Jesse Jackson is calling on Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to abolish the racist tradition of Zwarte Piet. The letter is part of a growing call against this Dutch tradition.
The well-known American preacher and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson wrote an open letter to Rutte. The full letter can be found on the website kanttekening.
In the letter, Jackson writes that “Black Pete is an offensive relic of colonial times” and “is not seen as equal with and as fully human as the white people of the Netherlands”. He also alludes to Rutte’s personal history of playing Black Pete, saying this gives him an additional responsibility to end the offensive tradition.
A nationwide call for change
The letter comes amidst nationwide demonstrations against racism. Since the beginning of June, anti-racism protests have taken place in many Dutch cities. The protests fight against systematic discrimination, police brutality and racist traditions such as Zwarte Piet. A large part of every protest have been the activist groups ‘Zwarte Piet is Racisme’ and ‘Kick out Zwarte Piet’ who call for the end of the tradition.
Following the demonstrations, Rutte admitted that he was starting to change his mind about Zwarte Piet. After hearing about the discrimination that children of colour face due to the tradition, he stated that he has “changed his mind” regarding Zwarte Piet. Despite this, he reiterates that he won’t force people to change their traditions.
Sometimes you have to do what’s right
According to Jackson, the words of the prime minister are not sufficient. He calls on Rutte to ban the tradition for good. “There are times when it’s appropriate to be political, but sometimes its more important to just do what’s right,” says Jackson.
The Dutch cabinet has stated that they have received the letter, but have made no further statement on it. It remains to be seen if the letter will change anything.
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