Hostility Grows Over Dutch Blackface Xmas

Activists oppose 'Black Pete' Christmas character
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Suggested by kokuaguy
Posted Dec 17, 2011 3:15 PM CST

(Newser) – One newcomer to the Netherlands says her worst faux pas is to question "Black Pete"—the little African slave who helps out Santa Claus. The Dutch react "in anger and frustration," and even defend their tradition of dressing up publicly in blackface, writes Jessica Olien on Slate. They say Black Pete is only dark from coming down the chimney, but that "doesn't wash": The character dates back to the 1840s, when the Dutch empire was "deeply involved in the slave trade."

Sure, the Dutch have replaced a "kooky" Black Pete with several more helpful, kid-friendly ones. But the battle over this Christmas tradition is only heating up. Police recently pepper-sprayed and arrested one activist for protesting Black Pete (see the video), and left-wing newspapers are printing impassioned opinion pieces. You see, "in the Netherlands, race is inextricably connected to immigration—something many Dutch people do openly have a problem with, as suggested by the rise of such politicians as Geert Wilders," writes Olien. "It’s possible that a period of mutual hostility has now come to Holland." (Read more Holland stories.)

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