01 December 2014

'Black Pete' deemed appropriate in Netherlands Kingdom

'Black Pete' controversy stirs up Netherlands

By Michael Pearson, CNN

Police detain an anti-Black Pete demonstrator in Gouda, Netherlands, on Saturday.
Police detain an anti-Black Pete demonstrator in Gouda, Netherlands..

(CNN) -- The Dutch version of festive St. Nicholas is once again landing on the naughty list for some in the Netherlands, who say his Black Pete sidekick is a racist throwback to the colonial era.

Protesters gathered Sunday at Amsterdam's festival honoring St. Nicholas -- or Sinterklaas as he is known in Dutch -- a day after 90 people were arrested in demonstrations surrounding his ceremonial arrival in country at the Dutch city of Gouda.

They carried signs reading, "Black Pete is racism."

Only one person was arrested in Sunday's event, according to CNN affiliate RTL and Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

Actors dressed as Black Pete arrive on a boat  in Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday.

Dutch blackface tradition debated

In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas is accompanied by a dark-skinned figure, often played by whites in black face who wear curly afro-style wigs and red lip coloring.

The character sometimes visits private home and hands out candy to children but also is reputed to take away the naughty ones.

The tradition has grown increasingly contentious in recent years, with the United Nations arguing last year in favor of a national dialogue on the practice.

Experts working under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Humam Rights last year said people of African descent found the character's depiction "rooted in unacceptable, colonial attitudes that they find racist and offensive."

The Dutch government replied that it was aware that the practice was offensive to some, and that it had received dozens of complaints a year concerning Black Pete since 2011.

Last week, a high-level Dutch court declined to rule on the controversy.


And The War For Black Pete Continues

Black Pete
WILLEMSTAD, THE HAGUE – The war between those who are in favor of the traditional Dutch Black Pete and those who are against it continues. A war that basically started last year is still fierce this year.

Now the Dutch political party PVV wants a law that indicates how the Black Pete is supposed to look like. The so-called Zwarte Piet-law was introduced last night by the party. The law further provides that municipalities may only participate in a Sint Nicolaas parade if the Petes are black or dark brown.

It is not yet clear how other parties feel towards the bill.

PVV MP Martin Bosma believes that there is an ongoing war against Zwarte Piet. “Ministers and Mayors are committed to giving these loyal helpers a different color. That should not happen. Our culture should not be affected from above.” The PVV believes that Zwarte Piet has nothing to do with racism.

In the bill, the PVV is very specific about the appearance of Zwarte Piet. “A Black Piet has a solid black or dark brown face, red painted lips, black curly hair and gold earrings, and is dressed in a velvety suit with knickerbockers and wears a hat with a colored feather,” as it reads.

Sint Nicolaas and his helpers, the Black Petes, will enter Willemstad, this Saturday while the war continues. Since a few years now, the Petes have had various face colors.

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