News From Masters

Could a Holiday tradition be racist?
Posted 02/05/2016 11:51AM

Thousands of miles away, in the Netherlands, every holiday season discussions arise about the Dutch  Christmas tradition Zwarte Piet, a Santa helper who gives out candy to Dutch children at Christmas time.

That seems legit. What if I tell you that this “Zwarte Piet” is a white Dutch man covered in black face paint, making Zwarte Piet look black. In fact, the translation of Zwarte Piet is Black Peter. I have relatives who live in Amsterdam, Holland, and seeing my cousin on the lap of someone dressed up in black face paint trying to look black made me queasy. It seems like too much of a coincidence that this Black Peter guy, or Blackface does not have racist roots.

The fans of Blackface have an endless supply of excuses, among which are that Blackface’s face is black because of coming down the chimney, which makes no sense if Santa’s face is perfectly normal coming down the chimney. It's a stretch however to say that Holland does not have racist roots. In fact, the Dutch did quite well dealing black slaves shortly before the book was written that brought Blackface to Holland.

The really amazing thing to me however, is that the Dutch government isn’t doing anything about this, in fact some politicians, well known and popular ones have passed laws trying to keep Zwarte Piet! It is extremely hard to walk in and say that this isn’t okay because some people will callyou racist. This tradition is simply too important to let go to the Dutch, so I asked 10th grader Sophie Cohen about the issue, who has lived in Rotterdam (near Amsterdam) from age 2-8. She had never heard anything bad about the tradition, “It was just a fun thing, they just came into the gym” Cohen says. “It never occurred to me that the tradition [Zwarte Piet] could be bad until I came to the U.S.”.

I certainly don’t think this means that the Dutch are bad people,  I was merely just pointing out that for some small percentage of the population the holidays is a miserable time where people are making fun of you, and everyone tries to hide it.

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