligence. Whether a connection exists between intelligence on the one hand, and nationality, race, culture and ethnicity on the other, is the terrain of science. Article 1 of the constitution has nothing to say about that. Article 1 can’t predict what the outcome of the research will be. It is naive to think that God created a world that is arranged exactly as we would wish it to be.

Perhaps minister Ollongren and Jesse Klaver have studied the subject of ‘race’ and intelligence very deeply in their free time. Maybe they’ve read all the studies and they can show that Yernaz Ramautarsing has suggested things that are wrong. They’re free to do so. But as anyone who has heard their pronouncements on the topic must fear, they believe that article 1 has granted them knowledge about questions they have not studied.

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