It is that time of the year again for the racist Sinterklaas / Zwarte Piet 'festivities'. By popular demand from my Dutch readers, I am going to republish this every year. If you are Dutch and think Zwarte Piet is not racist, I can tell you that you should really take your time to educate yourself. Decent people do not seek to offend others, do the right thing!
Originally published *14/11/2012
I nearly had a minor heart attack in the supermarket (side story why is there only one major supermarket in Netherlands?). Anyway back to my heart attack, this was because a small group of children entered the supermarket in blackface! I could not believe my eyes! I actually thought I was in a twilight zone.
Apparently during Christmas it is perfectly acceptable and a tradition to dress up as 'Black Peter' or Zwarte Piet - here is the wiki page. This means wearing dark make up, an afro wig and dark red exaggerated lips. In essence the typical 'golliwog'. I plainly call it racist and quite shocking in this day and age by a country as progressive as Netherlands.
One Dutch man tried to tell me that it was ok because the character 'Zwarte Piet' is actually only darker skinned because of falling through a chimney. I asked then why the afro? ' Oh, it is just a tradition in Netherlands, don't be so sensitive.'
This is my response : I rarely care for debates about what is racist and what isn't. I do think there is a problem when people think it is ok to dress their children in black face. I am not stupid, painting your skin black, wearing an afro and painting on red lips is not what you do to look like you have fallen out of a chimney. I do think there is a problem when people defend things that are plainly inappropriate for this day and age. There is a difference between not knowing any better and choosing not to know better.
All that said, Netherlands is a very racially progressive country. Having lived in several places I rank Netherlands quite high in terms of progression, second only to London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham. It is light years ahead of places like Glasgow, Wales or Taunton. My hope is that the silly childishness of wanting to defend racist imagery as a tradition will end.
I know some of you are in Netherlands - what do you think about Zwarte Piet? Would you actually dress your child in blackface?
Ps - I was going to link an image with this article but it is offensive to my sensibilities and so it is not here:)