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.
— Caroline Voorbergen 🐾🌱 (@Caro_Voorbergen) September 17, 2015
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.