The Zwarte Piet debate isn’t over yet, in fact it’s being discussed more than ever, considering the fact that Sinterklaas is only this week.

In a FB post which is causing all kinds of discussion today, it’s raising more questions about the impact on the black community because of the ‘Zwarte Piet’ character. A mum posted a video of her child innocently playing outside, when another child is shouting ‘Zwarte Piet’ at him. The title of the video as seen below is “Evelien Eva is feeling sad.”
In the description of the video she writes:

Today I walked through the streets with my 2-year-old son, when a child started calling to him. “Hey, black Pete!” Hey! Little black Pete! “Come with your gingerbread candy!” This lasted for a few minutes, and I finally decided to record it.

Maybe you think this is innocent, it breaks my heart. My child is not a caricature. He is not a clown. He is not a bogey man. He is not a servant. He is not black like soot. He is an ordinary boy with dark curls and a smile that makes your heart melt.

Although many adults argue that “black Pete” is really very different from someone of non-white origin, the parables with certain ethnicities have not escaped the kids. And it shows.

Now Elijah is still too young, but will I have to explain to him in a few years why others compare him to black Pete?

Please people, for children it makes no difference whether their Pete is black, red or blue… Black face painting or an Afro wig is really not necessary to make a child happy or to turn a party into an actual party. Rainbow or soot Piet, whatever, let the Black Pete disappear and make this party fun for ALL kids!!

#ZwartePietisracisme

To some people, it is racist

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The difficulty with this whole debate is people say it doesn’t offend them, but what about the people it does offend? Some actual Dutch citizens (it’s not always internationals) don’t like it and if it really is as simple as spreading actual soot on the face, then why can’t that be changed if that’s really the case?

In this instance it’s really sad that a child so young is being shouted out down the street like that. If it is affecting people – which it is. If it is offending people – which it is. Then a serious (as if enough don’t happen already) debate needs to be had on it. Culture is culture, but if it is upsetting your citizens, then please listen to them.

What do you think about the whole debate out there in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Much as I love the tradition that I grew up with, we’ve got to face it: is just not of this day and age anymore. Let’s face it, we grew up with rampant sexism (even worse than now) in the media and we had to change that too. We have to be open to change, and be empathetic with people of color who have just as much of a right to a fun Sinterklaas as anyone in the Netherlands. I like the modification to Soot Piets (the Rainbow Piets are a little too far fetched for me). Let’s make it a Zwarte (Soot) Piet for the 21st century!

  2. I thought I was going to see a video of kids bullying a black kid. That would have been bad – but I think something else is going on here. We can’t really see the kid in the distance, nor hear him very well, but he actually sounds friendly. Chances are he likes the black toddler because he associates him with Black Pete, who is a very popular character with Dutch kids. That’s the up side of having a black role model, because there are far too few.

    Now I guess the kid who’s shouting is five years old, way too young to understand that the little boy or the mother might take offense, but of course he has to learn that Black Pete is cool but calling real people Black Pete is not cool.

    Still, I wonder if the kid’s mom would also have taken offense if the kid in the street had confused her son with another black hero. The problem is, we don’t appear to have any other black hero at the moment.

  3. When I first moved the Netherlands, I didn’t think much of Zwarte Piet, I thought it was just a harmless joke but most of my black friends (I’m black too) hated it and I didn’t really understand why until.

    A few years later, I was sitting at Schipol, a little white kid point at me and said “ mama kijk, zwarte piet” , her mother only laughed and moved on.

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