Is a watered down Zwarte Piet enough? KOZP calls Grey Pete “embarrassing”

In response to growing disapproval for the traditional blackface Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) character, Sinterklaas committees in some regions have rolled out their novel Grijze Piet (Grey Pete) model. The action group Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) says they “see right through the bullshit,” according to a new press release. 

Over the past several years, the Sinterklaas tradition in the Netherlands has been met with a rapidly increasing amount of resistance. And if you thought the coronavirus pandemic might stall this year’s Zwarte Piet debates, think again.

In Eindhoven and several other municipalities, the new Grijze Piet presented by Sinterklaas committees as an alternative to the controversial character is proving just as contentious. The caricature, described as “blackface lite,” tends to maintain the red lips and afro wig of the original Zwarte Piet.

KOZP says the argument that grey doesn’t resemble skin tone is invalid. “Grey is used here, just like black, as a fictional skin colour that refers to a racist stereotyping.” The action group say that of all the creative solutions they’ve seen over the years, this one is just another form of discrimination.

Sooty Piets approved

KOZP does, however, feel that the version of Piet with a small amount of soot on his cheeks is acceptable. This Sooty Piet, or Chimney Piet solution is considered to be free of elements of anti-black racist stereotyping and has no characteristics referring to black identity and ethnicity.

In contrast, “The Grey Petes solution isn’t even worth the conversation.” The distinction is explained by the metaphor of a parent saying to a child, “‘You are no longer allowed on the phone because it is not good for your eyes.’ And then the child goes on the tablet. That parent does not argue either.”

KOZP says they will continue to protest against racist caricatures that are still a part of the Sinterklaas entry this year.

What do you think of Grijze Piet as an alternative to Zwarte Piet? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature Image: Danny den Otter, Haus of Make-up/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

Brin Andrews
Brin Andrews
Brin is an avid ice cream eater from the US, calling Amsterdam home since early 2019. As a lover of mountains, life below sea level has been a bit of an adjustment, but she manages to stay afloat with long runs, wine, and frequent travel. Incidentally, these are a few of her favourite topics to write about.


  1. Zwarte Piet is not and was not RACIST. It is only Fascists and Socialists (actually one-and-the-same) who seek only to destroy Dutch Culture that disapprove of kindly, joyful Zwarte Piet and the smiles of countless children who love him so.

    Shame on these HATE filled killjoys who do nothing but attempt to make everyone as miserable as they are.

  2. I agree Glenn! Fed up with political correct people who let this happen. And I don’t even live in the Netherlands!

  3. I disagree and don’t understand why Dutch society can’t seem to find a way and celebrate Sinterklaas without the offense Zwarte Piet character. There are so many alternatives possible, then why insist on a dubious black face character


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