Dutch slowly recognizing that tradition of Zwarte Piet is racist and weird

I CARE – – News – Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe – 2/10/2016- Over multiple years now, WorldViews has run stories about the problematic Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet. Around Christmastime, myriad Dutch adults and children have customarily donned frilly wigs, patted themselves in blackface, painted their lips red and japed around in costumes as “Black Pete,” the dark-skinned helpers of Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas. For reasons that are both obvious and complicated, many people think the tradition is racist — one that is shaped by the country’s not-so-distant colonial past and trades on garish racial stereotypes. Others, including a significant proportion of the Dutch public, are less sure. They argue that the legend of Sinterklass and his swarthy sidekicks predates any colonial entanglements and the legacy of slavery. Dressing up as the trickster figure, they say, is an innocent, jovial children’s pastime. Even minorities in the Netherlands embrace the tradition, some say. (Last year, we addressed each of those arguments here.) Protests and demonstrations from minority groups have rocked Sinterklaas celebrations in recent years in Dutch cities. In August 2015, a United Nations-convened committee on racial discrimination in Geneva called on the Dutch government to “promote the elimination of those features of the character of Black Pete which reflect negative stereotypes and are experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery.” The growing backlash to Zwarte Piet seems to have had an effect. Last year, Dutch primary schools abolished the sporting of physical markings during Sinterklaas that could be deemed offensive, including blackface, thick lips and gold earrings. And on Friday, the country’s children’s ombudsman, a post linked to the government’s oversight agency, issued a report arguing the tradition violates children’s rights.

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