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It's Time to Face the Racist Dutch Tradition of Dressing up in Blackface

A bunch of people in blackface and medival outfits, dressed as black pete, on rollerblades

In mid-November in the Netherlands, Dutch families take to the streets of Amsterdam to celebrate the arrival of their favorite winter guests, Sinterklaas and his whimsical helper Black Pete. The air is crisp and cold. Pepernoten, bortsplaat, marzipan, and other sweet holiday fill the pockets of onlookers. When the adored duo comes into town (they sail in on a ship from Spain), they are greeted with a city-wide, family-friendly parade.

However, what is different and potentially shocking to many non-Dutch onlookers is that during the traditional parade, Sinterklaas is escorted by hundreds of white people in blackface. Smiling Dutch folks in blackface bike, walk, and rollerblade through the town, waving at children in celebration.

This is the traditional way to portray Sinterklaas’s helper, Black Pete. Many parents color the faces of their children with black paint in order to help them “get into the spirit” and pay a kind of homage to Sinterklaas’s silly, beloved, and sometimes scary sidekick. In addition to blackface, the Black Peter costume also includes afro-wigs, bright red lipstick, and dangly gold earrings.

A person dressed in blackface with a medieval outfit, representing black pete

The origin of Black Pete varies depending on whom you ask. Some folklorists say Black Pete first appeared in history as the African slave of Sinterklaas, while others will argue that he was a freed slave who stayed to help Sinterklaas based on his own free well. Still others peg him as originating as a house servant. Perhaps the most popular modern explanation of Pete’s blackface makeup is that he’s just black from sliding down houses’ chimneys to leave presents for children. This justification aims to convince Dutch folks that the paint on the faces of the Black Peters is soot collected from traveling down the chimney and doesn’t have any complicated racial implications at all.

But if it’s soot, why doesn’t it rub off? And why did early Black Pete actors muddle their Dutch and exaggerate their accents and mannerisms in ways stereotypical to communities of color? Why the red lipstick? The slave-style hoop earrings? This excuse—“just black from the chimney”—includes hint of racist acknowledgement. Saying that it is soot and not pigmentation that makes Pete black concedes that there would be something troubling about Black Pete being a black man.

But really, whether or not Black Pete was originally a slave or whether he is just Sinterklaas’s sooty next-door neighbor, the issue here has to do with the portrayal and co-option of black identity by white Westerners. It is not only wrong, it is reminiscent of a colonial past. Blackface will forever hold the residue of slavery and ethnic stereotyping.

In the last few years, the voices of dissent against Black Pete have grown. Two years ago, Dutch poet Quinsy Gario wore a shirt that read “Black Pete is Racist” to the Sinterklaas parade as a form of silent protest. In response, he was accused of disrupting the peace and detained by the Dutch police.

Two black men wearing shirts that say "zwiete piet es racisme"

While actions like this have occurred in the past, this year marks the most obvious critical response to Black Pete. Hundreds of people have taken part in major actions and visible protests in Holland. The international community has also turned its spotlight on Black Pete this year: the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights took the issue of Black Pete under consideration, sending a letter to the Dutch government saying that stating that Black Pete perpetuated the image of people of African descent as second-class citizens. 

The biggest protest of the Black Pete tradition came on November 17, when anti-racist protestors literally turned their backs on Amsterdam’s Sinterklaas parade. They formed a long line, placed tape over their mouths, and held signs reading things like, “Slavery Was Once a Tradition, Too.” The protesters stood in silent solidarity against the character of Black Pete and his obvious lineage to minstrel performance, as the parade ambled along behind them.

As someone who attended the parade for the first time, with a “Zwarte Piet is Racisme” (Black Pete is Racist) sign in hand, I was shocked at the violent response the silent protest elicited. One Dutch man, upon seeing my sign, told me that I should support Black Pete “for the children.” When I didn’t respond, he added that I should go back to where I came from (a popular Dutch response to those who dislike the national tradition, a response that is even directed toward black citizens whose Dutch roots are generations deep). The man was not done. He then told me I deserved to be in a ditch and offered to put me there. I was shoved intentionally by other men who did not agree with my sign and another female protestor was kicked in the stomach by a man in the crowd.

With these protests came a media buzz, a slew of critical articles about the Sinterklaas tradition from mostly non-Dutch journalists, and defensiveness from people within the Netherlands who love the character of Black Pete. The space for conversations, dialogue, and peaceful protests against Pete has grown this year, but the response from Black Pete supporters has been hostile at best and physically violent at its worst. While the portrayal of Pete distresses many Dutch citizens of color and their allies, many white Dutch citizens are attached to their holiday tradition and cannot imagine a Sinterklaas festival without blackface. In fact, a Facebook petition in favor of keeping Black Pete garnered support immediately, receiving over two million likes in three days—that’s huge in a country with only 16 million people.

A much-discussed solution to the Pete problem is to trade Black Pete for Rainbow Pete. In 2006, the Dutch public broadcasting corporation advocated changing Black Pete for Petes with bright rainbow-painted faces. These days, Rainbow Pete shows up in some Dutch classrooms

a collection of people dressed in the pete costume with rainbow colored faces

The idea behind this swap of color is that Black Pete would remain the same character, but his face would be blue or green instead of brown. The trouble with the Rainbow Pete solution is that it does not address the issue behind the Black Pete problem. It is merely sweeping the conversation under the carpet.

While the tradition of blackface in Holland may not be an intentional act of ideological violence toward people of color, it is representative of the systemic racism existent in postcolonial Western countries. By systemic racism, I am referring to what Slavoj Zizek defines in his book, Violence, as the racism “inherent in a system” and the “subtle forms of coercion that sustain relations of dominance and exploitation, including the threat of violence.” The minstrel-esque portrayal of Black Pete by white Dutch citizens throws the invisible backdrop of racism that undergirds most of Western political ideology into full relief. Or at least it should.

The tradition is deep-rooted and the complications, responses, and political and media driven responses around the Black Pete issue warrant additional reading, such as Amsterdam-based writer Flavia Dzodan’s take on the Dutch "pillars of racism" over at Red Light Politics.

As a country known for its liberal attitudes towards drugs and sex, and its tolerant, educated culture, it no doubt feels like being awakened by a harsh splash of cold water to be informed that a convention important to your national identity and your childhood is actually a perpetuation of the separation and subjugation of people of color. Making a caricature out of someone’s identity is to make that person appear less human. No amount of “just down the chimney” justification or childhood nostalgia can change this fact. The denial of Black Pete’s racist connotations by many Dutch citizens and government officials highlights just how embedded structural racism has become.

My hope is that the exposure of this issue will not encourage the mere finger-pointing toward another culture’s representation of blackness, but instead cause each of us to turn that finger toward our own chests and take a more nuanced look a the racist and oppressive practices in our own lives. As Toni Morrison says, and hopefully as the Black Pete supporters will come to understand,  “If you're going to hold someone down you're going to have to hold on by the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own repression.”

Genevieve Hudson is an American writer living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands as part of the Fulbright Program. You can find her on Twitter at @genhudson

Photos of Black Petes are from Floris Looijesteijn and Gerard Stolk via Creative Commons. Photo of Rainbow Pete is from Jim Forest and is also Creative Commons. Photo of Quinsy Gario and Kno’ledge Cesare is from Tumblr Zwarte Piet is Racisme.


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Comments

32 comments have been made. Post a comment.

FOlklore

The problem is people have forgotten WHY Black Pete was black. He was NOT negroid. He was troll-ish, and trolls, who live underground, get their power from the earth. Trolls are viewed as dangerous, which is why he is such a scary figure, threatening to snatch kids away and put them in his bag if they have not been good, or if they can not recite Bible verses, depending on which area you are in. They are chthonic , so because they live underground, they have dirt on their faces. Thus, "Black" Pete. It is NOT a racialized thing. But people are no longer aware of Black Pete's origins, so blackening the face is misunderstood.

...so the "early actors

...so the "early actors muddling their Dutch and exaggerating their accents and mannerisms in ways stereotypical to communities of color" is just a coincidence?? So at the time that Black Pete came into history, the dutch felt absolutely no racism towards black people and that could not have possibly influenced how they characterized what a troll was? So just because the origins of something weren't "racialized" it couldn't possibly be coopted to be something else more sinister? I mean I'm looking at pictures of blackface from elsewhere and it's just an interesting coincidence. It's at the very least worth considering it as a "racialized" thing instead of dismissing that it has no damaging effects on communities whatsoever and can't just because of its "origins".

This is the most typical

This is the most typical response I think for the Dutchies regarding zwarte piet. As soon as there is a critical note, people come rushing in with historical fact and sources, all showing het zwartie piet can not be racist. Meanhwile ignoring the voices and experiences of people who experience or experienced this as a racist tradition. A Dutch journalist summarized it recently very accurately: The Zwarte Piet 'debate' shows how white people feelings trump black people feelings every time. That's what it comes down to.

Doesn't Really Matter Now Does...

it? Black Pete has now morphed into something else, right? I mean, ignorant people took the fact that his 'name' was Black Pete and turned it into something racist and insulting. The Dutch, (not all) don't give a damn about his original origins, if they did, what you describe WOULD be the tradition they would celebrate, instead of the demeaning caricature we're left with.

Dutch people really (I mean

Dutch people really (I mean really-really) don't like to be called out on this racist image. I almost got uninvited to my yearly family celebration when I said I had issues with Black Pete. And I can't recall how many times I've had to hear some explanation about soot, chimneys and what not, while in reality I really do not care about that explanation. People need to listen and realize that offering little kids this image of balck helpers with a white boss just is not healthy and desirable. That all there is to it. No need for all the chimney and soot talk, just accept that it's not a good image. Morreover, it's a thing we can easily change without the Pete-fans having to give up anything substantial. It's a think with made up, we can make up something else and still have a nice time with our families and give each other presents.

Zwarta Peter

I asked an actual Dutch person (in their 60's) what the Dutch consider to be the history of Zwarta Peter and she informed me that he is a representation of a Spanish Moor (as you may know the Spanish removed all non-Catholic "unwanteds" during the 1500's and many of them emigrated to the Netherlands). She also said that the tradition has been around for such a long time that Dutch people in the past did not think of him as a racialized person. Racism as we know it in the US came about as a way to justify chattel slavery, and how we view race in the US is not necessarily how other cultures view "race". While I believe, and support, the people who argue that this tradition should disappear into the past; I also understand why the Dutch people do not readily let go of this tradition due to the fact that their culture does not see Zwarta Peter as a negative personification.

This is really more about the cultural concept of "tolerance"

I grew up with this tradition as my parents were dutch. Though they could be part of a cultural elite here in the Netherlands they felt it important for me (and my brothers) to know ones roots in this aspect. Now I thought it strange as a kid because I grew up with both Santa Claus and Sinterklaas. Both are significantly different from each other. I didn't mind of course (at the time) because that meant extra presents. Later in life though it was helpful in identifying and comparing the two cultures.

Now I want to make perfectly clear that I do not defend this tradition but I want to point out that in Dutch culture there is not a widespread tradition (followed by all classes of people) that allow for an outlet of one's intrinsic 'good-will-to-all'. It's a fairly isolated, individualistic culture (not trying to generalise but this is my experience after living here for 11 years). And I feel that this is why dutch people become very defensive about this tradition (to the point of violence).

Which brings me to the dutch concept of tolerance. I have discovered that the Dutch concept of tolerance is very different from an (say) American concept of tolerance. Dutch tolerance is rooted in a very 'I-leave-you-alone-you-leave-me-alone' idea which has a historical precedent. Tolerance in most Western ideals is synonimous with also mutual respect and appreciation. Typical Dutch tolerance is just that: I tolerate you.

This leads, what in my opinion, is a common miscommunication. When people say that the Netherlands is tolerant they think "wow! they are very accepting of everything! They must be really open minded!" To extent true, but they fail to see the otherside which "yeah we accept things, but doesn't mean we like them." This is rooted in a kinda of pragmatism that does not need to include respect. Just tolerance. This is the basis for Dutch racism. And believe me the Dutch are a pretty racist culture in this regard.

To read more about this phenomenon one should look up pillarization in dutch society. Up until the late 50s dutch society was very segregated amongst (primarily) catholics, protestants, and liberals (not the progressive type). It is good to look up this context because a person gains a key understanding of aspects of Dutch culture.

If That's True...

Then why the red lips? I can even accept the earrings - sort of - because maybe that was the style back then? I've seen certain people in paintings (not just people of color) wear an earring or earrings - so, maybe, I can kind of let that go.

I also don't buy that story about Dutch people not thinking of Black Pete as a radicalized person - for real? If that's true, then why paint him with black face in the first place? I mean the Dutch did participate (and benefited enormously) from the slave trade (circa - 1500-1850), so their whole mode of thinking DURING the time period of Black Pete WOULD be radicalized right?

confusion

Let us as Americans with a history of slavery and black face as comedy not confuse a non American tradition. I think it is very easy to focus on this and thus ignore how racism pervades our society. Let us clean our own house first.

the Dutch protesters aren't

the Dutch protesters aren't American.

Maybe not but...

It's good that the Dutch are protesting this, and I'm all for solidarity with people overseas... but I agree that a bunch of Americans trying to solve race issues in another country is, at best, pompous. How about we focus on issues like stop and frisk, or blackface during halloween, or parties with racial themes?

Instead of wagging our fingers at other people all high and mighty, lets take action, and be the change we want to see in the world.

Trust me, it's a thing the

Trust me, it's a thing the Dutch love as well :) We love wagging our fingers at other people all high and mighty.

Belgium too

It's not only in The Netherlands, the same tradition exists in Belgium too.

What was racism again?

Even if all that it's a reference to slavery is true. Isn't racism about hate towards groups? Children love Zwarte Piet. In all programs Zwarte Piet is a well respected person in de Sinterklaas celebration who does nothing against his will but goes along with Sinterklaas making children happy and being loved.

"Blackface will forever hold the residue of slavery and ethnic stereotyping."
Think again. The stereotyping -if any- going on is that black people are happy, friendly and equal persons.

Racism exist and should be fought. The case against Sinterklaas is not helping this.

Ah, that one, the "but

Ah, that one, the "but children love zwarte piet" argument. Have you not read the testimonials in the Dutch press (judging by our name you are Dutch) from Dutch black people how as a child they were uncomfortable because of the use of zwarte piet? Do they not count? Aren't ALL kids supposed to have fun in this celebration?

So, not all children love or loved this tradition (unless of course you want to not account for those black kids...) and many grown ups don't either. And the kids like getting the toys, candy and other presents, so they would be just as happy with a different kind of tradition, we're not powerless in deciding the way we celebrate Sinterklaas. We made it up as a people, we can make up other things as well. Don't use the love of kids for this festivity as an excuse not having to examine your own (white) privilege.

And I completely disagree with your last statement. You want to silence the critics by stating it won't help the fight against racism. Sorry, but if you want to shut up people in this conversation (which IS important, given all the knee jerk reactions it has invoked amongst the general Dutch audience. I think it has really exposed the attitudes of many people against black Dutchies), you are actually part of the problem. I mean, how can you think that if zwarte piet is experienced by many people as racist, shutting them up about it will help in fighting against it? That logic really is beyond me.

It is a conversation that makes many (white Dutch) people uncomfortable, but I am happy it is taking place, it's been long overdue I think.

Anti-Zwarte Piet

I'm Dutch and grew up with this tradition as well and every year it's a hot topic for debate, this year especially once the UN got involved. And I have to say to the staggering amount of people in the Netherlands defending this tradition, it's time to stop deluding yourselves. Zwarte Piet (black Pete) is most definitely a racial caricature (black face, exaggerated lips, gold earrings and a curly wig, I mean come on) and whether or not he is a benevolent figure or is regarded fondly is besides the point. Stereotypes, good or bad, are always dehumanizing.

So yes it's time to change this tradition. I'm not saying the holiday should be abolished, it's fun, it just needs to be modernized. Just no Rainbow Pete. It was tried before in the 80s and it didn't work then so it won't work now. Hell make it a contest to redesign 'Piet' into something acceptable so everyone can enjoy the holiday. Maybe truly a chimney sweep this time, just something. It' embarrassing and more importantly it's insensitive and disrespectful. We live in a multicultural society, it's time to start acting like it.

Ah, that attitude..

No, I haven' read them. But I'm sure they exist. Just as a lot of surveys exist that say that a large percentage of black children enjoy Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet and don't want it changed.

Don't say I want to silence people. There's a big difference in thinking that banning Zwarte Piet is not helping racism and trying to shut people up. By the way you write you seem smart enough to see that so don't use cheap accusations to make your point please.

Survey?

What survey? Please provide links to these sources.

Objective?

You say that to me but not to Marymary? Nice one.

I think it's a form of white

I think it's a form of white supremacy, yes. You might find that a 'cheap association', I just think it's true. If you insist on keeping part of a tradition that is hurtful to black people, just because you get pleasure from it. I find that white supremacy, putting your own pleasure above the hurt feelings of another person. It's not that hard to imagine a form of zwarte piet / the Sinterklaasfeest itself that would not include this racist element. There is really not that much the zwarte piet fans have to 'give up' or 'lose' if the party is changes. We can still have fun nights of exchanging gifts with our families and friends. So, yeah, insisting that the feelings of those who feel excluded by this weird form of black face are not important is a form of white supremacy and insisting on people not discussing this is a form of silencing.

And why would changing zwarte piet NOT help in having less racism in our society? I really don't understand your argument there (maybe because you're not explaining it). Do you even notice how arrogant it is to suggest this? In a conversation where people have indicated: "This is hurtful and racist for me and people that look like me, let's change something", to then assign yourself the authority to claim that changing something will not help in fighting racism anyway?

I think it's a form of white

I think it's a form of white supremacy, yes. You might find that a 'cheap association', I just think it's true. If you insist on keeping part of a tradition that is hurtful to black people, just because you get pleasure from it. I find that white supremacy, putting your own pleasure above the hurt feelings of another person. It's not that hard to imagine a form of zwarte piet / the Sinterklaasfeest itself that would not include this racist element. There is really not that much the zwarte piet fans have to 'give up' or 'lose' if the party is changes. We can still have fun nights of exchanging gifts with our families and friends. So, yeah, insisting that the feelings of those who feel excluded by this weird form of black face are not important is a form of white supremacy and insisting on people not discussing this is a form of silencing.

And why would changing zwarte piet NOT help in having less racism in our society? I really don't understand your argument there (maybe because you're not explaining it). Do you even notice how arrogant it is to suggest this? In a conversation where people have indicated: "This is hurtful and racist for me and people that look like me, let's change something", to then assign yourself the authority to claim that changing something will not help in fighting racism anyway?

Cheap

Can you stop putting words in my mouth please. Annoying is an understatement.

" that is hurtful to black people, just because you get pleasure from it."
"putting your own pleasure above the hurt feelings of another person"
" insisting that the feelings of those who feel excluded by this weird form of black face are not important"
"and insisting on people not discussing this is a form of silencing."

Neither of these have I said.

The point I am trying to make:
I'm not denying there are people that feel offended. I'm arguing if they should. There are plenty of black people that aren't offended.
A lot of things happen where people are offended by. Is the existence of people that are offended by something enough to ban it or do you question first if the feelings are necessary.
People feeling hurt by something that's not meant hurtful (or teaching anyone to hate) has a deeper problem than the something itself and banning the something is not the (a) solution.

Some homeless people find it offensive if you offer them food.

Man, you're naive.

Some black people aren't offended. So surely there's no problem.

I seriously wonder how many need to be hurt and troubled by this before you'd start caring. A thousand? Ten thousand? A million? Every single person of color in the world? Shit, at that point, you'd probably say they're biased.

Let's try it this way.

"There are plenty of bullied kids who aren't offended. Should we ban bullying, just because some kids don't like it? It's not like the bullys actually MEANT to be harmful. They're just being kids. They're not teaching to hate. There's a deeper problem in those bullied kids feeling hurt by something meant to be harmless. Banning bullying isn't the solution."

Also, some homeless people find it offensive when you offer them food because they're so dejected and torn down that even acts of kindness can hurt sometimes. I doubt you've ever been that poor, because only an individual so detached would use HOMELESS PEOPLE EMOTIONALLY WITHDRAWING FROM GENEROSITY OUT OF PAIN as an argument in favor of nasty, violent white people in blackface.

Fucking yikes!

"I'm not denying there are

"I'm not denying there are people that feel offended. I'm arguing if they should. "

First of all, I think it's not up to a white person to lecture a black person whether they can or cannot be offended by something that perpetuates a hurtful stereotype. You really want to decide for a black person what they can or can't perceive as racist? Djeezy Kreezy, that's arrogant.

Zwarte piet might not actively teach kids to hate, but why not have a black Sinterklaas once and a while with pieten from all kinds of ethnicities? Why perpetuate the idea of White Boss, and silly black subordinates, if it is very possible to change it? I mean, why the hell wouldn't we want to make this festivity a much more inclusive occasion? It really is beyond me why people insist on keeping this black face tradition.

Why wouldn't offering children a more diverse image help in resolving racism? What do we have to lose by changing our tradition in a way to make it more pleasurable for everyone (spoiler allert: nothing. We have nothing to lose)
You keep insisting on the idea that banning zwarte piet would not make a difference, but that's an argument you still have not explained anyway. Just stating that something won't work isn't really a compelling argument.

Also, I've found that in the

Also, I've found that in the 'discussion' in the Netherlands so many people will go to great length explaining how 'they're not racist, but....', rather than listening and learning from the people that are protesting. They find it very very very important not to be seen as a racist (while most comments are on the racist image/iconography of zwarte piet,n ot the people involved themselves) and will harp on about how they are really not racist (but....). If only they would put that much effort and energy into jointly thinking of a solution that would make the Sinterklaasfeest great for everyone.

..

"but that's an argument you still have not explained anyway. Just stating that something won't work isn't
really a compelling argument."

I actually have but you refuse to see it because you're blinded by your own opinion.
Not having Zwarte Piet is not solving a problem. We won't have Zwarte Piet, the problem is still the same.
If you're offended by something that isn't meant to be offensive or teaching anyone to be offensive for me the 'solution' is in changing the way you look at it, not banning it. If it doesn't make people racists, why call it racism? What good does that? You keep calling that an arrogant opinion.

Where's your proof that banning it will make a difference in racism? Is it: "why not, what do we have to lose"?
If anything is arrogant it's your unwillingness to look at it different and just thinking the obvious and oh so noble, that banning it will help. And anyone who disagrees is wrong, arrogant and racist.

Teaching children that there has been slavery but luckily that's in the past, look at Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet, now we're all equal, working together and smiling. That sounds more useful to me than trying to hide slavery ever happened. Because that's what you're preaching. The hurtful part is being remembered to something awful in the past. Showing and acting like things have changed will work better to not make it feel hurtful than pretending it didn't happen.

And to Samuels' "Some black people aren't offended. So surely there's no problem."
Fucking yikes, read again and try to understand this time.
Your bullying example is beyond stupid, what you made of my homeless people remark is not even close to relevant for what was meant..

"The hurtful part is being

"The hurtful part is being remembered to something awful in the past."

No. People are actually telling their experiences about how the black face iconiography also is hurtful today, it's not just a thing of the past. That's why I said in earlier posts that I don't care so much about stories of soot and chimneys and the historical origins. Regardless of the origin of zwarte piet, it is a racist image nowadays. For me that it enough reason for wanting a change. And people that speak out in favor of the zwarte piet image have the right to do so, yes, but they shouldn't be surprised when the racist iconiography of it is called out or pointed out. If you want to hold on to a racist image, people will tell you it's a racist image.

Because I think you're wrong in thinking Sinterklaas and zwarte piet are equal. If they are, why aren't the pieten on the horse? Why don't they make the decisions? I'm sorry, but they are not equal. I'm not saying the Sint is an evil bastard (I enjoy the festivities an celebrating with my family, I also have good childhood memories from this feast) or anything, but in the end he's the boss, the pieten are below him. And the boss in this picture is never black, or Asian (or a woman). No, the subordinates are a weird black face caricature of black people. If you want to claim that's not racist, fine, I just don't agree with you.

There is plenty of peer reviewed research showing that offering people more diverse images instead of stereotypes (such as: the black boss instead of the subordinate in this case), reduces their unconscious biases towards this group. This holds true stereotypical gender roles too. So yeah, if you want to know about how changing the role of piet could change racism (or other -isms for that matter) in our society, I suggest you start educating yourself with that kind of research. Because by stating that changing the imgage of the pieten and their roles won't help you are ignoring this wide range of psychological research ( I still haven't seen a compelling argument from you, just assumptions, no evidence. You are assuming it won't help, but that assumption is not based on research or experience but the wish to keep zwarte piet ).

And as for the 'it's not intended as hurtful'. If in my workplace my colleague would keep unintentionally running over my foot with this desk chair which would hut, I would still want him to stop doing that. Regardless if his behavior is intentional or not. I don't see why that's a hard thing to grasp. The discussion shouldn't be about all those people with their good intentions. Instead it should be about how we can make this a party that everybody in the Netherlands can enjoy. Too bad some people are afraid of change.

Though I do agree with you about educating kids about slavery. The dark sides of the Dutch colonial past should be a larger part of the History curriculum in schools. (But I really don't think we need a racist caricature of black people to teach our kids about this though).

I could go into detail about my thoughts on the matter, but...

All I can really say is that white people are really, really, really fucked up.

Really?

That, my dear, is racist.

If you say so.

I'm still reeling from hearing about Renisha McBride, Johnathan A. Ferrell and CeCe McDonald. Now white people attacking and harassing peaceful protestors for disliking their national minstrel show.

Sit down, honey. Your priorities are a little off if white feelings are your primary concern.

Regardless of whether or not

Regardless of whether or not the origins of zwarte Pete were racist I think it's safe to say that in our currently racist society (Netherlands is included in this) having people paint their faces black to look ostensibly like the 'black slave' of Sinterklaas is racist and hurtful and does nothing to get rid of racism and only perpetuate it.

There is no denying that this zwarte pete looks black skinned, there is no denying that having a bunch of white people paint their faces black brings up all sorts of issues (even in the Netherlands). The image looks racist, and perpetuates racism therefore, it needs to stop.

It's not really about zwarte piet

Intrinsically the reasons why people get defensive when 'their' culture is critiqued is because a large part of their identity is dependent on that aspect. The zwarte piet discussion is actually a symptom of a greater unspoken topic; the racism of the Dutch. Now because people (non-dutch) have always said that the dutch are tolerant individuals people begin to believe it themselves. The general dutch person sees themselves as tolerant people. But. As soon as certain racist behaviour is pointed out it is buried behind relativism. "we allow drugs and prostitution so we are tolerant" kind of idea.

My point being it is healthy to point this out. Because it is not something that can be easily avoided in the greater debate. The elephant in the room so to speak.

I, at least, hope for a more openhearted and objective discussion on this topic instead of debating on technicalities (which in dutch politics happens a lot).