The conversation surrounding Black Face has been a hot topic for weeks now, after Megan Kelly was fired from NBC for her ridiculous comments about the insulting look. But did you know that there is a whole Dutch holiday that celebrates Christmas by rocking Black face and pretending to be Saint Nicholas’ elves?
Sinterklaas is the Netherlands version of Christmas, and according to Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, arrives in the Netherlands from Spain each November for a visit and delivers sweets and presents to well-behaved children on the night of December 5th. Sinterklaas’s helpers, called the Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes allegedly have Black faces because they come down the chimney to bring you your presents.
So every year, Dutch people paint their faces black and rock thick, painted-on lips, a black curly wig and thick gold hoop earrings. The tradition began in the late 15th century, but it’s not until now that folks are realizing the Black Petes character is hella racist.
@Junorbits tweeted, “Anyways for anyone who thinks dutch ppl are amazing ask them about sinterklaas and if they say that they still want zwarte piet with all the blackface call them trashy racists bc thats what they are!”
But believe it or not, Dutch people don’t see the issue with their beloved Zwarte Pieten. Journalist Sophie McBain wrote piece about the controversial holiday for Newstatesman.com, and spoke candidly about why folks in the Netherlands don’t want us f***ing with their holiday:
“No one likes their festive traditions tampered with – imagine trying to implement a countrywide ban on Christmas trees in the UK – but emotions over Sinterklaas run deeper. Most Dutch people identify themselves as inherently liberal, yet attacks on Zwarte Piet have been construed as an attack on Dutch identity – which is political dynamite, given the rapid growth of the far-right in recent years. The deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher’s insistence that “You can’t say the whole of Holland is racist” has struck a chord with many who feel aggrieved that a beloved childhood tradition has attracted such condemnation.”
Places like Amsterdam have taken steps to shift the offensive Zwarte Pieten tradition by officially adopted a Soot Piet, a character with streaks of black across the face, so it looks like he actually came down a chimney. But other Netherlanders are going hard to keep Black Pete, black. The Washington Post reported about a school in Utrecht, which banned Zwarte Piet in 2015, that had to call police after pro-Zwarte Piet campaigners dressed in blackface barged into classrooms. They harassed some of the teachers and told them to “go back to your country.”
And let’s not forget Dutch-Antillean activist Quinsy Gario who was beaten and arrested in Amsterdam for wearing a “Zwarte Piet Is Racism” T-shirt in 2011.
The Zwarte Piet debate is still an ongoing one, but what is there to debate about? It’s racist AF. Hit us up on FB and Twitter to share your thoughts.
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