Racism is lame…

I just don’t understand racism. But maybe that’s because I’m multi-racial and have accepted my white, black and asian roots. To get angry at just one ethnic group because one of them did something stupid, would be like getting pissed off at the air because the neighbor farted; stupid. Judge people for what they do, not for what they look like. Better yet, if you don’t know the full story, better not judge at all.

Racism sucks…

The passed few days it felt like The Netherlands had returned to the 50’s or something. All because some black lady from the United Nations almost had a seizure when she heard about Sinterklaas for the very first time and saw that this white old man had all these white people dressed up like black people running around the city. She thought that “zwarte piet” (black pete) was a disrespectful throw back to slavery and that was racist to all black people alike. The UN lady wanted to cancel Sinterklaas, but will first investigate the Dutch tradition from up close.

Hell broke loose after that anouncement. All these people sprouting out their opinion about the subject through the news and via social media like Facebook and Twitter. The Dutch were insulted for being called racists, some even had to empower their opinion with some racial slurs.  Yes, raw anger can bring up the worst in anyone. People are all entitled to have their own opinion, of course. But why does it always have to become so ugly here in The Netherlands whenever someone dares to raise questions about the appearance of black pete?

I may have mentioned it before in a previous blog entry last year; I don’t like Sinterklaas… Born and raised here in The Netherlands with parents of different races, I along with my sibling had the “pleasure” of being bullied a lot because of the color of my skin and being called “The offspring of Sinterklaas and black pete” as a child… And yes, I can chuckle about it now but back then as a 4-year-old it was pretty hurtful… Racism sucks…

The other day my black mother came home from visiting a friend’s house. This friend happens to be white. When her friend’s 2-year-old  saw my mom walking in the house, the kid first thought that my mom was black pete… The little girl started to cry, and thought that “zwarte piet had come to take her to spain, because she had been bad”. My mother’s friend apologized and together they laughed it off.  But once my mom came home and told me about it I could tell she felt quit hurt that the little child thought she was a scary black pete…


Clearly, black pete confuses the children. It scares most of the children when they encounter black pete for the first time.  You’d assume they would be willing to reconsider the zwarte piet for the kids. But no, they want to keep this part of the Sinterklaas tradition, because “It would break the hearts of the children otherwise if black pete weren’t painted black anymore”.


Some have suggested that maybe it’s time for Sinterklaas’ companions to have a new look. Why just blackface? Why not all sorts of happy colors instead? But for some reason, that just made things even worse. A few small towns here in Holland were actually making real plans for the rainbow pete. But then a bunch of anonymous phonecalls with death threats towards city hall made sure that nobody would dare to change the paint on black pete’s face.

They just don’t understand what’s so racist about it. And at the same time act all racist while defending their “not racist traditions”. It’s so tiring… *sigh* It feels like swimming against the stream. This ongoing mud-throw fest whether there should be a black pete or not is becoming sooooo annoying. There’s so much more to the world that could use improvement.  *sigh* I don’t hate this country, I sometimes do wish I could just move to another planet. I feel like Abed from Community sometimes; the world makes no sense to me…

Racism sucks. Period.

Anyway… I stumbled upon a bunch of anti-racism songs. Here’s one from this British rapper whom I’ve never heard of before. The lyric video is quite nifty…;

And then there’s of course, Michael Jackson;

4 thoughts on “Racism is lame…

  1. I am super super late to this post, but for anyone who finds it in the future i wanna give my point of view. This discussion has been going on forever, and i feel like neither of the parties truly listen to each other. But if we do, we might just be able to come to a conclusion we’re all happy with. I am white, might be important to mention. I was raised in the netherlands, sinterklaas has never been anything else but a fun holiday for me. It’s quite a big deal over here. Just like people decorate their houses for christmas, and watch christmas movies, we do those kinds of things too. There’s even a show on tv, it’s called ”sinterklaas journaal”, it starts around november and it’s basically a news show for sinterklaas. It’s all fake of course, recorded in the summer. The purpose is mainly for the kids to help them believe and for adults to have fun watching it. Every year they make a new story, with new problems. But they keep the same characters. One of those is obviously Sinterklaas himself. The others are mostly the black petes. It’s designed like a kid’s show, with typical and simple characters. You probably remember, there’s the one who’s always clumsy, the one who talks a lot, the one who’s kind of dumb, the proffesor, the fat cook, etc, etc etc. Whatever happens in that show is what the children believe. Last year they tried really hard to make it clear that pete is not submissive in any way. It was pointed out a lot that sinterklaas was an old man, not always as clever, forgetful, and that he really relied on the petes.
    But enough about that. As a kid i knew a lot of other children who wanted to be a black pete when they grew up. It’s not like anybody can become a pete after all. According to many movies and stories you need to have a license. You have to climb and walk on roofs, be able to throw presents through the chimney right in the shoes, go through the chimney yourself and get back up, be kind to kids, be kind to everybody. The news show had a few episodes in which you could see the new petes being trained. They made it funny, they all fell off the ”practicing roof.” My point is that black pete is a hero to a lot of children. They all like him, no, they love him. (Petes can be female too though).
    Now off to why we paint our faces. Over here in the netherlands it’s usual to dress up as a black pete. I’m sure everybody’s figured that out by now. We usually ask our neighbours or some family members to dress up and visit our children. Just because it’s fun and we do everything to make them believe in Sinterklaas. You can understand what would happen if the children saw their neighbours in some kind of costume pretending to be a pete. They’d just recognize them. But if we paint our faces, they don’t. And before you say: but why can’t you paint your face another colour instead? Well, remember the news show? If black pete was suddenly not black anymore, kids would get confused. So there needs to be a story to explain the sudden change. And the pete’s would look like clowns, which are scary. (Don’t deny it).
    The story we tell about how pete’s get their faces black, is that they go through the chimney, and all the ashes make them look like that. It’s a bad excuse, I know. But what’s important is that we never (as far as i know) refer to them as real black people. They don’t represent black people. I can’t deny that back in the days, when the story was new, they did. But nowadays? Nope. Before this discussion started little me had never thought of black pete as an actual black person, one who was born as one. I just assumed it was partially because of the chimneys, and because they lived in Spain. I got a tan when it was sunny, so i thought that they must have gotten a real dark tan, because of the sun every day. In one of the movies i watched back then there was a villain. He was an old white man who was angry at the head pete. (I don’t know how to call him, chef pete? boss pete? he’s the most important pete, the manager you could say.) He was angry because when he audititoned to be black pete, he was rejected since he was not kind enough to children. You see?
    That’s what i wanted to say. Oh and I want to know: if we were to make an alternative pete, what would you want him to look like? We could make him some light sort of brown/beige, or fully white, as in really white. As long as we can paint our faces and make it look natural in a way. The change can’t be too big either. Or we could just add a few white petes, a few asian petes, and suddenly it’s multicultural! Or maybe he needs another haircut. A newer fashioned costume perhaps. Anything to make him look more ”real” and less like a stereotypical black person back when the story was created. Anyway, we might find a solution. But that will only happen if we listen.
    Thanks for reading, and i apologize for my english.

    1. Thank you for your comment Nienke.

      I understand the background story of Sinterklaas very will. He was a bishop born in Turkye who did many good deeds around the year 300. Back then he had no helpers, he helped the children by faith. Zwarte Piet was invented in 1880 by some guy who was writing a book about Sinterklaas and a black slave. And that’s how Zwarte Piet became part of the tradition.

      It’s nice that you as a white person did not experience anything negative about Zwarte Piet. I remember children insulting my mother for “looking like Zwarte Piet”. It still happens to this date. I remember de zwarte pieten storming into the classroom with jungle noises, asking my Surinamese classmates if they are studying for Zwarte Piet too. And how sad it made them. The daughter of my best friend had the same experience last year in her classroom and it made her cry, because she recognized some of the black painted faces. For the first time in her life, she was ashamed to have the same color as Zwarte Piet.

      We all base Sinterklaas on our own experiences as a child. I have nothing against Sinterklaas. I just wished his helpers didn’t look like black slaves. You can say that the black faces come from climbing chimneys but no one’s ever gone into a chimney white as snow and ended up with a black face, red lips and large earrings. No matter how you try to justify it, Zwarte Piet are a reminder of slavery.

      Just because they’ve created a fun kids book or the “Sinterklaas Journaal” for your entertainment, does not make it a legit reason to have white people dress up like black people. They could easily use the Sinterklaas Journaal to tell the children that Zwarte Piet has eaten some magical pepper nuts and therefor looks different. Tell the kids that the change is permanent but that it made him extra fun and nice.
      Just like with Telekids, K3 or any other kid-related fun thing that has undergone change, the children will get used to it. It depends on how the change would be presented to them. Or make a contest and tell them there are 3 magic pepper nuts they could pick to give to the Zwarte Piet. Each pepper nut will give a unique new look to Zwarte Piet.

      How I’d want Zwarte Piet to look like? I’d just be happy if they looked like anything but a black person. Maybe a black bird or a black sheep would be fun. Or reveal that Zwarte Piet was actually a black fairy and that he was enchanted but that by eating the magic pepper nut he finally became his true self. It would open the door for more creative looks.

      And I can’t believe I am actually responding to a comment about Sinterklaas now in October. Then again, the pepper nuts have been in stores since August so why not talk about Sinterklaas, indeed.

      Have a good day.

  2. So–if a man who happens to have a brown colour skin gets a job as butler/valet for a white man is that a throw back to slavery too???Or is that just a guy with a brown skin managing to get a job in these stringent times…Is it that any man with a brown skin who has a white skinned man as his boss and wage payer is a “throwback”??? And where does that leave the person with a white skin working for a person with a brown skin??? #loosing the will to live….

    1. That isn’t the point here. But when a white man dresses up like a black man, acting like a stereotype black person, that’s what is bothersome, a mockery and a throwback to slavery…

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