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Dutch Self-Image Shaken by ‘Black Pete’ Debate

Dutch Eredivisie - De Graafschap v Roda JC KerkradeThe Dutch see themselves as tolerant pragmatists, especially adaptable when social harmony or commercial interests demand it of them.

But that self-image has taken a battering in recent weeks as a growing chorus of voices inside and outside the country protest against a Christmas tradition that many Dutch see as harmless fun, but critics say is racist.

According to the folklore, Saint Nicholas arrives in the Netherlands in mid-November accompanied by his servant Black Pete – a role usually played by a white man in “blackface” with a curly wig and large, red-painted mouth.

Now the Dutch are being forced to confront the possibility that their enormously popular Christmas tradition might point to a latent racism which many thought was anathema to their culture.

Few debates have stirred such emotion among the cool-headed Dutch. Millions flocked to “like” a Facebook page backing Black Pete after an independent expert, who reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council, criticized the tradition.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has rejected depictions of the Netherlands as insular and xenophobic.

“I do not recognize ourselves in that portrayal,” he told reporters last week when asked whether the Netherlands no longer tolerated outsiders.

But that is the point that has been exposed by the debate, according to Quinsy Gario, an artist who has campaigned against the Black Pete tradition for years.

“We’ve lied to ourselves about our tolerance for so long that we don’t recognize discrimination anymore,” he said. “There has been structural exclusion of minorities for decades.”

He said the children of the many immigrants to the Netherlands were becoming increasingly vocal about confronting signs of racism that their parents may have chosen to ignore.

“You have third- and fourth- generation people who see it as their own country and they want to take responsibility for their own and their kids’ sake,” he said.

Read the entire article on Reuters

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3 thoughts on “Dutch Self-Image Shaken by ‘Black Pete’ Debate

  1. Scott Cordell says:

    INTENT would be the key word here… It is a celebration of African-Europeans as part of Holland's most important Religious Holiday. African-Europeans need to decide if this is acceptable: should the tradition continue, should the role be played by a African-European, or should it be discontinued… The decision should be voted on by African-Europeans living in Holland. I have seen the Dutch, and they mean no offense; but the question isn't for white Dutch or for me…. Do African-Europeans living in Holland take offense to it…? A vote.

  2. Any intelligent person who has researched the real history of the Dutch can certify that theirs is the true "Heart of Darkness" – from the atrocities during the colonial period in the harvesting of rubber and Caribbean slavery to the ongoing corporate imperialist period of mining diamonds and other natural resources/minerals for "our" convenience today. Not to mention the rape of Congolese females at the rate of 45 per hour between the ages of 8 months and 85 years. Just ask Sinter Klaus and his 7 pygmies aka "elves"…

  3. Odilly Louise says:

    its pure RACISM! cause the black pete will even have a accent from Suriname and I can go on and on. I'm dutch.. born and raised in 020.. my family goes back to 1634 all born and raised in Amsterdam. Trust me when I say… this celebration will go on. The Dutch don't care.

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