Man, I Don't *Get* Zwarte Piet

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written Sunday 7 December 2003

Man, I Don't *Get* Zwarte Piet

Which doesn't mean I can't make fun of him. Look. I've tried, I really have, but I just do NOT GRASP the whole Zwarte Piet thing. Absolutely nothing about Dutch life has so totally befuddled me.


OK, as I understand it--and Lord knows I've asked--the Netherlands' tradition of Santa Claus (Sinter Klaas) includes an African companion Zwarte Piet (black Pete). Now, in history and mythology, a hero's having a sidekick is the rule rather than the exception, so as odd as this might seem to those raised on Coca-Cola Santa Claus (the religion-free, sales-promoting, American standard), a sidekick should be no surprise. Above, note that Cola-Cola has not yet managed strip Dutch Santa Claus of his sainthood. And Saint Nicholas' being the patron saint of sailors only heightens his importance to the Dutch. Now, I have no idea why Sinter Klaas' sidekick is a wealthy African...but that's not the part I don't get.
 

What I don't get is how such a caricature can co-exist with the Netherlands' quite genuine racial harmony. (I hasten to add that my un-understanding is my problem, not theirs.) True, the figure above is not much of a caricature--keep reading...


Upscale settings like this portray Zwarte Piet with full dignity. I never thought anyone meant badly by this whole thing. Still--I really warn American readers to keep oxygen and nitroglycerin tablets handy.
 

Seat belts fastened?

OK, last Friday someone left a big chocolate on my keyboard at work. Yaaaay! You should know that a big chocolate bar in the shape of your first initial is a very popular Christmas goodie. But the box it came in...uh...


In America, no "respectable" entity has dared such a racial caricature for fifty years--and yet the supplier of this box is as "respectable" as it gets: the AH at the box's top is Albert Heijn, the Netherlands' huge grocer. It's not that I was offended--I simply didn't know what to think. (Actually, I thought I should eat the chocolate. Yum.)
 

What's also interesting is this: how fast this shock is worn away by seeing Zwarte Piets of every possible description in store windows all over town. So, I submit for your viewing pleasure my photographic booty from this afternoon's brief, frigid walk around the village of Bussum.

Tech note: I apologize for the glass reflections, but I forgot my polarizing lens.

OK now--y'all test your air bags.


Grocer with articulated Zwarte Piet. I try to imagine this hanging in a window in Chicago--how many milliseconds it would take to be shot out? Anyone remember Sambo's Restaurants?
 

Hey, don't wimp out on me now.


Wouldn't you be comfortable with this on your glass door?
 


Two Zwarte Piets with cigars.
 


Three Zwarte Piets. Maybe I'm optimistic, but I can only assume that this is meant in the same celebratory way as, say, Paris jazz posters of the 1920s.
 


Come hither, kiddies, Pietie has a nice, nice surprise for you...
 


"Help Pietie! Help Pietie! I've fallen down and can't get up!"
 

 
Gay Zwarte Piet.

Or Cross-dressing Piet.

Oh hell, now I'm really confused.

Hey--this is the Netherlands: Toleration Nation. And anyway...I really don't even want to know. Unfortunately, raw disbelief kept me staring at this one too long--I'll be lucky if I don't have nightmares.
 

Right. Now, far be it from me to malign anyone's orientation. But of course I have a right to my own orientation, and while we're touching on that subject,...


...I'd say Santa here had a more interesting proposition. Hey--looking good, Nick! See you at the gym!
 

posted by eric at 18.03 CET

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Readers' Comments

howdy; the tradition of 'saint nicolas' is quite vivid here in the east of france. ((he is the saint patron of lorraine, where i live !!)). he is accompanied by 'le père fouettard' who whips children who haven't behaved...

regarding 'black pete' from what i heard he could either be black because of the chimneys (!!) or a more (but not from venezia apparently) who would have accompanied st nicolas from spain...


i personally don't find it offensive at all, and i believe a survey was taken in holland as to whethe people saw racism in zwarte piet's skin color and i think the result speaks for itself...

the eyes of an american, however, can see this differently, since the relationship between whites and blacks is definitely different where you come from (not that europ is exempt of racism, don't get me wrong, take the neonazi demonstration a few days ago in stockholm, or the daily antijew insults heard in 'sensible neighborhoods' in france)... but i digress...


porte toi bien !!! :)

Posted by: nathalie on December 9, 2003 10:20 PM

I couldn't possibly find ZP offensive--I'm just way too puzzled to form an opinion.

Today at lunch, a Dutch fellow explained to me that there is a difference between Sinter Klaas (the religious guy) and Santa Claus (the fat Coca-Cola guy)...and that the Dutch have both! Oh, jeez--THAT was not helpful.

Posted by: eric on December 10, 2003 08:15 PM

i'm a tad confused. who is a cocacola guy ? father xmas ? ?

Posted by: nathalie on December 13, 2003 10:57 PM

Sort of. Early in the 20th century, Coca-Cola commissioned paintings of a Nordic but otherwise neutral Santa Claus for their wintertime advertisements. They were very well done, but ever since then, Americans think of Santa Claus only in terms of that one jolly, bearded, non-religious, fat guy who lives at the North Pole for reasons no one can explain to me.

Some people think this is the perfect proof that too often Americans unthinkingly let corporations define their culture. Think Hollywood. Think of billboards on every road, of stadiums named after corporations, of athletes and race cars covered in advertisements, of "product placements" in even good movies.

Before Americans gave up smoking, the most ubiquitous four-word phrase was "Close cover before striking". Now I'm sure it's "Brought to you by." Where's the beef? It's the real thing. Don't leave home without it, because you deserve a break today.

Posted by: eric on December 13, 2003 11:53 PM

Being of Dutch descent but living in the US I was asked yesterday to come to a Kindergarten class and share with the children my recollection of SinterKlaas Day in the Netherlands. It was a joy to do, but sure gave me pause when it came to Zwarte Piet, the servant who gave out the gifts, carried the switch and administered the punishment to all the bad boys and girls. I downplayed that part of the story, because it sure does not seem to carry well over here. It smacks of racism, and the Zwarte Piet pictures carried in any store in the US would be offensive and a huge economic mistake for any merchant hoping to do well with his Christman sales. It is hard to imagine it not having any racial implications in the Netherlands. Maybe it is just a US thing. Did bring back lots of good memories though. EDV

Posted by: Ecko De Vries on December 18, 2003 05:19 PM

Zwarte Piet is not offensive to me,I am a Black American. In the story of Zwarte Piet his sailing from Spain, being dressed as a Spainard at the time of William of Orange is appropriate. The fashion of making him look like a doll from the 19th century, seems to be a commercialized way of portraying blacks in doll form in the 19th century. That portrayal is no longer acceptable in the USA, and Europe hopefully will catch up.

Posted by: Jim Coleman on December 23, 2003 05:21 AM

hi. i thought this was great information. my five year old son just got his first and maybe only sinter klass and black pete ornament from his uncle who was studying in the netherlands. i found it so super odd, but this is coming from a pretty odd person. i am 25% filippino, 25% brit, 25% red neck, 12.5% tom boy, and 12.5% southern belle, making me 100% american. the whole sinter klaas / black pete thing is amazing. now are both guys from spain? and why are they handing out gifts to kids from the netherlands? i just need more info man. keep me posted!

Posted by: barbara jane abadam on December 27, 2003 12:45 AM

And whenever a foreigner asks a Dutchman about Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet they say ZP was a Mediterranean or something. But they don’t mention it was different when they were growing up. I live on an island that is a part of the Dutch kingdom with a population consisting of mostly descendants of slaves. We still use the older stories where the many ZPs are all slaves (explaining the blackface make-up) of SK who are actually made up of former bad girls and boys. They are beaten with the sticks that coconuts grows from, thrown into potato sacks filled with cockroaches and hanged from the ceiling where they turn into black slaves. Not only don’t you get presents when your bad you also get turned into a slave and potentially your ethnicity can change. I don’t know too much about the history but I think the costumes of ZW has something to do with the three wise man (if you look at the hat of the black one on the traditional image of the three wise man in Spain, where they serve the same purpose as SK, you’ll see what I mean). And I think SK was based on a Saint-to-be who used to throw money and food into the windows of poor people.

Posted by: Ter on January 4, 2004 08:06 AM

Look here i am again.

The holiday Sinterklaas,

Sinterklaas was there since i was a kid. Also was Zwarte piet. Its just a national holiday only for kids. Becuz i dont know if someone told u. But its not ONE zwarte piet but sinterklaas has like hundreds zwarte pieten. u c. Ok only children believe in sinterklaas and his pieten. I believed in him till i was like 3 i heard he was a normal man with a fake beard just like santa claus :S. But most kids believe in him like lets say 11 o 12 years old.

The story of sinterklaas is that he's an old saint and comes from spain the kids believe hes like a few hundred years old and every year in december he comes from spain with his pieters with the "stoomboot" thats the steamboat to The Netherlands. And on December 5 its "Pakjesavond" Present Night. Then sinterklaas with help of his pieters they go deliver presents to every kid in holland, SK en his ZP go over the roofs of dutch houses and trough the presents in the ehhm dont know how to say that in english. SCHOORSTEEN where the fireplace is underneath :). And i forgot to tell from december 1 kids have to set there shoe and then if they wake up theres a little present in it. Then till december 5 when its sinterklaas birthday then they get all the gifts.

I hope u understand the whole sinterklaas thing now.

BTW we have santa claus to but here in holland they mostly tell kids santa claus (de Kerstman = The christmasman) doesnt exist but sinterklaas does u c.

Ok now

bye bye

Posted by: Nouri on February 2, 2004 04:12 PM

Thanks to all the comment-writers so far!

I still don't *exactly* get ZP, but it's not your fault! The ZP part of my brain must be missing...

Posted by: eric on February 2, 2004 08:48 PM

i was travelling in the netherlands during november and december, and i remember the first time i saw zp. i just looked at my travel mates and was like - do you not see how offensive that probably is? i've wondered what the hell was up with this every since i left amsterdam in late december. i still don't get it. where did these guys come from? and why is it acceptable to make the dolls look like that? i don't get it either.
but thanks for this page - some of these comments were real helpful. :)

Posted by: jeannette on February 6, 2004 04:46 PM

Thank you for creating this website. I was in the Netherlands in Nov. '03 and witnessed these images of zp. I spoke to several Dutch people of various backgrounds in reference to the image which I find offensive. Their revered image, my loathing induced many lengthy conversations.
I was in Utrecht a city that I adore and was in shock. The parade which took place on Saturday afternoon, was absolutely surreal. The Dutch paint there faces black, dress in the zp costume and distribute bite size ginger cookies to the crwod. Their Santa Claus rides a white horse and adds to the disturbing scene. It is so ingrained in their culture they can't see right from wrong.

Posted by: Anthony on March 24, 2004 07:31 AM

Greetings.

I'm an African-American. I find the stereotypical images of Zwarte Piet racist and highly inappropriate. The original tale of Black Peter comes from a time predating such racism/racist depictions, so the original tale itself is not a problem for me. But the fact that Black Peter through the ages has become essentially a goofy golliwog kind of character with exaggerated red lips and big eyes, that he has in some quarters become associated with the Devil is the result of an accumulation of racist baggage through the centuries. Depictions of Black Peter in this "darkie" mode are no more acceptable than the racist hook-nosed, tailed, money-grubbing caricatures of Jews purveyed by Nazis, neo-Nazis and skinhead groups.

Such images -- no matter how endearing or nostalgic they may be to those who've grown up with them, or to those unfamiliar with the history of such means of dehumanization -- are patently racist and offensive. Period. And they shouldn't be tolerated.

I was surfing the net to send my sister some info on the Black Moorish domination of Spain when I came across a mention of Zwarte Piet. I'd long ago heard of Black Peter, but couldn't remember the context. So, that sent me off on another search, which brought me here.

For those of you who are interested in how St. Nick came to have a black companion, I provide the following link. It doesn't explicitly explain the somewhat curious pairing, but it does provide some historical context.

http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Classroom/9912/africanseurope.html

Peace.

Posted by: Kathleen Wills on April 5, 2004 02:21 PM

By the way, I'm a collector and would appreciate any leads to acquiring any interesting depictions -- either in print, or figural -- of Black Peter. Regards.

Posted by: Kathleen Wills on April 5, 2004 02:25 PM

Jeeze. Guess it would help if I left contact info: koltwills@aol.com.

Another note: The Moorish connection obviously explains the admonition to naughty children that, if they don't mend their ways, Zwarte Piet will scoop them up, dump them unceremoniously into his sack and cart them off where? To Spain! Someone must have been smokin' the wacky tabacky when they thought THAT one up. (Twisted.)

Peace,

Posted by: Kathleen Wills on April 6, 2004 03:16 PM

Hi, I'm a native dutch and I've something to share

well I've been reading your diary with great interest. But the part about ZP is quite astonishing, because I'm feeling quite sorry for "you" Americans (no offence).You see a collored skin, and make a big thing of it. That make's you a racist (because that's the definition). The history of ZP might be a racist one, no-one knows actualy, but nowadays no-body is seeing the racist part of it. Just as nobody is seeing the racist part of let's say thanksgiving. Futher on the racist motives wich might have been there should be placed in the right time. We live in a different world now, most people know better now, so jest get over it.

Groeten,

Gerben

Posted by: Gerben Doosje on June 4, 2004 03:49 PM

(Sorry for the grammatical flaws)

Posted by: Gerben Doosje on June 4, 2004 03:50 PM

Well that's one way of looking at it.

But let me get this straight: "no-body is seeing the racist part of it", so you conclude that the racist part cannot be there? That is, one cannot be racist if he doesn't see that he is? The logic escapes me.

I never condemned the whole Zwarte Piet thing, I just didn't understand it--and still don't.

These comments have been wonderful. Thank you all.

Posted by: eric on June 4, 2004 05:54 PM

I'm sensing you don't agree with me at all (wich is not nessacery). But what I mean is that it is just a given fact that ZP is black (just like snow is white), and that nobody sees that as a problem. I've talked about it with my (dutch) roommates, and they couldn't get it what is so difficult about getting the ZP thing. BTW I was especially reacting on the comment Kathleen Wills wrote. I find it sad to read that she sees it as racist and inappropriate, because it's not ment like that at all! And that was wat I was trying to explain (in a little harsh was maybe).

Gerben

Posted by: Gerben Doosje on June 5, 2004 03:10 PM

Well, it's always difficult to see what's odd about one's own culture. And ZP is definitely odd.

"Odd", I write--I never wrote "bad"! It's just that I find Dutch culture somewhat less racist than US culture...but ZP says the opposite. And I must insist that it says the opposite about the Dutch, and it says it loudly, even if (as I believe) it is not intended that way, and whether or not the Dutch have any idea how shocking others find ZP. And denial is definitely NOT a characteristic Dutch fault, either--quite the opposite--which only makes ZP doubly puzzling.

In the original post, I wrote that any ZP-decorated window in Chicago would be broken quickly. Don't simply assume that I think the US is the ultimate moral standard on this. Let's be clear: the broken window would say as much about the US's unfortunate love of violence as it would ever say about ZP.

Again: my view of ZP is not censure, but...puzzlement.

And I'm gratified that this post provoked your bringing the subject up with your roommates. Thanks for your comments (and the others, too).

Posted by: eric on June 5, 2004 07:06 PM

Thank you for your answers, it helps me too to understand...

Gerben

Posted by: Gerben on June 6, 2004 12:07 AM

It's arrogant and pointless to try to tell people what they should or should not be offended by. Telling someone to "get over it" makes no sense whatsoever. People's reactions are people's reactions, and they're entitled to them. The fact that you do not understand, because you likely do not have any personal experience with virulent racism, doesn't mean you're correct. And it certainly doesn't give you the right to try to dictate people's feelings.

Even if you could do so -- which you can't.

And who are these "people" who don't take offense? From what you're written, you've spoken with your white friends about it. Talked to anyone of color? What? Because your white friends don't see anything wrong with it, it's supposed to be all right? ROTLMBAO

Try plastering caricatures of Jews with hooked noses and tails in store windows, or having someone dressed as some ugly Semitic stereotype in a children's parade. Then try telling a survivor of one of Hitler's lovely little concentration camps that they shouldn't be offended, to "get over it."

Lotsa luck with THAT one.

Time for a reality check.

Posted by: Kathleen Wills on June 23, 2004 01:13 AM

Kathleey: what direct evidence to you have that Mhr Doosje is white? Aha. Even a quick walk around his town of Utrecht will reveal quite a rainbow.

It is indeed hard for any one person to have a comprehensive view of this. Everyone is partly a product of his own background, and backgrounds are necessarily limited.

Posted by: eric on June 23, 2004 07:55 AM

I live in a part of Amsterdam where some blocks are 90% black, but up till now I've never noticed anyone to take offense to Zwarte Piet. In fact, Sinterklaas is celebrated in schools with just as much enthusiasm as in other parts of Holland. I guess Zwarte Piet is much less associated with a black person in Holland as it would be in the US or in other countries. No doubt it's the context in which Zwarte Piet is used that will prevent people from thinking that this character should be seen as a caricature of a black person. Even most newly arrived African immigrants are immediately aware that Zwarte Piet is a harmless thing, having as much to do with segregation and racism as the Easter bunny with cruelty to lagomorphs.

This is not to say that there's no racism in Holland. However, all of my friends of African descent would gladly agree that fighting racism doesn't start by getting rid of Zwarte Piet. Really, it would be the most futile and preposterous anti-racist action you can imagine.

Posted by: benj on June 27, 2004 11:05 PM

That Zwarte Piet is black doesn't bother me in the least. That he is sometimes depicted with big, googly eyes and big, red lips doesn't get under my skin, personally, either. But I recognize a "darkie" stereotype when I see one, and I recognize it as an affront to the race.

I also recognize how damaging such stereotypes can be to black children whose self-image is not yet developed and who are particularly vulnerable when they are members of minority and/or disadvantaged populations.

Of course, people are products of their respective historical and cultural traditions, of their environments. I have been shaped by my experience as an African-American, the descendant of human chattel, who have been subjected to continuing racism and sometimes violent oppression. My reaction would not be the same as someone who has no personal stake in, or meaningful familiarity with, my people's ongoing struggle -- which has meant, in part, battling ugly and potentially damaging racial stereotypes.

My point again is that no one can dictate someone else's feelings, or tell them to "get over it." The very idea is ridiculous. It's about understanding where other people are coming from, based on their collective (or even individual) experiences -- and, if understanding is impossible, then, certainly, respect should be. Respect the fact that others are justifiably offended, that young children potentially could be harmed by such unfortunate stereotypes and
get rid of them.

Period.

In this day and age, there's no excuse for such wretched, abysmal ignorance and insensitivity.

Posted by: Kathleen Wills on July 10, 2004 03:41 AM

One can write "Period" but there is no "Period."

There is little reason to expect that people and their racism should be any better "in this day and age" than in any other. Expecting that people should improve over time is a common error, of a piece with that weird American "March to Perfection" slant on history that is proven wrong again and again and that leads only to their own frustration (and to lashing out at countries who have not harmed them). The human race does not get better. There will be plenty of racism in the year 4000 (though no one can predict in which direction).

No race is immune from practicing disrespect or racism. No race is immune to being carelessly accused of racism. No race has a monopoly on suffering violent oppression: one need only count the number of Dutch towns whose every man, woman, child, dog, and cow were put to the sword.

Posted by: eric on July 10, 2004 03:01 PM

Dear Kathleen, dear Eric and other readers.

Kathleen you wrote:
"I also recognize how damaging such stereotypes can be to black children
whose self-image is not yet developed and who are particularly
vulnerable when they are members of minority and/or disadvantaged populations".

I'm black and I i love Zwarte Piet and Sinterklaas!!
I have a lots of friends who are from every color and they all love this great
feast for children. But the difference between you and me is is that I'm Dutch
and you are an american. Problably you miss real tolerance in your country.

I'm also refering to other things in the Netherlands which are legal and not in the US.
Gay marriages, abortion, euthanesia, prostitution, sof drugs no problem in the Netherlands!!!!!
Live and let live! RESPECT.
Why do american black people say Afro-American and not just American?
Talking about stereotypes!

Back to Zwarte Piet:
many different versions of the story of Saint Nicholas are told but there
are some common characters in each one.
Saint Nick's companion Zwarte Piet.
Some believe that Zwarte Piet was a black slave.
This is not the case!

Zwarte Piet is said to be a Turkish orphan that traveled as St. Nicholas' helper.
His darker Turkish features must have seemed black to the fairer 4th Century Dutch.
We Dutch don't care if he's black, white, brown or yellow and do not have a
problem with this at all!

Did you know that it was Dutch Immigrants who brought
the tradition of Santa Claus to the rest of the world?
That's right! It all started waaaay back in the 4th Century
when a Bishop in Turkey named St. Nicholas became widely
known for his good deed with poor children in Europe.
Also known as the patron saint of Amsterdam.

The tradition of St. Nicholas came to North America with
Netherlands Protestant Settlers in New Amsterdam, now New York.
At that time, the gift giving at the celebration of St. Nicholas' feast
day was separate from the celebration of Christmas on December 25.
It wasn't until the publication of "twas the Night Before Christmas"
by Clement Clark Moore that Santa Claus as a "jolly old elf" with
reindeer was born. Coca Cola did the rest. Brrrr.

It is no coincedence that NY is tolerant as well.
Believe it or not: not as tolerant as Old Amsterdam!!!

(Read all about this in a book called: The Island at the center of the world from Russel Shorto.
See also his website: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/island/index.html)

By the way I'm 17 years old. Greetings Ronny!!

and sorry for my english!

Posted by: Ronny on July 24, 2004 12:59 AM

About "period."

And your point? Who on earth suggested anyone had a monopoly on anything? Who said I EXPECT anything of anyone? What should be and what likely will be are two entirely different things. So, people aren't perfect? What a shocker. So, we should wallow in ignorance and stupidity and leave it at that? IMO, your comments are utterly meaningless.

Posted by: Kathleen Wills on July 25, 2004 04:41 PM

Uh--OK then. I'm sure you're sincere in what you write.

(Non-political blog author shuffles off toward safety...)

Posted by: eric on July 26, 2004 06:10 AM

Hello
well Im 14 and I am from Trinidad and Tobago (in the Caribbean). I am multi-culturall (indian, american, irish, brittish, jamaican, Trinidadian,...) and I have lived in Holland for about a year and a half.
I agree 110% with Kathleen Willis. The whole Zwarte Piet concept is racist, riddicluous and unnessesary. No one has suggested the stopping of "Sinterklaas" only of "Zwarte Piet" - why do they need to be black with afro hair and big red lips? has anyone ever considered painting them bright colours like pink, yellow, orange, green...? or they could even be painted half white half black...make them equal.
I have read all of the other entry's on this page and honestly those which say that "no one sees the racism in it anymore" are just plain stupid. And i can garauntee you that the ZP are having an effect on people in holland. i went to Six Flags about 3 weeks ago and in the line, when i turned around to make sure my sister was behind me, and young white dutch man with his friends shouted out "look its a zwarte piet!" now this hasnt been the first time, durning last christmas i went shopping and 3 children - around 4-6 - pointed at me and asked their mother if they could go talk to the zwarte piet. out of bad luck it just so happens that my birthday is Decmber 5th and in my school i was told by a few other students that i should help the teachers with the zwarte peits for Sinterklaas because i wouldnt even need to be painted. I personally find this humiliating and unaccaptable. why should people be brouhgt up on these kind of traditions. racism should never be tolerated even if its not as widely noticed. and it isnt just black people who are offended by the ZP i have alot of white and other raced freinds who also agree with me. i started a petition against the zwarte piet during the week of sinterklaas and got over 200 signetures, it was then convistgated by my teacher because she said "we were ruining the joy of sinterklaas".
If the idea of Zwarte Piet is not meant to be racist then why is it still being alowed to offed people, even if its 10 people,100 people 1000 people, the whole world - it doesnt matter, what matters is that people are being offened by the ZPs and other people should respect that. It is imposible to end racism all at once and it probably wont happen for centuries but we can still try to stop each racial problem (no matter how small) that gets in our way and eventually it will have an effect.
I feel very strongly about it and I really think this should be stopped and i plan to organise a petiton every year and send it to different organizations until people listen. There is no point in telling people something is wrong and then sitting back and waiting for some one to do somehing about it, we have to do it.

P.S - i am at the moment doin a project on this so any information would be greately apreciated my email address is la_bella_mafiya@hotmial.com. thanx.

Vivien

Posted by: Vivien on September 27, 2004 08:53 PM

i apologise for my spelling and gramatical mistakes i get very passionate about things and tend to type too quickly for my own good.

Vivien

Posted by: vivien on September 27, 2004 09:01 PM

First: Do not call the other posters here "stupid" because they differ with you. In your post, you essentially asks people to have better manners...you might start with taking on better manners, yourself. Thank you.

I encourage you to start your petition. I might even sign it depending on its wording. But recognize that a 14-year-old is not likely to stop a 500-year-old tradition. I wish you a lot of signatures anyway. But with all the world's killing and hatred and nuclear weapons and AIDS and environmental disasters, few people will reserve much room at the top of their list for "Being offended once in a while by ZP."

Posted by: eric on September 28, 2004 04:45 AM

ok I apreciate your consturive criticisms and I appologise for calling anyone stupid, I didnt mean it, sorry.
And of course I know that ZP isnt an incredibly important issue - it isnt even near the top of my list of most important problems - but that doesnt mean that people should turn a blind eye to it, little things build up.
By the way just because im 14 doesnt mean im not allowed to believe in something. And I resent being told "a 14-year-old is not likely to stop a 500-year-old tradition" - so what, I never said I could stop it, and that doesnt mean im not allowed to try . I have the right to express my feelings about something just as much as you do.

Posted by: Vivien on September 28, 2004 06:47 PM

Of course you have the right to express your feelings. Exactly as those who like Zwarte Piet have the right to express theirs.

Posted by: eric on September 29, 2004 02:08 AM

[I'm black and I i love Zwarte Piet and Sinterklaas!!]

I think the only way one who is black could love this custom would be that it is all they know. Just like black slaves that stayed with their masters. IF no one is taught it is wrong why would they want to change? It is very hard to go away from the norm so as a black person if everyone thinks it is acceptable so will you unless you travel and open your mind to see why it could be or is offending.

[I have a lots of friends who are from every color and they all love this great
feast for children. But the difference between you and me is is that I'm Dutch
and you are an american. Problably you miss real tolerance in your country.]

If you call this tolerance I'm sad. Tolerance is a word for people who careful consider all aspects of offending the people who live in their society not just to protect a custom that makes no sense as of 100 yrs ago or more. Black Pete dancing around acting all dumb scaring kids is not tolerence to me.

[I'm also refering to other things in the Netherlands which are legal and not in the US.
Gay marriages, abortion, euthanesia, prostitution, sof drugs no problem in the Netherlands!!!!!
Live and let live! RESPECT.]

This may be legal however their are still sterotypes put on people who do this. It is not all RESPECT or live and let live. This attitude is why I had a culture shock when first arriving. Holland is told to be all free and happy and that is a half truth as any in my book. Maybe the racism is not aimed at blacks but dont be Turkish or Morrocean over here. A have met so many Dutch people who talk so much crap about these people which is surprising when they are suppossed to be tolerent?

[Why do american black people say Afro-American and not just American?
Talking about stereotypes!]

The reason for that would be that blacks from the U.S are from Africa as you are. You might be Dutch and live in Holland now but you are not from the Netherlands. They took you from Africa and now you are here. It is not sterotypical to be called African American if that is what you are? It is a politically correct term to use being that the U.S reconizes that the took slaves from Africa and that is your orgins. Another thing I do not get. The Dutch had the one of the largest slave trading industries but no one talks about it. It's like denial because it happened so long ago or something. Racism is still here they just dont acknowlege it as that.

[Zwarte Piet is said to be a Turkish orphan that traveled as St. Nicholas' helper.
His darker Turkish features must have seemed black to the fairer 4th Century Dutch.
We Dutch don't care if he's black, white, brown or yellow and do not have a
problem with this at all!]

If he is turkish why doesnt he look that way? He looks pretty black to me. Odd to say the least.I mean if this was a mix up couldn't it get sorted out?

[Did you know that it was Dutch Immigrants who brought the tradition of Santa Claus to the rest of the world?]

Exactly Dutch immigrants. You know how you got here right. It amazing that some blacks here hold no feeling on this issue of how they got to the Netherlands. It is not that you have to be bitter it was a long time ago but you hear the Dutch talk about American slavery but not their own ties to it? Actually though I read that they are starting to talk about it and have but up a memorial about it. Just recently though. Slavery has been abolished from here forever and things are just getting started. I sometimes feel like the i went back in time being here per say.Here is a link to more info:
http://www.rnw.nl/holland/html/slaves001220.html

Posted by: tigerlily on October 21, 2004 02:16 AM

Earlier, this post drew some perceptive comments; but lately too many comments have gotten long and wildly illogical. Pity.

==Further comments disallowed to this post.==

Posted by: eric on October 21, 2004 02:28 AM
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