|Zwarte Piet - MOTI - Black Pete, our own Dutch Afro-Spanish helper of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas)|
Zwarte Piet means Black Pete, who is the black helper of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus. Opponents of Zwarte Piet often refer to the phenomenon ‘blackface’, which is creating a stereotype of a black person. In the United States of America, stereotypes were eagerly used in theaters and films from 1830 until the 1960’s. Caucasian men painted themselves black and then acted out a caricature of a black person. Prejudices such as dumb, lazy, deceitful, coward and thief were often interwoven in the character. Below is a film of a so called ‘blackface performance’. The use of the stereotype of a black person can be found all over the world. According to opponents of Zwarte Piet, the Dutch version of a blackface performance can be found in this children’s holiday.
Proponent of holding on to Zwarte Piet, want to honor a national tradition and claim that Sinterklaas is a holiday for children. Children are not concerned about the color of the skin of Zwarte Piet or any prejudices concerning his appearance. Proponents also claim that Zwarte Piet is no slave or caricature, but a chimney sweeper. His black color could also be caused by climbing up and down all those chimneys, in order to deliver all those gifts to the children. Zwarte Piet is no more than a silly help of Sinterklaas, who brings gifts and candy to kids. Another pragmatically argument is the fun of having a neighbor or uncle dressed up unrecognizably to children. This discussion will probably blow over after the 5th of December, the official holiday en will be renewed the following year.
I don't agree Sinterklaas is the 'Dutch version of Santa Claus', as Santa Claus is the American version of Sinterklaas! Check out Wikipedia to read more about this Dutch cultural figure, once said to be flying in the sky over New York (as steamboats were old-fashioned) being the predecessor of Santa :)