Finally: Amsterdam stops funding Sinterklaas parades containing Zwarte Piet

Bye, Zwarte Piet. The mayor of Amsterdam has confirmed that the city will no longer grant funding to Sinterklaas parades that contain the controversial character.

New to the Netherlands? You may not have heard of Zwarte Piet โ€” and breaking down the reasons why he is controversial could warrant a book in itself.

READ MORE | Zwarte Piet: the full guide to the Netherlandsโ€™ most controversial tradition

To summarise, each year, the Netherlands welcomes Sinterklaas back into the Netherlands and the holiday season begins โ€” but he brings with him an unsavoury reminder of the colonial past, Zwarte Pieten.

Traditional Zwarte Pieten are usually (white) Dutch people dressed wearing black face and body paint, as well as hooped earrings, afro wigs and overlined red lips. Hopefully, why this is controversial is self-evident.

The character has led to many protests and debates in recent years throughout the Netherlands. And in 2018, the political party, BIJ1, asked the Amsterdam city council about whether or not such a character should be allowed to be present at the city’s annual welcome of Sinterklaas.

Finally, an answer

And Amsterdam has officially said no. Or at least, the city will no longer support any Sinterklaas parades that do contain Zwarte Pieten. Mayor or Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, announced this in response to BIJ1’s questions.

She said that the city “understands that the figure of Zwarte Piet is offensive for many Amsterdammers to experience” and that Amsterdam shares BIJ1’s views that “the use of the figure is offensive because of the racist characteristics and that it would be good if Zwarte Piet wasn’t part of Sinterklaas’s parades.”

What does this mean?

So how will this look in terms of action? The city, which subsidises Sinterklaas parades, will no longer grant funding to any parades that will contain traditional Zwarte Pieten.

The city states that it does this “in the context of anti-discrimination and the importance to align with urban policy” and explains that it has notified applicants for a Sinterklaas parade subsidy that “an application for a subsidy in which Zwarte Piet plays a role will be rejected.”

Instead, applying parades should either ditch the figure altogether or replace it with Sootie Piets or Rainbow Piets.

READ MORE | Support for Zwarte Piet drops significantly, new survey finds

Meanwhile, the city also points out that an outright ban on the controversial character is not possible, as this infringes on personal liberties. It hopes that in making the step to refuse funding, it will reduce the appearance of the harmful figure overall.

What are your thoughts on this move by Amsterdam? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Tony Taylorstock/Depositphotos

Sarah O'Leary ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช
Sarah originally arrived in the Netherlands due to an inability to make her own decisions โ€” she was simply told by her mother to choose the Netherlands for Erasmus. Life here has been challenging (have you heard the language) but brilliant for Sarah, and she loves to write about it. When Sarah is not acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her sitting in a corner of Leiden with a coffee, trying to sound witty.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The origins of zwarte piet are not clear and do not indicate slavery etc. So this is thought policing and dangerously politically driven

  2. Zwarte Piet is a truly beloved helper of Sinterklaas who only brings joy, happiness and smiles to children. As he freely gives pepernoten and other goodies to all children (asking nothing in return) he is a symbol of genuine kindness and compassion which is surely self evident.

    While the termagant mayor of Amsterdams seeks to rid the city of Piet and his cheerfulness by refusing to fund his good deeds, we are comforted by the fact (and her admission) she canโ€™t simply outlaw this sweet, loving character who has been a part of Dutch culture for generations. Long Live Zwarte Piet!

  3. My religious Dutch mother-in-law has never liked Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaus because of their link to Catholicism. The Netherlands used to be a Calvinist nation & is known as a Protestant country do I have been very surprised by this tradition. People of color find Black Peter offensive & some white people are whining about their “rights” to a colonial tradition by calling it “thought policing” which is hilarious given how unaware these people are of how Colonialism was the ultimate “thought policing!”

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