Jehan: If the internet has taught me anything, it's that folk from the US are incredibly neurotic about shit like this due to their deeply shameful history of slavery.
By the way I don't get this "Let's only ask the people perpetuating the racist tradition whether it's racist" meme. I certainly would understand if people of any nationality pointed out how crazy racist, say, my American hometown football team's name is. If anything they'd probably have a better perspective!
I think the problem has a fair two sides and it is all about perspective.
it's a kids event, never intended to be racist in any way. Historic heritage might be a bit dodgy but so it the history of santa claus. But like santa claus the thing is intended to be just fun. not a racist, massocistic, murdering or any of the many other bad things that are in the history of both traditions.
On the other hand Sinterklaas is different because it has similarities with black-face. This was a very racist practice where it was not allowed for black actors to play on a stage, therefor white actors would paint their faces black to represent black people. I completely agree that this was a very racist thing to do. The similarity is also striking with what is happening with sinterklaas, white people painting their faces black to represent a historic black slave.
The difference in this case would be that I've seen black actors play a zwarte piet. the act of segrigation that is core to black-face is not part of what is going on here, but still the connection between the two is there.
the thing we have to considers here is this. If we make zwarte piet whatever race the person is we want it will be hard to disquize the piet from the person he/she is. The black paint makes for a good cover and children will fall for it every time. another side effect is that on a boat with pieten the sint will stand out, as he is the main guest in this party it is only natural to give him this kind of position. the same is used by pop stars to stand out among their dancers on stage. So my question is, would sinterklaas work without piet being black? would a multi-color version work or is there a solution the the main anonimity problem we get from not applying face paint?
I don't think banning the tradition is an option also changing it rapidly will destroy the magic for the children who still believe. I hate seeing children cry, let alone hear it ;-). So what to do? Well like blokker, hema and many other companies that have sinterklaas things pieten are slowly been taken out of the picture. slowly transforming the image of the piet and focussing on other things than the black face paint. I don't know if a piet without the paint will work but we'll see.
Zwarte Piet is Racisme -- or "Black Peter is Racism" -- might as well be Dutch for "shots fired."
Activist Quinsy Gario was recently beaten and arrested for publicly protesting -- and using that highly charged slogan -- at a Dutch Christmas celebration in an attempt to call attention to a very simple fact: The depiction of Zwarte Piet, a beloved Santa's-helper folk character in the Netherlands, is racist
Gario came to the Netherlands with his mother for the first time in 1987. He says he never really noticed the Zwarte Piets during his first few years in the country, but one day his mother came home from work in shock because the receptionist had called her the office’s own “Zwarte Piet” as she entered the building. Ever since, the character has appeared throughout his poetry and artwork.
Ah, my home, The Netherlands. Tourists from all over the world wax lyrical about the tulips, the windmills and the widely available weed. What these tourists hardly ever get to see is how institutionalized racism works in this country and the lengths the State will go to in order to protect it. Or how, if you are personally affected by this racism and you summon the strength to protest it, you will be brutally beaten up and arrested.
Now, here is the thing: this is a small country. All matters of racism happen here but they go unreported in international mainstream media because the Dutch language is mostly inaccessible to the world at large. So, these matters remain untold, underreported, downplayed or just ignored.
Over the years, a small but growing group of people have been protesting this celebration of Black face costumes and ridiculing of minorities. Systematically, these protests have been met with a very strong and stubborn resistance from a majority of White Dutch who refuse to even consider the racist implications of this “tradition”. Those who are against the Black Pete depictions are consistently told that there is nothing offensive in it, that the tradition is not up for debate, that they are being oversensitive and that, and here comes the usual xenophobic retort, “if they don’t like it, they should go and live some place else”. Additionally, people who speak against this are also told that they are importing North American models of “political correctness” that have no place in Dutch society. Moreover, the supporters of these Black face depictions are adamant that there is nothing, absolutely nothing racist in Black Pete’s representations and that claiming otherwise is the result of a cultural imperialism brought upon by North American influences. According to supporters, Dutch culture is so different from that of the US and the context so incomparable that such discussion should not even take place. Any attempt at contextualizing the role of the Dutch in slavery in the Americas and how the continuation of these racist practices owes everything to the mindset that made such trade possible is met with protestations and the statement that “only Americans see offense in Black face, we, the Dutch, are obviously different and not racist in our traditions”. In sum, what they claim is that the rights of White people to don Black face are more or less sacrosanct and native Dutch children have a right to the continuation of this “tradition” undisputed.
LucVdB: They need to live and let live
In recent articles American historian Ann Laura Stoler has introduced the concept of ‘aphasia’ for describing metaphorically the cultural ‘inability to recognize things in the world and assign proper names to them’, especially in matters relating to the colonial past in Western societies. Taking this concept as a lead, the author analyzes an incident in the Netherlands in November 2011, when two young black Dutchmen were arrested for wearing a T-shirt on which the phrase ‘Zwarte Piet is racism’ was printed. Zwarte Piet [Black Peter] is the imaginary character in blackface acting as the helper of Sinterklaas, the central figure in the Dutch ritual of gift-giving thas has its apex on 5 December. For some decades now, there has been a debate in the Netherlands as to the precise nature of this blackface. By and large the Dutch deny, as was again the case in the aftermath of this arrest, any relation to a portrayal in caricature of a black person, producing instead associations that are difficult to grasp. After presenting the arguments of opponents of Zwarte Piet that there is such a connection, termed racist, the author focuses on the performance context of Zwarte Piet’s presence, in order to try to understand why Dutchmen generally fail to make this connection. In an epilogue the author makes a plea for going beyond the mere conclusion that Zwarte Piet is contested. Sharing himself the protesters’ perception of Zwarte Piet being racist, in his view the metaphor of cultural aphasia obliges professional ethnologists to re-associate this connection as well, and to make this known to the general public.
He's not a Negro, he's a chimney sweep
Right. A chimney sweep. A white, sooty chimney sweep. Okay. Have you ever climbed down a chimney? It's fun, you should try it. We guarantee you will not emerge with an evenly blackened face, bright red lips, gold hoop earrings [...] As a racist caricature of a black man, in short. If he's going to be a chimney sweep, why not upgrade to 2012 and make him a bit more of a realistic one. A couple of black streaks instead of, well, an offensive black-hating image of a blackface minstrel.
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