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If you protest racism during Black Face season in The Netherlands, you will be beaten up and arrested

[Content warning for very racist images, links to videos of police brutality and depictions of State endorsed racism]

Ah, my home, The Netherlands. Tourists from all over the world wax lyrical about the tulips, the windmills and the widely available weed. What these tourists hardly ever get to see is how institutionalized racism works in this country and the lengths the State will go to in order to protect it. Or how, if you are personally affected by this racism and you summon the strength to protest it, you will be brutally beaten up and arrested.

Now, here is the thing: this is a small country. All matters of racism happen here but they go unreported in international mainstream media because the Dutch language is mostly inaccessible to the world at large. So, these matters remain untold, underreported, downplayed or just ignored. However, international media loves to talk about our most famous homegrown xenophobe: Geert Wilders. His influence is far reaching and international. His words repeated all over the international press; he gets invitations for public engagements and speeches; fellow populist and xenophobe politicians from all over Europe and places as dissimilar as the US, Canada or Australia cite him as a source of “inspiration”. Meanwhile, the general public abroad struggles to come up with an explanation of why, a country that is present in popular imaginations as “tolerant”, “multicultural” and “modern” could be represented by such a divisive and racist force. That is, because systematically, mainstream media misses the context. And I believe that the events that transpired on Saturday, during the official opening of what I like to call “Black Face season”, can provide some of that context.

“Black Face season” is not exactly the official name for what, in reality, is a children’s holiday known as Sinterklass. This is the time of the year when Dutch people carelessly don black face and speak in a faux Surinamese accents. This is the time of the year when, if you venture the streets, you are likely to encounter sights like these:

[Image description: a group of eight White adults wearing multi-color satin and velvet costumes that imitate those of Colonial times. All people in the photo wear Afro wigs and make-up commonly known as “Black Face”]

Photo via

Or like this:

[Image description: two White women walk down a street while wearing a satin costume in orange and purple colors, Afro wigs and make-up commonly known as “Black face”]

Photo via

The above, for those not familiar with our local “traditions”, are popularly known as “Black Pete”, or “Zwarte Piet” in Dutch. These “colorful” characters are the helpers of Sinterklaas, or more formally Sint Nicolaas/ Sint Nikolaas or Saint Nicolas in French. Sinterklaas is a children’s Winter holiday celebrated every year in The Netherlands, Belgium and some cities in the North of France. According to tradition, the Saint arrives to The Netherlands a few weeks prior to the celebration, in a boat, carrying the gifts he will deliver to children. The “Black Petes” are his helpers and they carry candy and control children’s behavior (children who misbehave supposedly get no presents from the Saint). Again, according to “tradition”, these helpers are Moors, or North African slaves. This “tradition” has evolved throughout the years, partially due to increasing protests from groups that find these depictions offensive. Nowadays, it is claimed that the Black face is due to the fact that the helpers have gone through chimneys and as a result, their faces are covered in soot. What again, nobody can clearly explain, is what kind of soot leaves such a uniform and evenly spread residue. Or worse, why these “chimney dwellers” speak in a fake accent that parodies the Black population of the Dutch former colony of Suriname.

Over the years, a small but growing group of people have been protesting this celebration of Black face costumes and ridiculing of minorities. Systematically, these protests have been met with a very strong and stubborn resistance from a majority of White Dutch who refuse to even consider the racist implications of this “tradition”. Those who are against the Black Pete depictions are consistently told that there is nothing offensive in it, that the tradition is not up for debate, that they are being oversensitive and that, and here comes the usual xenophobic retort, “if they don’t like it, they should go and live some place else”. Additionally, people who speak against this are also told that they are importing North American models of “political correctness” that have no place in Dutch society. Moreover, the supporters of these Black face depictions are adamant that there is nothing, absolutely nothing racist in Black Pete’s representations and that claiming otherwise is the result of a cultural imperialism brought upon by North American influences. According to supporters, Dutch culture is so different from that of the US and the context so incomparable that such discussion should not even take place. Any attempt at contextualizing the role of the Dutch in slavery in the Americas and how the continuation of these racist practices owes everything to the mindset that made such trade possible is met with protestations and the statement that “only Americans see offense in Black face, we, the Dutch, are obviously different and not racist in our traditions”. In sum, what they claim is that the rights of White people to don Black face are more or less sacrosanct and native Dutch children have a right to the continuation of this “tradition” undisputed.

And because I promised context, here’s what the Black face apologists will never tell you or admit, not even to themselves: the real, harmful consequences of the perpetuation of this racist stereotypes. In The Netherlands, where a significant portion of the White native population demands the freedom to be racist, under 25 years old Moroccan youth (not faux Moors like the Black Pete “legend” claims) face an unemployment rate of 28%; and under 25 year old Surinamese youth (the ones who do not speak with a faux Suriname accent during a children holiday, but the all too real citizens of the former Dutch colony), face an unemployment rate of 27%. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for White, Dutch, under 25 years old natives is at a meager 6.9%, the lowest in the European Union. And I would love for anyone to tell me that there is no correlation between racist media depictions and people’s real lives.

Earlier this year, a group of Dutch people from the former and present Dutch colonies (Curacao, Suriname, Aruba, etc.), started a campaign under the banner “Zwarte Piet is racism”. They invited people to submit a photograph of themselves wearing a stenciled t-shirt, making a statement against this racist practice. Some local celebrities like Greg Shapiro (from the legendary comedy group Boom Chicago) have lend their support to the campaign. Moreover, in June this year I was at one of the final performances of the Broadway musical Fela! (one of the main guests at the prestigious Holland Festival) and some of the members of the cast, at the end of the show, held a sign that read “Zwarte Piet is racism”. Unsurprisingly, local media remained moot and this went unreported.

All of the above is just a mere introduction for the events that transpired this Saturday, 12th November. This weekend marked the arrival of the Sinterklaas boat with the little “slave helpers” wearing the usual Black face. The event is a yearly spectacle that attracts significant crowds. Parents bring children to the port and they watch actors disembark with horses and parcels carrying the gifts that will be handed over to children later on in December. This is an event that more or less kick starts the pre-Christmas holiday season and to say that it is massive would be an understatement. Not only is the event broadcasted in national TV, but it is also reported in news channels, newspapers, magazines and major websites. Every year, the “official” arrival takes place at a different Dutch city. This year was the turn of Dordrecht, a city in the province of South Holland . The usual pomp and circumstance surrounded the event, which would have been as inane as it usually is, had it not been for a small group of people who decided to take a stand against the practice of Black face. This group of activists, mostly Black local youth, (Dutch media cannot agree on the exact number, some say five or six, others say a dozen or so), wore the stenciled T-Shirt with the words “Zwarte Piet is racism” and stood by the side of the road while the parade passed by. According to reports, they also yelled “Zwarte Piet is racism” when the Black Petes were walking in their vicinity. This was met with disgust by the Dutch in attendance who complained that they were “ruining” the celebration. Police were summoned. The State called upon to protect the right of the Dutch to continue being racist.

What happened afterwards will turn your stomach. Police demanded the activists to disband and stop protesting. They were told this was a children’s event and that children had the right to celebrate the holiday without disturbances. Two men and two women were arrested (link goes to news report in Dutch) when they stated that they also had the right to protest practices that actively harm them. They were told, in no uncertain terms, that they had no right to be there. One of the men resisted. He yelled that it was his right to protest. This video here, caught by a bystander, shows what happened to this protester. He was dragged outside the Parade, brutally beaten, thrown into the ground, dragged some more. In the video, you can see this young Black man, wearing a t-shirt that states “Zwarte Piet is racism”, subject to State violence in order to protect a Dutch tradition that is clearly not open for debate. The right of the White majority to wear Black face every year should be protected through whatever means necessary, even at the expense of those who are harmed by it.

Earlier this year, in a highly publicized trial, Geert Wilders was acquitted of inciting hatred through Hate Speech. Dutch courts stated that his speech is denigrating but not hateful. Prosecutors were asking for a sentence that contemplated the possibility of jail time. Wilders has used coarse and xenophobic language against immigrants and minorities in this country. His party is funded on the premise that those of us who hail from nations classified as Non Western have no place in this society. He actively promotes laws and initiatives to further alienate and isolate immigrants. And yet, his words were deemed non hateful and, as such, not deserving of a sentence or even one day in jail, protected by free speech laws. A young Black man protests racist stereotypes that actively hurt him, he protests a tradition that further promotes his isolation and his status as “Other” and he is brutally beaten and dragged through the ground, arrested. He is told he has no right to protest, no right to raise his voice. Obviously, the protections afforded by free speech are only available to those that the State deems to be free to begin with. The largely unacknowledged responsibility of the Dutch State in the transatlantic slave trade, practically absent from school history books, means that some people, still to this day, continue to be bound by chains that prevent them from exercising the same rights freely afforded to Gert Wilders. Because above all, the Dutch State has made it clear that it will protect the right of White Dutch people to be racist without consequences.

Edited to add: Yesterday, Sunday 13th November, the Sinterklaas Parade also took place in Amsterdam. Five people carrying flyers stating “Zwarte Piet is racism” stood by the Parade route, in the Leidseplein attempting to distribute the flyers. In order to avoid direct confrontation, they didn’t wear the stenciled T-shirts. All five were also arrested for “provocation” and told they had no right to disturb an event aimed at Dutch children. (Link goes to report in Dutch)

Edited November 19th: Heidi Sincuba, a writer and artist, has a great post with background on the people who got arrested and the activism behind the resistance to this “tradition”.

77 Comments

  1. Nick wrote:

    //This was met with disgust by the Dutch in attendance who complained that they were “ruining” the celebration.//

    If their celebration is so easily ruined, they must at least have some inkling of how racist it is, however much they try to deny it.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink
  2. @Nick, at one of the links I included in the piece (I know I tend to include plenty of links, so here it is to facilitate the search), there is a great analysis of why they keep trying to deny any possible racism in this practice. Just one paragraph, but the entire thing is quotable, to be honest:

    What happens when one is so concerned with not being something that the people refuse to look at themselves critically in fear of finding what they don’t like, and in many cases greatly oppose? What we get is denial of the experience of the peoples we are trying to avoid being prejudice against, which gives birth to a new form of prejudice of its own. The protection of our own egos and comfort, at the expense of the dismissal of an oppressed people’s reality, becomes a judgement of their condition that is completely out of context. This brings further harm to marginalized people. We create a new form of racism as we tell ourselves that their oppression is not as bad as they say. They attribute their condition to something within them as opposed to coming from without. Those who pride themselves on being so free from prejudice often suffer the most from it. This could easily be the case in Holland. Something so obvious should not be so difficult. But the resistance keeps the Dutch and so many other people from being able to learn about the more complex, subtler, psychological, and institutionalized aspects of racism in an open, objective, and holistic way.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink
  3. Markuna wrote:

    I would like to consider myself as an educated Asian student at one of the top universities in Holland at the moment but I can’t see myself living in this country when I am done with my studies. Not only because the chances of getting a job here is tough for “Non-Western” people like me, but even if I do a job, I will never be able to feel like I belong here (thanks mr. Wilders!).

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink
  4. Bob A wrote:

    Similar and possibly related to Darkie Day in Cornwall, UK… http://youtu.be/Pdk4v11U4tQ

    Some traditions should wither away.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink
  5. Andie Arbeit wrote:

    “And I would love for anyone to tell me that there is no correlation between racist media depictions and people’s real lives.”

    As you ask of us, I posted a comment stating that 50% percent of Maroccan boys blah blah blah racist drivel, etc etc.

    Hello everyone! I am Flavia’s kitten, Demeter. I am six months old and I have *issues*. I peed in places, I once shat over a welcome mat and I tend to destroy things. You can compare me to some racist commenters shitting on people’s blogs. Except I am born and bred Dutch. Not like Flavia who is a foreigner that some people believe has no right to an opinion on this society. So, to make Flavia’s life easier, I will edit any racist comment that is left. I will shit on those comments like I once did on the welcome mat in front of the door. This one comment, for instance, tried to blame an entire group of people for their place in Dutch society. Flavia was upset when she saw it so I took the wheel. Now this comment is no more. And I get to play on the internet instead of biting on the couch, scratching chairs and chasing my tail. This is a lot more entertaining. I might be doing this all day actually!

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink
  6. heloise wrote:

    Wow, this is just…wow. Thanks for the post, Flavia.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  7. Brid wrote:

    Amazing that the defense of disallowing protest of such a tradition is ‘because of the children’, yet, as seen in the video, there is no concern for acting out racist violence right in front of them. Even the parent of the little girl front and centre doesn’t move her away from the attack and it looks as though they are only a few feet away.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  8. tenya wrote:

    Because seeing people arrested for vocalizing their disagreement with THEIR portrayal is obviously more upsetting to children than seeing arrests and police brutality. How do they even pretend to explain that? “Don’t worry, sweetie, it may be upsetting to see people arrested, but it is only because they don’t like people joking about their ethnicity when we mean it all in good fun! If we arrest them quickly enough you can get back to enjoying those pretty outfits!” Please.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink
  9. James M wrote:

    I wonder which is more harmful: the tradition itself, or the widespread refusal to acknowledge its inherent racism.

    To put it another away: is it possible that this tradition could continue in a context that acknowledges its problematic origins and thereby the nation’s not unblemished history?

    The reason I ask is because I’m not a huge fan of discarding the past merely because it’s uncomfortable to contemporary audiences. To the extent that it is itself an agent of continued oppression it should be done away with, but I think there can be positive value in preserving the darker and more uncomfortable things in our past, not least of all that we might remain vigilant for their resurgence.

    Indeed, I think support for minorities (and majority underclasses) amongst the privileged relies fairly heavily on their being aware of the injustice and caprice upon which their castles have been reared and continue to be maintained. Distanced from that awareness, it becomes all too easy to blame the high unemployment rate amongst Suriname youth in the Netherlands, for example, on their simply being lazy. I mean, what else could it be if we have systematically erased everything to suggest otherwise from the national consciousness?

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  10. @James, throughout the years, there have been attempts by some people to propose an alternative called “Rainbow Petes”, which were multi color helpers sans afro and obviously racist connotations. The idea was to turn the helpers into clowns or gnomes of sorts so that their role could continue without actually hurting people. So far, these proposals have been shut down on the grounds that they would “ruin” the tradition and as such, were unacceptable.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  11. Jessgrace wrote:

    I lived in the Netherlands as a (white) immigrant for 3 years ’95-98. In the Dutch language class I went to a student from Africa was really called Peter. We talked in bad Dutch about how shocked we were.
    Don’t mention NigaZoenen.[sic]
    (chocolate biscuits..)

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink
  12. @Jessgrace, due to intense and on going pressure from anti racist activists, the company that manufactured those sweets had to change the name a couple of years ago, thus we no longer have the “N***er Kisses” but instead “Nine kisses” (a play of words in Dutch that sounds similar to the original without the racial connotations.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  13. Anna wrote:

    I’m really surprised to hear people argue this isn’t racist. We celebrate Sinter Klaas in my household because my husband’s family is Dutch (his father immigrated from Holland to Canada after WWII), and he told me right from the beginning that Black Peter was a racist caricature of the slave trade.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  14. Anna wrote:

    (I should probably clarify that this is why Black Peter is not part of our Sinter Klaas stuff. We eat cookies made out of bad children and exchange small gifts and leave it at that.)

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  15. JJDADDYO wrote:

    Look at the comments for that article about the November 13th protest at Sinterklaas Parade (link in last paragraph, above). A lot of them seem to be people saying (and the Google translations are a little rough) “Why are these troublemakers trying to ruin a children’s holiday? This is just what we’ve always done, it’s not racist, we love those darkies!” (OK, I’m paraphrasing a little)

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  16. Matthew Morse wrote:

    I am American, but my family lived in the Netherlands for two years when I was growing up. When we lived there, my family celebrated the tradition of Sinterklaas, and I have always had warm memories of my experiences.

    At some point when thinking back on my experiences, I was struck by how racist Zwarte Piet seemed to be, but I was uncertain of the accuracy of my childhood memories.

    It’s dismaying to learn that it really is racist, the Netherlands knows it’s racist, and their response is to prevent acknowledgement of that fact.

    It’s hard to say how this feels to me, but it doesn’t feel good.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  17. Chaotrix wrote:

    Do you know how to get that stencil logo? I googled but couldn’t find anything. Maybe it’s because I don’t speak Dutch. I’d love to make a shirt to wear this season and submit it to that tumblr.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  18. Matt wrote:

    ANNA, further clarification is needed… cannibalism, whether real or symbolic, is just weird.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  19. @Chaotrix, this is the image they are using for the stencil, although probably you will have to adapt the size to your shirt.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  20. Whatever wrote:

    It would be so simple to keep the fun part of the tradition and discard the hurtful part. Why not wigs and facepaint to match the colorful costumes? In red, green, gold and blue faces and wigs, they would look like magical spirits instead of icons of slavery.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink
  21. Gowan wrote:

    I just wanted to say how much I respect Flavia for speaking out about this. Its hard to speak up about injustices within one’s own culture and open yourself up for attack but it’s also really, really important. I didn’t know about this practice and I’m very glad to have been able to read about it from the perspective of a Dutch person.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  22. Audrey wrote:

    Excellent, excellent post.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink
  23. pip wrote:

    I second Gowan’s comment – much, much respect to Flavia for speaking up. I was glad to learn about this practice and reactions to it from a Dutch perspective. Thank you for speaking out!

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink
  24. s.e. smith wrote:

    (Important clarification—Flavia isn’t Dutch, although she does live in The Netherlands, and her immigration status is being used by some commenters to attack her right to discuss this subject.)

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  25. Caitiecat wrote:

    Flavia, you consistently write excellent, cogent posts here, and though they often horrify, they’re also unmissable. Thanks for your continued hard work.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  26. Miroslav wrote:

    Flavia, very extensive and thorough post. I have also felt sort of this situation in the Netherlands. I sense the ego-defense mechanisms of the Dutch society which rejects any influences of the elements of coloniality. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and dwelling on the hidden undertone of the holiday.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  27. AMM wrote:

    This may be a bit OT, but it reminds me of the Great Danish Cartoon controversy of a few years ago. There was a great hullabaloo here in the USA about how Muslims Are Destroying Freedom Of Speech, but no recognition that the speech in question was an expression of widespread prejudice against and marginalization of muslims. My impression from living in Europe for a few years was that racism is more pervasive (and deeper?) in Europe than the USA; it’s just that the USA is more diverse, so there are more occasions here (in the US) for racism to express itself. Geert Wilders has his influential counterparts in every European nation I have any familiarity with — this includes France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, and the UK.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  28. Pidgey wrote:

    It is disheartening seeing how many people justify the racism and arrests by saying things like “This is a holiday for children. They are ruining the children’s holiday.” If anything racism is MORE problematic when it indoctrinates children, and there is MORE justification for calling it out.

    Geert Wilders sounds like a truly despicable man. It is a telling comparison that his career of hate speech is protected but these non-violent protesters are arrested for pointing out racism.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  29. of making many books wrote:

    Thank you so much for doing something Flavia… this is inspiring and hits home a little bit. In the town where I currently live (a white enclave in a comparatively more diverse region of California), there is a widely-attended annual festival/pageant called “Feast of Lanterns,” where white teenagers dress up as ancient Chinese royalty and re-enact some legend that never happened in an exaggeratedly Orientalizing way. This takes place about a mile from where an actual Chinese fishing village was burnt to the ground in 1906 (one year after the first Feast of Lanterns celebration), and all the Chinese people were essentially run out of town. A friend and I have tried different strategies to address it… but so far have avoided direct confrontation for fear of “But it’s a tradition!” “But it’s fun!” “But we don’t mean any harm!” “But it’s been our town identity for over 100 years!” The efforts (and bodily sacrifice! shit) shown in your post make it obvious that we need to do more.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  30. Rich wrote:

    I had heard of this celebration before but didn’t realize the racist extent of it. There was an article in “The Boston Globe” several years ago celebrating “Black Peter” and describing how he punishes “naughty” children. The article made it sound as if this was just a cute, Dutch custom. Thank you for this much needed counterpoint!

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink
  31. Elfe wrote:

    It is really strange: I am a very black African woman with natural hair and I have been living in the NL for 10 years.
    I read your post because I needed to understand why I do not find this tradition racist. I was shocked by the police brutality especially in this country where police is not brutal.
    The “slaves” or “helpers” are you refer to them are not ridicule: these are pages not clowns and they are wearing nice clothes, they are not parading around half naked with a bone across their nostrils like some savages (or like Josephine Baker and her banana skirt). So to compare a tradition you do not like to a politician is very wrong. Like “Tintin in the Congo” the Zwarte Piets are a reminder of the past. Although I am a francophone I live in this country because it is far less racist than France and my color has never been a problem to find a job whereas it is a problem elsewhere: in Europe people from working class background have a harder time to find a job because due to a lot of socio-economic issues they don’t do as well academically as people in the social classes above (and this is true even in Northern Europe). I know it is very insulting for Blacks in America to see White people with their face painted in black (but it took me to live in the US to understand why: a period when black were not even allowed to play their own role in theater). Although the Dutch were very active in selling slaves, I do not think that they had slaves in The Netherlands. So compare things that are comparable.
    Like the rappers who have decided to own the N word we can just ignore this tradition if it annoys us, personally I could not care less. Being African I don’t see the Zwarte Piets as Blacks (they don’t look like me or like any African I know) but as Arabs and indeed they are Moors so let the Arabs tell us whether it is a racist tradition or not. To feel insulted by them you really need to have a really poor self esteem. Sorry for being politically incorrect. I think an Hermann Cain (who is exactly what racist White people want us to be) is much more damaging for us than thousands of Zwarte Piets.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink
  32. @Elfe, and then what do we do with the hundreds or even thousands of Black people who do find Zwarte Piet offensive? These, mind you, are Dutch Black people not American. Like those who got arrested protesting, for instance. Should they not be offended because some Black people are OK with this tradition? Moreover, there is an event at a main venue here in Amsterdam, organized by Dutch Black people to actually present art works and conferences/ debates/ performances that highlight the deeply racist nature of this tradition. This is a three day event planned where race, colonialism and slavery in relation to Zwarte Piet will be at the center stage.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  33. Chaotrix wrote:

    Thank you so much for this, Flavia! :)

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Permalink
  34. jacob wrote:

    I’m a white Dutch person who grew up with this tradition. When I was a child, I never thought about it at all. One reason is that Zwarte Piet is seen in a basically positive light. As a kid, you mostly see Zwarte Piet as a semi-mythical figure that brings you presents and candy. The other reason is that blackface doesn’t have the cultural history/connotation of being a tool of oppression as it does in the US, maybe partly because the Netherlands has never had a sizeable black population (though I don’t mean to suggest that the Zwarte Piet figure could not be viewed as a method of cultural oppression).

    For me, it wasn’t until I was exposed to the connotations of blackface in the US that I started to reflect on the tradition. It is sort of an odd moment when you realise that one of the traditions you’ve internalised is really fundamentally racist. So I really support these protests and hope that efforts to highlight the racist nature of the practice will spark a debate in the media so we can finally get rid of it.

    At the same time, I’m not sure that this is a state-led effort to suppress dissent, though that video is appalling. But I haven’t heard much apologist talk from our politicians or the media. Mostly, this is just not seen as an issue for most Dutch people. The Wilders trial, if anything, is a sign that the Dutch really despise the man (imagine the reaction in the US if someone like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh were charged with hate speech – and Wilders really just says comparable things – and you’ll recognise how much large parts of Dutch society, including the vast majority of the cultural and political elite, dislike the man for this to even come to a trial).

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  35. Anonymous wrote:

    The people who were arrested this past sunday didn’t even had flyers with them or weren’t even planning on distributing them….
    Please correct that..
    It’s a lie which was told by the police and the newsmedia decided to take it over without even knowing if it were true or not.
    Even the local news-media in Amsterdam, at5, recorded the brutal arrest of the 5 people but those recordings will NEVER see the daylight. ;-)

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink
  36. Tama wrote:

    Iremeber a David Sedaris story in which he makes funny comments about the number of people who accompany St. Nick. I thought it was weird then, I’m offended now.

    Thank you Flavia, for educating me on this.

    Is it awful of me to expect another stupid, racist and misguided comment just so I can hear from Demeter again? I kinda hate myself a little bit now. ‘Cause I don’t want people to be stupid at you Flavia, but I’m just a sucker for a kitten who can chase it’s tail and put down the racist comments.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  37. Diverkat wrote:

    “Cannibalism, whether real or symbolic, is just weird.”

    No different than Catholic mass, celebrating the eating of Christ’s body and drinking of Christ’s blood.

    On topic – Flavia, thank you SO much for writing about this. My (short) time in the Netherlands and Belgium left me feeling extraordinarily uncomfortable, having just come from Africa and then being subjected to a (former) friend’s out-and-out racist, extremist, violent, nationalistic rhetoric about PEOPLE WE WERE PASSING ON THE STREET. And his justification for his horrible words?

    “Everyone feels that way. I’m just saying it out loud.”

    Well then. That was probably the most terrifying thought – that he actually was so convinced that his viewpoint was… ubiquitous. Shit like this doesn’t help.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink
  38. Berenjena wrote:

    Thanks for this article. I grew up in Luxembourg and there Saint Nicolas is also tradition – he has little Black helpers and a Père Fouettard, an evil man with a whip that leaves charcoal to bad children.

    And in my after-school nursery, to which I went until I was 12 (my parents worked), every year there was a Saint Nicolas with a Black face helper to see the children.

    I haven’t thought of it for years; my family is Spanish so at home Saint Nicolas wasn’t a big deal or a “real” tradition (the Three Kings were). Today in fact I was having a conversation with a classmate who is Dutch, and she was telling me about the racism of this holiday, and I remembered. It’s awful.

    She also told me that in the Dutch media they make up stories for Saint Nicolas’ arrival for the children. Apparently every year there is something that goes wrong, or something – this year the helpers disappeared, and apparently they ended up coming in SEPARATE SMALL BOATS while Saint Nicolas came in the big one. I don’t know if this would offend Americans, but in Europe we are pretty conscious of the hundreds (or thousands) of African people that die every year trying to cross the Mediterranean to get to the promised land. And to me, this story with the small boats resonates of that connotation. Flavia, do you know by any chance if this story is true / could you confirm it?

    All the best!

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  39. gogo wrote:

    Anna—where do you get enough bad children to make your cookies? I can never seem to find enough bad children when I am ready to bake, and usually only have enough for a half batch, kind of disappointing at the holidaze.

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Permalink
  40. Saysem wrote:

    While Zwarte Piet is obviously racist, I can’t remember ever hearing a Zwarte Piet with a faux Surinamese accent. At least in the last few years.

    The way they are potrayed on TV is strange for that matter. They look like huge stereotypes (which is bad enough), but their behavior is actually very much race-neutral.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 3:05 am | Permalink
  41. We have had some comments stating that Zwarte Piet is not meant, in any way, to mock Black people. Pep Rosenfeld, the Artistic Director of Boom Chicago, just posted a photo taken at his children’s school on his Twitter. No mockery of Black folks there, amirite? None whatsoever!

    @Berenjena, yes, I can confirm the Petes get lost and come in smaller boats, actually not just this year but as a matter of habit. And you are right, the “pateras” connotation is just mind numbing, especially considering the Petes are supposedly Moroccan/ North African slaves.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink
  42. Chantal wrote:

    @Jacob: There is a dutch saying: “Wie zwijgt stemt toe” (translation “He who is silent agrees.”) you are dutch so you must understand it very well!

    The silence of most of the dutch media and the dutch government is just their way of agreeing to the brutal acts of the police.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 5:19 am | Permalink
  43. Chantal wrote:

    @Elfe: You start out by saying quote”It is really strange”unquote. Indeed it is really strange! I understand that you are african and therefor I pardon you somewhat. I understand that the history of dutch colonisation is not a subject that you are familiar with! quote:”Although the Dutch were very active in selling slaves, I do not think that they had slaves in The Netherlands. So compare things that are comparable.” unquote it made me shiver (in a bad way) when I read that! Have you any idea how many BLACK AFRICAN DESCENDANTS WERE MURDERED, RAPED, BEATED, ENSLAVED, MOLESTED, SODOMISED in the hands of the Dutch!!! I beg you please read a book about dutch colinasation in Suriname or the Dutch Antilles perhaps than you will bow your head in shame for the words that you have typed. I sickens me to my stomach that someone regardless of their colour could be so disrespectfull to my ancestors who paved the way for ALL PEOPLE OF COLOR to live in FREEDOM. Their blood has been shed not only for my freedom but yours as a black woman as well. SHAME ON YOU!

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 5:27 am | Permalink
  44. Mabusha Masekela wrote:

    This is the some Netherlands that was in the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement? Crazy. I do think that many people are missing the point. Europe engaged in global colonial activity for many centuries. Businessmen, bankers, politicians and royalty all engaged in this activity, primarily for commercial gain. European governments continue to maintain and promote a “doctored” history of this colonial activity and do what they can to discourage their populations and constituency from being aware or opposed to this colonial history. Unfortunately for them action may be denied but its energy lives. One need only examine the populations of colonial countries to know this to be true. There is always a significant population of people who originate from any given country’s colonized lands. People from the US are generally clueless because all they get fed is slavery, Africa – black/white. It’s a limited and narrow field that makes up only a portion of the entire global colonial experience of which they are a part which is still affecting us today. The European elite used, and still uses, the ignorance of the general population as a weapon against fellow humans who they call the other. The Dutch, the English, the French, the Portuguese, the Spanish, Belgians, – any nation these people colonized you will find insignificant numbers in the “Mother” country, while the Mother country all the while pretends ignorance of colonial action and insists on maintaining the “purity” of its population. What portion of the Dutch population is even aware of Dutch colonial activity in Suriname? And given it’s location – the Americas – isn’t likely that these “black” people were brought to a country where the native population had proved not adaptable to colonial needs and were probably destroyed via mass genocide – like the model followed in the United States – to the extent that black people are considered more native to Suriname than the native “Indians” who probably lived in and on that land mass before? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised. “Black” people from the United States tend to feel they have a lock on the denigration of colonialism – but the slave trade brought lots of “black” people to all parts of the Caribbean and the Americas and depending on the colonial policies, and the resilience of native culture in encountering both “whites” and “blacks” is where different colonial models evolved. Brazil is not Jamaica and the United States is not Haiti but the combination of Native, and European, and African is an integral part of all their histories. People should wake up and engage with the reality and stop living in some idealized past propagandist history. People make up traditions. Traditions change. Dutch Antilles, Suriname – it’s no coincidence that these people dress up in black face and it has less to do with something specifically from the United States and more to do with general colonial attitudes that run through all the colonizing nations. It’s tough to live down colonial history, but denying it happened only leads to its perpetuation in various forms. This has got nothing to do with political correctness, which is just another ghetto anyway. It has everything to do with how humans beings have, and continue, to behave with each other. If you don’t consider me human – by European standards – then there is no need to have any regard for my experience or feelings. Did Black Face Pete exist before Dutch colonial adventures? I bet not.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink
  45. Mabusha Masekela wrote:

    correction: in significant numbers

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink
  46. Norah wrote:

    @ Mabusha Masekela

    According to some people, ‘Black Pete’ as an entity (though I think the name came along rather late) existed before Dutch colonialism, but he changed looks when that started:
    Before, Sint Nicolaas’ helper was supposed to be a demon he tamed or enslaved. Sometime during colonialism, the depiction of the servants changed to a caricature of black people, and the clothing came along. The story changed as well.

    Other people say there was no servant and no story until the 19th century or so, and that Sint Nicolaas was solitary before that. Sometime during that period it changed so he had a slave as a helper. Who for some reason wears Renaissance page clothing.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  47. Watson Ladd wrote:

    I always heard that Zwarte Pete sold you to slavery in Spain if you misbehaved. But Flavia, are you asking for the police to go imprison Gert Wilders for what he says? Isn’t that exactly the kind of thing you are criticizing the police for doing, namely preventing people from speaking? Wrongness is not a crime.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink
  48. roland wrote:

    Too bad you keep deleting posts that diverge from your opinion blah blah blah

    Editor’s Note: *We*, and this is a collective blog so moderation is taken care of by more than one person, have a right to approve comments as we see fit. Apologia of racism has no place here. I do not care how it is worded or how “reasonable” commenters think they are. This is a privately owned space and, as such, we have the right to decide what is acceptable for our readers to be exposed to. Since all of mainstream media in The Netherlands already covers the myriad reasons why racism and black face are acceptable, there is no justification for us to provide a space for more of those opinions. This blog is a place to foster a different kind of discussion. We take a stand against racism and no amount of commentary by those who think it is acceptable is going to convince us otherwise.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  49. @Watson Ladd, let me preface this by saying that free speech laws are different in Europe than they are in the US. Our speech is protected to a degree. For instance, anything that is perceived as inciting hatred for minorities is against the law and can land you in jail. Denying the Holocaust, to give another example, is against the law and can also get you in jail.

    Second, I suspect you are missing the point of my piece: Wilders is afforded the freedom of free speech even though he has said very offensive and hurtful stuff about minorities. Because he is afforded that freedom, he does not have to spend any time in jail. However, people who protest racism are not afforded the same freedom and are, instead, arrested. In case it wasn’t clear in my piece, it is this hypocrisy I wanted to highlight. Either both camps are free or we are clearly in the presence of a system that considers *some* worthy of free speech protections while others are beaten up and dragged by the police.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  50. David Hendriks wrote:

    I just wish they would lose the face paint. Or cinders, whatever. It would make everything so much less… embarrassing.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  51. Rhiahnon wrote:

    Thankyou for posting this article. I had no idea of this
    “tradition” nor of what happened this Saturday. I am in Australia so not sure what I could do but if there is anyway to send support to the campaign/protestor please let me know. Thanks again.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink
  52. Cait wrote:

    @Tama I’ve also read that David Sedaris story and thought it was extremely bizarre. Then I read Flavia’s piece and realized, this is the tradition he was talking about! I didn’t have a context for the story at the time. It has been a really long time since I read that, and I am going to have to go back and re-read, especially with the knowledge I have now, because I’m curious to see how I feel about his presentation of it, if that makes sense.

    Flavia, you always write awesome and informative posts. Keep up the awesome work.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  53. isabel wrote:

    This brutality was not reported in the media, I’m disgusted. What is really tragiek to me is that Black Pete has only become a Koor fairly recently. Earlier on he was a shamanic figure, which aspect went underground in Christian times but survived surprisingly long. The black colour simply was the cheapest form of disguise. No one had seen any black people before the middle ages! But when they became a more common sight, the association was unavoidable. So if BP’s pagan roots would be better known and he would be better understood the whole issue could be changed and lose its racial undertones.However that’s not very likely, alas. And I’m very concerned about not only the racism, but also the criminalization of dissent in this country. Those cops won’t get any presents for sure!

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  54. heidrun wrote:

    Funny how some Dutch people want to keep their “good old” colonialist traditions so badly, yet have such a big problem with “imperialist” North American PC “imports”? Oh, the irony.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  55. Fabian Thomas wrote:

    I am stunned and disturbed by this ‘tradition’ and even more so by the video of the young man being dragged, beaten, kicked and knelt on. This info needs to be circulated far and wide, to human rights groups and as far as the NAACP in the US…

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink
  56. Dikke wrote:

    Reading the comments on the article you posted from at5.nl and pleasantly surprised to see that there are a number of Dutch people who agree with the protestors and even more who agree with their right to speak (perhaps it has a left leaning audience which is not representative of the Dutch population at large.) What do you make of the fact that many of the people defending Zwarte Piet claimed to be Surinamse or from the Bijlmermeer? Do you think that is just sock puppetry (i.e. white Dutch people pretending to be from Suriname) or just a random thing?

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  57. @Dikke, some of it is undoubtedly sock puppetry. But I’d also like to point out that in NL, slavery (both the trade and slavery itself) wasn’t taught until sometime in the mid to late 90′s. And to this day, colonialism is not taught in the sense of the effects of colonialism in former and present colonies (the Dutch still have Caribbean colonies like the Antilles). So, it’s not like people are ignorant, it’s just that much of this stuff has never been taught. Moreover, racism is taught in school in terms that are very broad and not addressing the meaning of institutionalized racist practices (like the unemployment figures I mentioned in my piece tied to media representations, past history, etc.). Instead, racism is taught as individual acts of discrimination more than society wide practices. All of this makes it so that people in general (regardless of ethnicity) might not always get a good picture of any of these issues. What is happening for the past few years is that there is a growing group of non White people becoming very politically aware and very engaged. There are meetings and debates that happen in the Bijlmermeer or in New West (two areas of Amsterdam with a high percentage of non White people) and many youth are getting involved. They are becoming aware and connecting the dots. The arrested activists are part of such youth, more politicized, more eager to enact change, etc.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink
  58. Dikke wrote:

    I think what people fail to grasp is that it is possible for NL to be one of the least racist countries in Europe, and still be quite racist. For example, the communities the media labels as ‘dangerous’ or ‘not integrated’. I’ve got a friend (my former Dutch tutor, actually) who lives in the Slotervaart area, (which I think is part of the New West,) and it is nothing like it is portrayed in the media, (i.e. it is not at all ‘dangerous’ in the way that I, a USian, would understand it.) So while immigrants are painted as dangerous, I have never heard him or his acquaintances say a bad word about NL or Dutch people, (though I have heard them say what seemed a few negative things about Moroccans- they are Turkish, so I guess there’s some animosity between the countries- I didn’t bother asking with my limited Dutch knowledge because I may have been misinterpreting.)
    Point being, it seems everything I read in the media about the relationship of immigrants and Dutch people completely flies in the face of what I experience when I go back there. (Although I really only spend time in Amsterdam and Zwolle, and certainly Amsterdam is more liberal than other places.)

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink
  59. Heh, I live in New West. Dutch media (and many Dutch people actually) refer to our part of the city as “the ghetto”. I absolutely love it here and you are quite right, it is nothing like media makes it up to be.

    As for being the least racist country, nah. Every European country has unaddressed racism. As I said, part of it comes from a reluctance to see it as a far reaching issue rather than an individual act. All of Europe has a long way to go in that regard.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  60. k wrote:

    Thank you, Flavia.

    The casual racist exoticism of this tradition is absolutely awful.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 3:17 am | Permalink
  61. Brandon wrote:

    I just wanted to chime in with my support of this post and its author. I recently relocated to the Netherlands from the US and was rather shocked when I learned about the legend/traditions surrounding Sinterklaas and his “helpers.”
    As hard as it might be for many Dutch people, who grew up with Zwarte Piet, to see him as anything other than a beloved, holiday icon, it boggles my mind that they can’t quite process how offensive the character is to expats and locals of African descent. It’s the equivalent of people getting dressed up as Nazis and parading through the streets. Imagine how well that might go over in Amsterdam.

    The time has come (actually, it came a LONG time ago) for Zwarte Piet to become just plain ol’ Piet. Why is the black makeup even necessary? Keep the silly costumes and the hats, just ditch the blackface. This is a simple, straight-forward solution that would likely put an end to this tense debate.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink
  62. Chantal wrote:

    @Dikke: “What do you make of the fact that many of the people defending Zwarte Piet claimed to be Surinamse or from the Bijlmermeer?”

    One of the reasons is also the whole “integratie” (integration) policy the NL has. No one dares to speak up because the consequences of that could be that an employer, co-workers, friends or family can accuse you of not being well “integrated”. So they defend all things dutch even at the expense of their own feelings.
    Being well integrated is about the biggest compliment a dutch person can make to a non dutch. Mind you non dutch also means non white caus you can be born and bred in NL and people will still make remarks like:”wat ben je goed geïntegreerd” (you are so well integrated) The saddest part is they have no idea that this is a rude and racist thing to do and will actually be overly offended if you point that out to them.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  63. E.A. Martina wrote:

    To add to your point Chantal; there’s not a Black consciousness movement to speak of in the Netherlands. The mere fact that Dutch people of colour are so fragmented as a group says a lot. On top of that we as a group have little knowledge of our history; perhaps, because we are so eager to come across as well integrated we spent too much time focusing on assimilation instead of decolonisation.

    I’ve always spoken my mind even though most of the time it didn’t go down well. I’ve noticed that are only certain levels of “Blackness” that are acceptable in Dutch culture. Whenever I express my love for Black cultural expressions, people of colour, or take pride in my heritage, I’m accused of “being too Black” or “shoving my Blackness in people’s faces.” Same goes for when I point out racist elements in Dutch culture. When I look at the representations of Black people on Dutch TV I can only surmise that we are only afforded certain roles: comedian, musician, or athlete.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  64. Mark wrote:

    This was a nice read Flavia; well thought out and put down. I have lived in this country for 3years now. In my first year here I was witness to this ‘celebration’ and though alarm bells were ringing in my head about the racist connotations, I tried to give the benefit of the doubt to the dubious explanations that were given to me about the holiday. However as time has passed and seeing the vehemence with which this tradition is defended by Dutch people, I have had more and more doubts about these. I’m happy that someone has voiced their misgivings with which I really agree with.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  65. Millie wrote:

    Amazing article. Articulates the hypocrisy of the dutch and the problems of race in Holland. One of the reasons why dealing with it is problematic in Holland is because of the overwhelming denial and arrogance of the Dutch. I left Holland at 21 because I knew as a person of colour in Holland, my prospects of attaining my dream were low. I have been away for 6 years now and have no plans of ever coming back. I do however applaud your voice in this fight! Right on!

    Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  66. andrea dun wrote:

    Thank you for this article! I have been fighting with my Dutch family for 17 years and they don’t get it. We have to fight this because its emblematic of our society here. To think this is not racism is very sick! With you!!!

    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 3:22 am | Permalink
  67. Maikel wrote:

    Great article. It shows exactly what is going on. I always ask them if it would be seen as provocative to stick a pamflet with a swastika right outside a synagogue and explaining it as a symbol of the sun. Most will say no.. well can you imagine this is provocative to me?!! If all men are equal I am equal to a Jew and should be treated the same as a Jew.

    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  68. Chantal wrote:

    @E.A. MARTINA
    I am not sure where your roots lay but the “problem” with the black community in the Netherlands is that we all have different roots (Surinamese, Dutch Antilles, Afrika (different countries)Jamaica etc) All of these groups speak different languages and have different cultures.

    I guess in a country like e.g. America where the descendants of african slaves all speak the same language (english) it is easier to form a coallition and teach black history.
    The history is the same.

    It is more complex here in the netherlands where the descendants of slaves were dropped on different islands and different countries. Not everyone speaks the same language nor do we share the (exact)same history.

    Also the netherlands practiced a divide and conquer regime and played out different groups against each other. Stereotyping each group carefully so that the next black (or ethnic) group will not become to close to them. To this day we can see the divide and conquer politics. Right now it is the whole “war on islam” before it was Antillian youth, before that Maroccans and before the Surinamese. I might not make myself the most popular girl in the class for saying this but it is how it is and people should realize this instead of fearing one another based on what media shoves in our faces.

    It is only now with “zwarte piet is racisme” that we (african slave descendants)all have a common ground. The common ground is a black young man being dragged over the streets by policeofficers stripped of all rights according to the dutch constitution. This makes his roots irrelevant. In Suriname we have a saying: Wan ogri tjari wan bun” translation: a bad thing brought forth good.

    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  69. Chantal wrote:

    @Maikel I know quite a few people that do not place a swastika above their front door when culturally it is a sign of good luck and protection. No one had to protest against it they just do this out of respect for the sensitivity of this symbol regarding WWII

    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  70. Heidi wrote:

    Great Article. So glad there are so many people taking action. Check out my article: http://www.heidisincuba.com/the-sincubator/2011/11/13/maak-me-niet-zwart/

    Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 1:38 am | Permalink
  71. Heidi, thank you so much for sharing a link to your post. I really appreciate the background you provide and the activist history behind what happened. I added a link to it in the main post as well.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 4:43 am | Permalink
  72. Finally, someone who tells it like it is. Kudos to you, Flavia for illuminating the issue so eloquently. It’s my 2nd year as an expat in Amsterdam…my first thought last year when the holiday rolled around was, “You could NEVER get away with this in America!”

    Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  73. Proud Historian wrote:

    You guys are all full of shit.
    You revisionist racist pathetic bud monkeys.
    You totally bullshit about something you know nothing about and yourselves are racist, opportunistic twats taking any opportunity to bitch about Europeans, whites and The Dutch. Before you bitch about my country…

    [404 RACIST GARBAGE NOT FOUND]

    Many apologies “Historian,” but we seem to have lost a portion of your message, including all of the parts where you prove that the tradition of “Black Pete” isn’t racist by claiming that WE are the racists, and then being really fucking racist about it. So this is Garland’s Cockatrice, telling you to fuck right off of this website forever.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  74. shad wrote:

    I can confirm this, a Bro. has been beatdown and arrested, here the proof http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-Wf89f0I0M&feature=share

    Monday, November 28, 2011 at 5:24 am | Permalink
  75. Val wrote:

    This has just happened in BC (Canada). In the end, the Sinterklaas event was cancelled. This was not what was asked for by those protesting the event but the event organizers (apparently) couldn’t come up with a quick fix they could live with. There are plans to work out a less(non!) racist celebration next year. Comments with the article are typically horrible.

    http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Dutch+Christmas+Sinterklaas+celebration+slated+Westminster+Quay+called+racist/5768369/story.html

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  76. Mabusha Masekela wrote:

    @ Flavia – I’ve just been watching a lot of 70′s, 80′s Dutch anti-apartheid footage. I’m just curious – this Sinterklaas thing has been going on during the whole anti-apartheid movement?

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  77. @Mabusha, oh yes, this has been going on for decades and certainly during the anti apartheid movement.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink