This site uses cookies. By accepting cookies you can optimise your browsing experience. Read more.
14:47

*PARTNER CONTENT* Freeing Santa's Slaves: 'Black Piet' tradition divides the Netherlands

Amsterdam
December 22, 2018 at 14:01 GMT +00:00 · Published

'Tis the season to be jolly. But in the Netherlands Santa's little helpers are "jolly" Black slaves. Or at least white people dressing up like them, in blackface.

Zwarte Piet, or Black Piet is a controversial character that appears in malls, cafes and high streets across the Netherlands during the festive period from November to December.

The character accompanies "Sinterklaas" or St. Nicholas and is represented by people donning black make-up, thick bright-red lipstick and curly black wigs.

Although many defend it as an innocent tradition, more and more people are calling it out for being offensive and resembling the racist US minstrel tradition that became obsolete in the early 20th century.

In Rotterdam, the city's largest political party - the right-wing Leefbar Rotterdam is calling for a referendum in defence of Zwarte Piet, fearing the local government will follow Amsterdam's lead and replace the character with "Soot Piet" - a character whose face is covered in soot from coming down the chimney.

Leefbar Rotterdam Councillor Tanya Hoogwerf told redfish: "It has nothing to do with skin tone or race. It has everything to do with the mythical surroundings around Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet."

Over the last year protests against the tradition have been intensifying. This year has been no different and extreme right groups like Pegida Netherlands and the neo-Nazi NVU have become increasingly visible amongst the pro-Zwarte Piet crowd.

To anti-racist activists, the tradition represents a hang-up from the Dutch colonial era and they have been campaigning to abolish the annual ritual.

Councillor for the Green Left Party in Amsterdam, Simion Blom told redfish: "It started as a racist tradition. It's the root of the tradition and that's not surprising because the Netherlands has a big colonial past for 400 years and a past of slavery for 300 years."

But a backlash against activists is taking place, with many in the anti-Zwarte Piet movement becoming victims of violence and harassment by both the police and the far-right.

"We have been labelled the enemy of the society. I do know that people around me - people from Kick Out Zwarte Piet and others - are very worried about some of us." Kick Out Zwarte Piet co-founder Jerry Afriye told redfish.

Christa Soeters, an activist in Utrecht showed redfish the threats she has been receiving: "They came to my house. They took photos of my front door. They put stickers on my mailbox and the like. They harassed my family. Outside I was also attacked and I was recognised. In May they arrested someone, who wanted to organise an attack on Muslims. Two weeks ago I discovered that he also wanted to do all kinds of things to me. He wanted to kidnap me. He wanted to rape me. He wanted to have 20 other men rape me."

Despite the threats, the anti-Zwarte Piet movement is becoming more and more vocal, and Afriye says it's a conversation Dutch society can no longer avoid: "We're going to make sure that our children will not go through this situation. And what we are now seeing is that a new generation of Black people are saying hold on, I'm not going to sit here and you're going to talk about me, I'm going to talk for myself."

To get the full transcript of this video, please contact cd@ruptly.tv

14:47
Restrictions

mandatory credit: redfish / @redfishstream

No Account? Sign up!
Description

'Tis the season to be jolly. But in the Netherlands Santa's little helpers are "jolly" Black slaves. Or at least white people dressing up like them, in blackface.

Zwarte Piet, or Black Piet is a controversial character that appears in malls, cafes and high streets across the Netherlands during the festive period from November to December.

The character accompanies "Sinterklaas" or St. Nicholas and is represented by people donning black make-up, thick bright-red lipstick and curly black wigs.

Although many defend it as an innocent tradition, more and more people are calling it out for being offensive and resembling the racist US minstrel tradition that became obsolete in the early 20th century.

In Rotterdam, the city's largest political party - the right-wing Leefbar Rotterdam is calling for a referendum in defence of Zwarte Piet, fearing the local government will follow Amsterdam's lead and replace the character with "Soot Piet" - a character whose face is covered in soot from coming down the chimney.

Leefbar Rotterdam Councillor Tanya Hoogwerf told redfish: "It has nothing to do with skin tone or race. It has everything to do with the mythical surroundings around Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet."

Over the last year protests against the tradition have been intensifying. This year has been no different and extreme right groups like Pegida Netherlands and the neo-Nazi NVU have become increasingly visible amongst the pro-Zwarte Piet crowd.

To anti-racist activists, the tradition represents a hang-up from the Dutch colonial era and they have been campaigning to abolish the annual ritual.

Councillor for the Green Left Party in Amsterdam, Simion Blom told redfish: "It started as a racist tradition. It's the root of the tradition and that's not surprising because the Netherlands has a big colonial past for 400 years and a past of slavery for 300 years."

But a backlash against activists is taking place, with many in the anti-Zwarte Piet movement becoming victims of violence and harassment by both the police and the far-right.

"We have been labelled the enemy of the society. I do know that people around me - people from Kick Out Zwarte Piet and others - are very worried about some of us." Kick Out Zwarte Piet co-founder Jerry Afriye told redfish.

Christa Soeters, an activist in Utrecht showed redfish the threats she has been receiving: "They came to my house. They took photos of my front door. They put stickers on my mailbox and the like. They harassed my family. Outside I was also attacked and I was recognised. In May they arrested someone, who wanted to organise an attack on Muslims. Two weeks ago I discovered that he also wanted to do all kinds of things to me. He wanted to kidnap me. He wanted to rape me. He wanted to have 20 other men rape me."

Despite the threats, the anti-Zwarte Piet movement is becoming more and more vocal, and Afriye says it's a conversation Dutch society can no longer avoid: "We're going to make sure that our children will not go through this situation. And what we are now seeing is that a new generation of Black people are saying hold on, I'm not going to sit here and you're going to talk about me, I'm going to talk for myself."

To get the full transcript of this video, please contact cd@ruptly.tv

Trending
Top downloads in last 24 hours
View all videos
00:44
USA: Milwaukee police confirm gunman among six dead in brewery shooting
February 27 at 01:37 GMT +00:00
02:08
Ukraine: Man sets himself on fire outside Zelenskiy's office in Kiev
February 26 at 16:55 GMT +00:00
02:42
Syria: SAA continues military operation in Idlib
February 25 at 22:01 GMT +00:00
02:19
Haiti: Protesting police and army exchange fire amid rising tensions over wages
February 24 at 08:05 GMT +00:00
03:03
Italy: See Codogno hospital at centre of coronavirus mishandling accusations
February 26 at 09:40 GMT +00:00
03:00
Italy: Historic Milan bar defies curfew imposed to contain coronavirus
February 26 at 05:16 GMT +00:00
01:38
Germany: New coronavirus case confirmed in North Rhine-Westphalia
February 26 at 01:47 GMT +00:00
01:26
Haiti: Angry police forces set carnival stands on fire to protest bad working conditions - reports
February 18 at 04:37 GMT +00:00
02:34
Chile: Violence breaks out as protests greet LatAm's biggest music festival
February 24 at 04:15 GMT +00:00
03:21
Italy: Health ministers rule out border closures despite uptick in EU coronavirus cases
February 26 at 03:52 GMT +00:00
01:47
Iran: Subway and buses disinfected as coronavirus death toll rises to 19
February 26 at 12:41 GMT +00:00
01:48
Egypt: Supporters gather ahead of Mubarak's funeral
February 26 at 13:09 GMT +00:00
02:04
Syria: SAA advances into Idlib province
February 27 at 08:55 GMT +00:00
04:49
Spain: Revellers smear animal blood on themselves for Basque carnival
February 26 at 09:29 GMT +00:00
04:40
Mexican daredevils celebrate exploding hammer fest with a BANG *GRAPHIC*
February 26 at 04:22 GMT +00:00
01:35
Turkey: Tehran-Istanbul flight diverted to Ankara over coronavirus concerns
February 25 at 21:43 GMT +00:00
01:54
Taiwan: Long queues outside New Taipei City pharmacies amid coronavirus outbreak
February 26 at 11:13 GMT +00:00
01:42
Greece: Mytilene joins general strike against new migrant camps
February 26 at 13:19 GMT +00:00
Pool for subscribers only
07:33
Russia: Putin talks Golunov case, police response to Moscow protests
February 26 at 13:37 GMT +00:00
01:21
Where’s my superhero? Batmobile needs rescuing in Moscow
February 26 at 12:42 GMT +00:00
01:14
Spain: Sharapova takes part in charity match to fight domestic violence
May 04, 2017 at 23:55 GMT +00:00
02:33
Egypt: Ousted President Mubarak laid to rest in military funeral
February 26 at 18:23 GMT +00:00
01:27
Spain: Police and medical staff outside Tenerife hotel as coronavirus quarantine continues
February 26 at 23:55 GMT +00:00
01:05
USA: Shooting at Milwaukee brewery leaves multiple people dead, including gunman
February 27 at 00:24 GMT +00:00
03:45
Spain: Madrid shop sells bottles of ‘coronavirus’ wine
February 25 at 23:25 GMT +00:00
02:53
Iraq: Protesters stage rally in Baghdad despite government warnings
February 25 at 18:24 GMT +00:00
01:29
Colombia: Riots erupt in Popayan as students protest alleged police brutality *UPDATE*
February 26 at 05:01 GMT +00:00
02:46
USA: Hundreds rally against ICE presence in Washington DC
June 30, 2019 at 00:36 GMT +00:00
Pool for subscribers only
04:11
UN: 'You've stolen my dreams and childhood' - Thunberg at Climate Action Summit
September 23, 2019 at 18:04 GMT +00:00
02:21
UK: Brighton locals react to new coronavirus cases
February 12 at 15:42 GMT +00:00
02:05
'Hotella Nutella' spreads choco joy in California's Napa Valley
January 14 at 10:01 GMT +00:00
02:15
Thailand: New Thai king and queen take part in 'Royal Ploughing' ceremony
May 09, 2019 at 08:21 GMT +00:00
01:48
Thailand: New Thai king greets crowd on final day of coronation
May 06, 2019 at 16:02 GMT +00:00
Pool for subscribers only
01:53
Thailand: Newly crowned Thai King carried through Bangkok as night falls
May 05, 2019 at 15:29 GMT +00:00
01:30
Thailand: King Maha Vajiralongkorn carried through Bangkok in coronation procession
May 05, 2019 at 15:06 GMT +00:00
01:25
UK: Diamond Princess evacuees arrive at quarantine hospital
February 22 at 20:26 GMT +00:00
01:18
Spain: Hundreds quarantined in hotel after former guests test positive for coronavirus
February 25 at 18:51 GMT +00:00
02:38
Italy: Tourists in Milan speak of spreading panic amid coronavirus outbreak
February 24 at 16:25 GMT +00:00
02:27
Spain: Pharmacies in Barcelona short of supplies after first coronavirus case
February 26 at 15:01 GMT +00:00
00:41
Spain: Tenerife hotel remains on coronavirus lockdown after four test positive
February 26 at 12:17 GMT +00:00
02:10
Iran: Deputy Health Minister sweats and coughs through press conference on day before coronavirus diagnosis
February 25 at 16:19 GMT +00:00
01:46
Iran: 'This is a democratic virus' - Deputy Health Minister discusses coronavirus diagnosis
February 25 at 19:58 GMT +00:00
01:46
Iran: Shrine disinfected to prevent spread of coronavirus in country's epicentre
February 25 at 12:54 GMT +00:00
View all videos