maandag 28 oktober 2013

Sinterklaas and Black Piet

Give me my soap-box.

The pre Christmas tradtion here of "Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet" is causing at long last a bit of a storm.

Sinterklaas himself is a lovely story and I enjoy my children having a part and believing it. However it is his Black 'helpers' that make me unformfortable. Many Dutch people take no offence (especially if they themselves are white) in a tradition of allowing a white Bishop (Saint Nicholas) to be served/followed by a large group of Black Piets. Many here see no irony (this land is supposed to be fair, equal and tolerant..) of ONLY white people being 'blacked up', wearing Black afros, bright red lipstick, gold earrings and white gloves. They follow and help Sint Niklaas prepare for his present giving evening on 5th Deceember. the helpers are called Black Piets - they say because they are going down the chimney. They look like the black and white minstrels. They are walking gollywogs. They are mimicing a slave figure from a bygone era.

These terms and traditions were unacceptable to any race knowing anything about civil rights and the movement in the 50s, 60 and 70s that made us move forward. Still not far enough in lots of cases.

If Black Piet here really has just gone down the chimney and is not a depiction of a slave - then take the afro wig off, wipe the black make up off and put a bit of soot on the face of any race that calls the Netherlands their home. Roll on seeing Piets with heritage from all over the world running around helping Sinterklaas with his very important duties on the evening of the 5th December.

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