Jesse Jackson calls on Rutte to abolish Zwarte Piet

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.

What’s your opinion on the Zwarte Piet debate? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Mark Rutte/Erik Smit/Pixabay & Jesse Jackson/Eric Guo/Wikimedia

Annabelle Willeme
Annabelle Willeme
Annabelle was born in Utrecht but grew up in Mali, Bosnia and Uganda. She moved back to Utrecht to study and is so far doing a terrible job getting back in touch with Dutch culture. Hopefully, it’s an upward trend from here. Besides writing she enjoys playing football, re-watching Grey’s Anatomy for the 10th time, drinking copious amounts of tea and has recently started trying to brew her own wine and beer… we’ll see how it goes.


  1. No. It is a fable.
    Everyone enjoys this fable.
    Soon everything will be white and they will scream that nothing is black only white.
    We are all the same does not matter what our skin color is and a preacher should know better if he follows the bible.
    Maybe the Americans should lay down their guns.. let’s tell them what they should do!!!

  2. Zwarte Piet is an abomination in modern times. Everyone can see this now, unless you’re somehow invested in not seeing it, either financially or some nostalgic trip to simpler times (you know, the ones with slave traders. Keep washing your hands..)

    We have a chance to nationally come clean on this and leave this continuing embarrassment behind us. We should act now.

  3. Growing up in the Netherlands I always believed in this celebration bringing people together. It highlights happiness, rewards, warmth, fun, equality and togetherness for all children. I’d like to learn how children of colour were singled out of this experience. As this would be the complete opposite of the intension and core value of this celebration.

    With regards to Jesse Jacksons’ plea to address Zarte Piet, I believe it needs to be pointed that Zwarte Piet is something entirely different as an American phenomenon called Blackface, which has a discriminatory nature. Although I admire Jesse Jackson, I hope he didn’t draw conclusions about the Dutch culture based on the American culture and has a clear understanding of the true meaning of this Dutch celebration before he reached out.

  4. Communities are already changing how they present the character of Zwarte Piet, proving that the Dutch people are quite capable of resolving the issue with the need for government to ban the character.

  5. I am Dutch, living in the States. We have enough problems for him to worry about over here. Stay on this side of the pond, Jesse, and let the Dutch handle this.

  6. Why does Jesse Jackson think he has a right to tell people what to do in a country he doesn’t even live in???? Mind your own damn business and leave the rest of the world to do what they


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