Tag Archives: zwarte piet

Zwarte Piet or Black Pete.

As usuall I was glancing through African blogs and sites and I fell on this article. It deals with a Dutch tradition which is similar to Santa Claus and the elf but their version is Santa and a black slave which is called Zwarte Piet who acts dumb.  In December Santa Claus parades with black Pete on the streets and this tradition is still ongoing. What I find strange about it is the fact that they continue to use white people and paint them black. I don´t  think black people are rare in Holland considering the fact that a lot of Africans live there nowadays. But, anyways if I was a black living there I wouldn´t want to act in a such a degrading way. This was a comment made by a black living in Holland called Linda after she read the article.

I’m a black Dutch and I find the Sinterklaas & Zwarte Piet celebration offensive to black people. When I was a kid growing up in a all whites village and all whites school, I celebrated Sinterklaas just like any other child. I didn’t got it why zwarte piet was always playing the joker. It made people laugh. When I got older I thought about it and stopped celebrating it all together. Everybody I spoke to told me, it wasn’t racist because the Zwarte Piet climbs into the chimney to distribute the gifts to the kids so when he gets out, he is all black. But then I asked: what about his hair and lips then? Why is his hair afro and his lips red, like they portrayed it during slavery? I was told I was “too sensitive”. At work I was considered as not being part of the team. At one job they even asked me if I wanted to goaround clients dressed like Zwarte Piet. Obviously I refused.

We live in a society in which the majority of white people, even those who are not racist, see black people as being stupid, dumb, and lazy. In my career I encountered several clients who were hiring and told me they were only looking for”Autochtonen” (real Dutch people), and one client even specifically said: “if you don’t get what I mean, I want people with blonde hair and blue eyes” (my name is Linda and I sound as Dutch as I can be on the phone, so this client thought I was white). Being a black recruiter at that time was quite difficult, because I knew with the majority of clients would only hire white Dutch people. So whenever a Dutch young guy came to register, we were all fighting over him. This also proof the case for every company I worked, I was usually the only black person, if it’s international, I would see maybe two others if I was lucky.

They way white people think about black people has been going on for centuries. Black is considered to be the opposite of white, so everything that is bad is addressed to black people, unless we are good in music, sports and dance. Even in the media if an “allochtoon” does something bad, they will say, the Dutch of Suriname/Moroccan origin… As a black professional, you know that you have to work ten times harder and swallow all crappy so called ‘funny’ comments, than your fellow white colleague. If there is a promotion,9 out of the 10 times it will go to your white colleague, who pretends to be working and behaving well only if the boss is around, and with a 9-5 mentality.

Seeing this I am really greatful I came to learn in Spain and not some of those countries. I am not saying though that Spain is racism free cause that would not be true. I have experienced the; switched my place in the bus cause your black scene, hold my bag my tightly cause your black scene or a cashier checking and rechecking the 50 euro note you gave cause you are black. But it is not frequent and there is a vibrant African and Latino community here. The Spanish too have a Christmas tradition called ‘Los reyes Magos’ it is the three kings from the orient who came to visit baby Jesus in the manger. It is celebrated on the 6th of January with the kings walking around the streets giving children candy and rewarding them with gifts if they were good the previous year. My spanish teacher told my class that when he was small he used to act the part of the black king and thus had to paint himself black and whenever he started sweating his paint ran down his face. But, nowadays there was no need of doing that since you could easily get a black person to play the role. I didn´t find that racist or anything but rather funny because it was not degrading to me. I rather thought of it as black Santa Claus. lol. I like the fact that the children are lucky to have three Santa Clauses one caucasian,one black one arabian. What better example of social integration?

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