Sinterclaas and Black Piet

It’s generally celebrated on the 6th of December, so having to post this now, makes me kinda late. But not being Dutch, or having Dutch Ancestry in one form or the other, I really just forgot about it until I thought about Ender’s Game. A war of gifts – good story.

Anyways, as we all are aware as of November this year, that Zwarte Piet (Black Piet) has lots of racial connotations, and to the greater Caribbean/African/Non-White population in the Netherlands, this is just plain and simple Not Cool. People, such as local activists and a panel of experts affiliated with the U.N. have brought it up to the attention of the authorities in the Netherlands, but seeing as it’s nearly election time and that well, Piet’s been around for a century and a half, it’s kind of difficult to eliminate something everyone alive has grown up with.

As far as I’ve gathered, Black Piet is black due to the fact that he has to climb down the chimneys of houses to give presents to good little boys and girls in their shoes. So naturally, soot gets on him, turning him black. Over time, with slavery, like every fictional character over time, changed bit by bit to suit the culture of the era. Black Piet was a servant, so, naturally, he became his colour. Black Piet, at this point, is a Moor – which plays well, considering that he and Sinterclaas comes from Spain – a place so close to the north African coastline that immigration to Spain was sort of inevitable at many period in Spanish history. Even after the abolition of slavery, this image is stuck.

In this day and age, where people of every ancestry, immigrate to every country, from every country, who, not knowing the tradition, would naturally “be the victim” of a culture they don’t know. So they would react. Naturally.

On the flipside (I sense there are gonna be lots of flips in this one),  the people who comment on people reminding them of Black Piet tend to do so with some level of innocence. They know Piet as a person who helps Sinterclass get rewards to children for good behaviour, and punish bad children for bad behaviour. It’s a regression to better times for them. It’s their culture. And they celebrate it fondly.

Still, hurtful things, once pointed out, and it has been pointed out, should be recognised and corrected. Not left to continue hurting people. Which it seems to do, obviously. So, in this case, maybe Black Piet should just return to White Piet Covered With Soot. I mean, if they could get rid of Black Piet Who Kidnaps Naughty Children, they could change his race, can’t they.

Ahh… but that delves deeper into the Race issue. What if this shows that the Netherlands only recognises White people when there are people of many races and backgrounds here, ahhhh. Maybe they could change the race of Sinterclass instead, but he wasn’t the issue, it was Piet. Well, exchange the races? And have a white man serving a black man? ehhh..

See what I mean? No? Well, I’m not too clear either, this is literally coming out of my head as I think it.

Arguably, it’s just as bad to change it as it is to eliminate Piet. According to one source (given to the BBC)

“People have a right to express and preserve their own culture,” she says. “As long as a culture is not violating human rights, then culture itself is a human right.”

But a letter compiled by the UN rapporteurs of the working group on people of African descent and minority rights and sent to the Dutch government, warns that “sometimes practices, which are part of cultural heritage, may infringe upon human rights”.

I have to say, I agree more with the BBC source. I mean, look at it this way, lots of Caribbean-based people have their own Carnival festivals at home. But culture moves with them when they move to another country. Because of this Canada and England have Carnival now. These countries embraced this foreign culture as their own. But what if they stamped it out? It would be a Human Rights Disaster.

So putting this little analogy to the Netherlands, we could see how the Non-white people are trying to stamp out a culture that they don’t understand and/or feel offended by. They want to stamp it out and isn’t that an infringement on the human rights of the Dutch and their culture?

This is difficult.

This is, for me, unimaginable, and bizarre.

I know a Chinese girl who is Muslim, I know a family of African descent and every one of them is Hindu (a religion strongly associated with Indians). I’m Christian and my best friend is Hindu and we respect each other’s religious culture. I’m of pure Indian decent and I know very little of the Indian culture except what I know from her.

Maybe it’s because of where I live and how I grew up, or how I’m a third, unbiased party in this whole deal, but this issue is too much for me. I just see both sides and how it’s just bad for everyone involved.

I’ve said what I could say, I could do nothing more.

Y’all could read and have your opinions. Share them with me. I wanna know how this affects – or doesn’t affect – you.

____

References:

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/5/black-pete-foundracist.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24979498

http://www.dw.de/black-pete-makes-some-see-red/a-17237526

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