Criticism is rising internationally towards a traditional Christmas character in Dutch society that several people are calling an oppressive reincarnation.
St. Nicholas Day, celebrated in the Netherlands on December 6, represents the arrival of Santa Claus and his stogie, “Zwarte Piet” or Black Pete. Zwarte Piet works as an elf, assisting Santa with the delivery of Christmas gifts and sweets to good children. (Naughty kids apparently get kidnapped in a sack and taken to Spain.
What some Dutch citizens find problematic is the racist ideology that the ‘blackface’ process exudes within their society, the Associated Press reports. White women often dress up in an afro wig and cover their faces with black make up to mimic the fable character. With a Moorish costume and Joker-like appearance, Zwarte Piet has been connected to 20th century representations of minstrelsy and golliwogs. The image also propagates Dutch imperialism and slavery, oppositionists believe.
Zwarte Piet has yet to be condemned by modern Dutch society, with many believing that the reason why the character is black is because he collects soot on his face as he rushes down the chimney to deliver gifts.
Other Dutch citizens refuse to remain quiet about what they believe is an outdated and racist issue.
“It started out without Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet is the time to go through with it without Black Pete,” Dutch politician Andrée Christine van Es told AP.
Jessica Silversmith, the director of the Anti-Discrimination Bureau for Amsterdam, said that although it’s not a major agreement in the Netherlands, criticism is spreading — fast.
“It’s not only Antilleans or Surinamers who are complaining,” she told AP, referring to individuals who descended from Dutch colonies that used to be involved with the slave trade. “It’s all kinds of Dutch people.”
According to Dutch police, racism that is generated by the Zwarte Piet costume is real. AP reported that Dutch Police who went undercover during holiday parties said they had to arrest several people for slurs and discriminatory comments.