In Holland, on the night of December 5, Saint Nicholas arrives, with his red headdress and white beard, laden with gifts for the children with his assistant, the black page Black Pete, whose racist and colonialist connotation receives more and more criticism.
No more black faces! … the militants shout
“We are here because we believe that Black Pete is a racist symbol. We want it to change and make it a party for everyone,” says this militant.
But there are also those who defend the authenticity of Black Pete.
“This children’s party has been around for centuries. It’s a Dutch tradition and we want to keep it up,” says this other Dutchman.
“Piedritos” in the shoe, an uncomfortable colonial relic
One of the key figures in the protests against Pedrito Negro or Black Pete is Akwasi, a famous Dutch rapper, actor and poet.
“The Black Petes or Black Petes are inferior to the great Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas. They have black faces and good intentions, but it is a museum piece. It is part of the past, not of today.”
The city of Amsterdam asked an expert on the figure of Saint Nicholas for ideas to update this children’s party. His reasoning was simple.
“In Amsterdam, there are about 150,000 children. Only 40 percent of the children are like me, white Caucasian. Now Sinterklaas is a party for everyone and people are bothered by the presence of” Zwarte Piet “, then we should change it.”
“It’s not just about the black paint, but also the red lips and curly hair. It’s really about stereotypes. People have no idea how offensive it is. Or they see it as a tradition that should stay the way it is. . “
To break stereotypes, Pam Evenhuis rewrote history and came up with Pete coming through the chimney. He became a success and his idea was adopted by many.
‘Black Lives Matter’ as an engine of change
“Don’t forget that in 2014 more than 90% of the Dutch population did not want to change to Black Pete. Today, especially thanks to the influence of ‘Black Lives Matter’, I am sure that in the next five or ten years the figure Saint Nicholas will be safe, and everyone will love the character adaptation “Pete Chimney” and we’ll just call him Pete. “
After many centuries of black faces, the Dutch say goodbye to Black Pete and his slavery overtones. For children of all colors, the party continues, although this year, due to the pandemic, the parade of San Nicolás has been suspended …
From Amsterdam, Stefan de Vries, for Euronews