Dutch Court: Yes, Blackface Holiday Character Is Offensive

Amsterdam must rethink traditional 'Black Pete'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2014 11:51 AM CDT
Dutch Court: Yes, Blackface Holiday Character Is Offensive
File photo of Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, Amsterdam.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

The US might still have the occasional case of a white person donning blackface with exactly the results you'd expect, but the Netherlands takes it to a whole other level. Or it least it has prior to today's ruling out of Amsterdam: A city court declared that the traditional Christmas character known as "Black Pete" is indeed offensive and that the city should re-examine its use of him in official celebrations. The AP describes Black Pete "as the sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus."

Essentially, white people put on blackface and an Afro wig, paint their lips bright red, and act "dumb and servile" while passing out goodies as Santa makes his triumphant arrival at a winter festival. At the Independent, Leonie Roderick writes that she grew up in the Netherlands and didn't think twice about Black Pete being offensive. But now she's OK with phasing him out. "For hundreds of years, the Dutch were one of the world’s biggest slave traders, shipping and exploiting slaves around the globe to help grow the Dutch Empire," she writes. "To this day, Black Pete continues to perpetuate the racist stereotypes that formed a large part of this appalling culture." (More Amsterdam stories.)

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