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Netherlands: Criticism of Dutch 'Black Pete' tradition grows

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Criticism of Dutch 'Black Pete' tradition grows

 

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AMSTERDAM — Foreigners visiting the Netherlands in winter are often surprised to see that the Dutch version of St. Nicholas’ helpers have their faces painted black, wear Afro wigs and have thick red lips — in short, a racist caricature of a black person.

 

The overwhelming majority of Dutch are fiercely devoted to the holiday tradition of “Zwarte Piet” — whose name means “Black Pete” — and insist he’s a harmless fictional figure who doesn’t represent any race. But a growing number are questioning whether “Zwarte Piet” should be given a makeover or banished from the holiday scene, seeing him as a blight on the nation’s image as a bulwark of tolerance.

 

“There is more opposition to Zwarte Piet than you might think,” says Jessica Silversmith, director of the regional Anti-Discrimination Bureau for Amsterdam.

 

More below:

http://triblive.com/news/editorspicks/3074866-74/piet-zwarte-dutch-black-pete-sinterklaas-tradition-anti-holiday-kids#axzz2E0RqbyEW


"You don't just walk into a bar and mix it up by calling a girl fat" - buildingcincinnati speaking about new forumers

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Not only are Zwarte Pieten all over the place in the flesh, but they sell cookies and toys and everything with the black faces and big red lips. Oh, and of course stores sell face-painting kits with black face paint and red lipstick so you yourself can be a Zwarte Piet.

 

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Yet the ever-"tolerant" Dutch see nothing wrong with it.

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The Netherlands and the Dutch Empire has a very, very checkered record of tolerance.  There are so many racist notions floating around Europe that mostly go unchecked and unchallenged because of the largely monochromatic society.

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How is this fundamentally different from, say, the Notre Dame fighting Irishman mascot?  Or Super Mario?  There's no negativity associated here.....

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Maybe it's because PETA would freak if Santa hung out with ravens.

The notion that Saint Nick might have had a dark skinned servant/slave/student wouldn't be unimaginable.

There's a bunch of legends of Santa's pals. Krampus is my favorite. Most seem to be a bad cop to Claus' good cop shtick. Whatever, scaring kids is always good.

Maybe he should be condemned for enslaving dwarves in a polar dungeon & forcing them to manufacture toys under the threat of sorcerous punishments.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwarte_Piet#Origin_and_evolution

"Riding the white horse Sleipnir {Wodan} flew through the air as the leader of the Wild Hunt. He was always accompanied by two black ravens, Huginn and Muninn. [2] Those helpers would listen, just like Zwarte Piet, at the chimney - which was just a hole in the roof at that time - to tell Wodan about the good and bad behaviours of the mortals."

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^Imagine saying that in 1935 Berlin.


"You don't just walk into a bar and mix it up by calling a girl fat" - buildingcincinnati speaking about new forumers

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There is no hurtful message behind the caricature, in fact quite the opposite.  People who are offended by it are, in the logical sense, misinterpreting it completely.

 

It’s like the swastikas appearance in Hindu culture; people may look at it and be offended, because they aren’t familiar with Hindu culture or the symbols historical significance. 

 

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Projecting our social issues onto other cultures' traditions is fun!

Dutch people are western and were colonizers. Afrikaners ring a bell? They should know better. Their culture is our culture when it comes to something like this.

 

Another fun fact: Sinterklaas doesn't come from the North Pole. He comes from Spain. On a boat.

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There is no hurtful message behind the caricature, in fact quite the opposite.  People who are offended by it are, in the logical sense, misinterpreting it completely.

 

It’s like the swastikas appearance in Hindu culture; people may look at it and be offended, because they aren’t familiar with Hindu culture or the symbols historical significance. 

 

 

Exactly.  ZP is who he is, and he's not a figure of ridicule.  He's no more racist than Santa is age-ist/weight-ist or the elves are height-ist.

 

It's ironic that those who bemoan the americanization of global culture seem more likely to get all offended when a local tradition clashes with same in a politically incorrect manner.  Hell, the ZP tradtion seems to be older than the USA itself.

 

THANK YOU for the reminder of Krampus.  But ZP isn't even him, he's a benign figure.  Knecht Ruprecht, on the other hand....

 

American Christmas characters are, of course, all quite polite and devout.

 

mr-hankeys-christmas-picture.jpg

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There is no hurtful message behind the caricature, in fact quite the opposite.  People who are offended by it are, in the logical sense, misinterpreting it completely.

 

It’s like the swastikas appearance in Hindu culture; people may look at it and be offended, because they aren’t familiar with Hindu culture or the symbols historical significance. 

 

 

I've heard this before and it's as ridiculous an argument now as it was then. Go ahead and wear a shirt with a swastika and let me know how that works out for you.

 

Sorry, but the general acceptance of certain things change over time. The swastika might have meant something different 100 years ago. It doesn't now. It has forever been changed.

 

The same with Black Pete. Let's ask the black people on UO what they think of the Dutch custom. Blackface has negative connotations for 100% of black people. If the Dutch want to keep doing it, I wouldn't tell them to stop. But don't expect the rest of the world to just shrug it off as a quaint olde tyme custom. Plus, as Natininja points out, the Dutch history of colonialism isn't exactly 'lily white'. <cough cough> Apartheid <Cough>

 

Hey, I'm going to put one of those black jockies on my front yard. It's a statement about the underrepresentation of African Americans in horse racing. Who's with me?

 

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Sorry AJ93 but you are advocating a history free lowest common denominator approach. This is the same attitude that people in the USA today have towards Islam based solely on recent Islamic terrorist activity.

Will you want to go around & tear up meander patterns in tile work next? Bomb the Sphinx?

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No, I'm not saying we destroy historical artifacts. I'm saying you can't use it in current context and expect the same level of acceptance.  Would you build a tile mosaic today with a swastika pattern? Would you perform Mammy in blackface?

 

things aren't (forgive the pun) black and white with things like this. You have to expect that, particularly with the two situations we're discussing here, where there are strong negative connotations with a certain symbol or act, you may have to modify the tradition.

 

Or not. Again, if the Dutch want to keep doing it, go for it. Just don't expect everyone to embrace it.

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No, I'm not saying we destroy historical artifacts. I'm saying you can't use it in current context and expect the same level of acceptance.  Would you build a tile mosaic today with a swastika pattern? Would you perform Mammy in blackface?

 

things aren't (forgive the pun) black and white with things like this. You have to expect that, particularly with the two situations we're discussing here, where there are strong negative connotations with a certain symbol or act, you may have to modify the tradition.

 

Or not. Again, if the Dutch want to keep doing it, go for it. Just don't expect everyone to embrace it.

 

It's also important to keep in mind that there are a lot of people for whom being offended is a beloved hobby.  These days, there are also those who have turned it into a profession.

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