Prime Minister Rutte has revealed that his opinion on Zwarte Piet has changed over the past years.

Before, the Prime Minister was very much on the side of keeping Zwarte Piet in blackface: “I also belonged to the group that said: ‘Zwarte Piet is simply black’,” he said during a debate in parliament on Thursday, when the anti-racism protests were discussed, NU.nl reports.

However, he said that his opinion changed over time, following conversations with people who made their objections to the tradition clear. . “When I met people who said: ‘I feel incredibly discriminated against, because that Piet is black’, I thought: that is the last thing you want at the Sinterklaas party.”

Rutte does not want to use the term “institutional racism”

This conversation took place during a debate about institutional racism. Rutte says that he does not want to use this term, as it would cause too much resistance among white Dutch people. He imagines that they think that they were being called racists, and would turn away from the movement. This slightly misses the point that racism is ingrained in everyone.

Rutte also thinks the term “institutional racism” is “sociological jargon” and instead prefers to use “structural racism”, though he does admit that institutional racism exists in the Netherlands, at the urging of DENK MP Tunahan Kuzu and GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver.

Government will not intervene in Zwarte Piet tradition

As for concrete action in banning Zwarte Piet, Rutte says that this is not something the government should do. He believes the tradition is already changing. “In a few years, those Pieten will no longer be black, I expect. It is a folk culture that changes over time under the pressure of the social debate.”

What did you think of Rutte’s statement on Zwarte Piet? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Feature Image: Minister-president Rutte/Flickr

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