Home / Multiculturalism / Racism / Dutch Christmas is Racist According to the UN

Dutch Christmas is Racist According to the UN

The UN is Stirring the Pot about ‘Black Pete’

black-pete-netherlands The Netherlands continues to face pressure over a Christmas tradition more than 200 years old. According to centuries old folklore, Black Pete is Father Christmas’s servant who climbs down chimneys to help him deliver presents to children.  But critics say the character, known in Dutch as Zwarte Piet and depicted with a painted black face, large red lips and an afro is a racist caricature that harks back to the country’s colonial era. “The character must speak poor Dutch with a stupid accent, and must act childlike and mischievous when performing,” Siji Jabber writes for The Guardian. Songs sung by school children about Black Pete include the lyrics: “Even if I’m black as coal I mean well”. [9] [34]  The Dutch tradition continued without protest or notice until two years ago when a Jamaican UN observer took offense at the practice of white celebrants in black face and dressed as the character who serves as a kindly foil to the strict version of the Dutch Santa Claus. Now the Dutch government has to regularly answer to the UN for what they are doing about it. [10] The United Nations claims the Netherlands has breached the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination with its traditional Christmas celebration. [1]

Jerry King Luther Afriyie

Jerry King Luther Afriyie

In the first UN meetings about the issue since last Christmas the Dutch government this week made a commitment to “change” the character of Zwarte Piet but not to eliminate him. The government is riding a fine line between satisfying citizens — who love the character and tradition — and complying with the demands of the United Nations. The Dutch government actually took steps last year to institute change in how Zwarte Piet is perceived. Last year the parade was flooded with individuals, both male and female, depicting the sidekick of Sinterklaas in natural skin tones or in faces painted in all kinds of colors with vivid variations in Black Pete’s costuming. Traditionalists were critical of the changes and critics were NOT appeased. Since Christmas 2013 this has been a major issue in the Netherlands. A group called Zwarte Piet is Racism, which opposes the tradition, argues that the image “perpetuates a stereotyped image of African people and people of African descent as second-class citizens, fostering an underlying sense of inferiority within Dutch society and stirring racial differences as well as racism”. “We are supposed to be living in the most tolerant and anti-racist country in the world,” Jerry King Luther Afriyie, a Ghanaian-born Dutch citizen who is a member of the group told the BBC. “In the 21st Century there should be no room for racism, especially open racism.” [36] As outside forces driven by the United Nations claim the tradition is racist stubborn Dutch traditionalists say the cultural icon of Zwarte Piet is loving and misunderstood. [10]

Protesters Clash at Dutch ‘Black Pete’ Event

protestThe debate raged to new levels last November during the traditional parade opening the holiday season when Saint Nicholas and Black Pete make their traditional entrance. Hundreds of parade-goers — dressed as Black Pete — clashed with out-of-the-country protesters who created a scene while being arrested. Scuffles between people supporting and protesting the historical Christmas figure began when Saint Nicholas came out on to the balcony of the main square and protesters held up a banner, saying: “Black Pete Racism”.  These confrontations happened in front of children and families. Dutch police have arrested 90 people after protesters clashed at a children’s festival in the city of Gouda celebrating the controversial Christmas character, ‘Black Pete’, usually portrayed by a white person with a blacked up face.  “Arrests were made on both sides,” according to police spokeswoman Yvette Verboon, as the debate surrounding the Christmas tradition continues to polarise Dutch society, Al Jazeera reports. [14] [32] [35]

Dutch Christmas: The British Documentary


Useful idiot Russell Brand

A documentary about the Dutch Christmas tradition has fuelled the debate. The film shows two Black Petes wearing blackface, an Afro-wig and golden earrings strolling through a London park, going about their traditional job of handing out sweets as they would do in The Netherlands, whilst the camera crew capture onlookers’ reactions. [6] Russell Brand is amongst the perplexed Brits appearing in the documentary, offering his view on the customary garb and the sweets, which include a black marzipan face with red lips which stretch from ear to ear.  “What this tradition does, is it dehumanises people that are of a different ethnicity and it reduces them to a lower status of either toys or a degenerative role as servants,” Mr Brand told the Petes and the audience back in the Netherlands.  “In this country we think of Holland as a very advanced nation with advanced social principles, so it’s very surprising to see this kind of tradition”, he said.  [6] As you can see, liberals are baffled at the fact that Dutch people don’t react very well when asked to confront the apparent racism of their beloved Christmas-time figure.  Here’s how a writer at Slate summed up the experience in 2011:

Trying to tell a Dutch person why this image disturbs you will often result in anger and frustration. Otherwise mature and liberal-minded adults may recoil from the topic and offer a rote list of reasons why Zwarte Piet should not offend anybody. “He is not even a black man,” many will tell you. “He is just black because he came down the chimney.” Then, you may reply, why aren’t his clothes dirty? [13]

The UN Double Down on the Elimination of ‘Black Pete’

black_peter_unBoth the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the Council of Europe’s Anti Racism Commission have concluded that the custom is offensive to ethnic minorities. On Friday a report produced by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said the government must “actively promote the elimination” of the Black Pete figure, the African companion of Saint Nicholas, who is known as Sinterklaas in Holland.  [1] Black Pete, or Zwarte Piet, is said to be a black Moor from Spain. He is part of the annual feast of St. Nicholas on Sinterklaasavond, or Nicholas’ Eve, celebrated on December 5. The character distributes sinterklaas candies to children during the festival. “While the Committee understands that the tradition of Sinterklaas and Black Pete is enjoyed by many persons in Dutch society, the Committee notes with concern that the character of Black Pete is sometimes portrayed in a manner that reflects negative stereotypes of people of African descent and is experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery, which is injurious to the dignity and self-esteem of children and adults of African descent. The Committee is concerned about the discriminatory effect of such portrayals, which may convey a conception at odds with the Convention,” the United Nations report states. The organization has called on the Dutch government to “actively promote the elimination of those features of the character of Black Pete which reflect negative stereotypes and are experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery.” [1]

The Dutch Won’t Let Go of ‘Black Pete’

blackpeteDespite previous and ongoing efforts to modify or eliminate the character, a survey conducted in 2013 found that 93% of the Dutch public do not consider Zwarte Piet as racist or associate him with slavery. 91% of the respondents said they are opposed to altering the character’s appearance. [7] In short,  the vast majority of Dutch people say they think Zwarte Piet should stay exactly as he is—pancake-makeup, wig and all. Geert Wilders, the leader of the fanatically anti-immigration Party for Freedom has tweeted that he would rather abolish the United Nations than lose Zwarte Piet. [7] Death threats have been sent to prominent anti-Piet and anti-racist activists like singer Anouk and to would-be organizers of “alternative” Piet shows (Green Piets, Rainbow Piets). A Facebook “Piet-ition” to keep Zwarte Piet black has gathered than two million likes—significant in a Dutch population of only 16 million. [7] “If Swarte Piet is eradicated, the feelings of the vast majority of the Dutch… will turn against the colored Dutch,” threatened an October 2014 op-ed in Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant. “One could not, for example, look at Surinamese people without thinking they were the ones who had ruined the fun.” [7]

[1] Kurt Nimmo, United Nations: Dutch Christmas is Racist, Infowars.com, August 28, 2015
[3] Benjamin Durr, Racism and Santa’s Dutch black-faced helpers, AlJazeera, 05 Dec 2014 08:37 GMT
[5] Ishaan Tharoor, Why the Dutch tradition of blackface ahead of Christmas won’t go away, Washington Post, November 13, 2014
[8] Dylan Matthews, Wearing blackface is a big part of Dutch Christmas, VOX, December 24, 2014, 11:00 a.m. ET
[10] UN Continues to Label Dutch Christmas Racist, Defend Christmas, August 19, 2015
[11] Melonie S, History, International, Racism, Societyamsterdam, Black peter, holiday, Melanoid Nation, December 9, 2014 at 6:36 am
[12] David Sedaris On (Possibly Racist) Dutch Christmas Traditions, Wesleyverhoeve.com, December 24, 2008
[13] Jessica Olien, In Holland, Santa Doesn’t Have Elves. He Has Slaves, Slate, Dec. 14 2011 3:25 PM
[15] Dutch ‘Black Pete’ Christmas custom sparks protests, The Telegraph, 11:52AM GMT 17 Nov 2013
[16] Brent Richter, Sinterklaas celebration called racist, New West Record, November 25, 2011 02:00 AM
[19] Michael Holtz, Is the Dutch ‘Black Pete’ racist? Legally, not yet, Christian Science Monitor,  November 12, 2014
[20] Is Zwarte Piet racism?, The Economist, Nov 2nd 2013
[22] Sophie McBain, Europe’s Most Racist Christmas Tradition, New Republic, December 6, 2013
[25] Felicity Morse, Zwarte Piet: Opposition Grows To ‘Racist Black Pete’ Dutch Tradition, Huffington Post UK,  06/12/2012 13:51 GMT
[26] Michael Pearson, ‘Black Pete’ controversy stirs up Netherlands, CNN, 12:09 PM ET, Sun November 16, 2014
[27] Howard Koplowitz, Black Pete Racist? ‘Zwarte Piet’ Controversy Leads To 90 Arrests In Netherlands, International Business Times,  November 15 2014 4:15 PM EST
[28] Daryl Lindsey, Holland’s Politically Incorrect Christmas: Santa’s Little (Slave) Helper, Spiegel, December 05, 2008 – 04:59 PM
[31] African Swedes slam ‘racist’ Santa helper, TheLocal.se,  19 Nov 2014 09:54 GMT+01:00
[32] Ian Tuttle, Brawl Breaks Out in Netherlands Over ‘Black Peter’ Christmas Character, National Review, November 18, 2014 1:25 PM
[33] Gordon Darroch, Dutch holiday season sees new ‘Black Pete’ controversy, USA TODAY, 11:02 a.m. EST December 3, 2014
[34] Black Pete exposes the Netherlands’ problem with race, The Guardian,  Wednesday 5 December 2012 15.23 GMT
[35] Protesters clash at Dutch ‘Black Pete’ event, Aljazeera, 16 Nov 2014 05:34 GMT
[36] Karen Millington, Zwarte Piet: Is ‘Black Pete’ a racist Dutch custom?, BBC, 6 December 2013 Last updated at 09:28


About Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace is a self-fashioned writter, a computer programmer and cybermarketer from Quebec City, Canada who decided to enter the political arena after his disillusionment with the socialist system under which he was living in the French Canadian province of Quebec.

Leave a Reply