Every year around this time the same discussion starts with regards to Zwarte Piet. For those you who are unfamiliar with this Dutch tradition, Zwarte Piet is the helper of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas). He is black with curly hair and wears colourful clothes. He hands out gifts and candy and gets up to mischief. The issue apparently is that he is black. So what if he is? If you go far back into history it is mentioned that Sinterklaas had a Moorish ‘knecht’ which translates to a valet, servant or help. Not a slave. A small group of people in the Netherlands feel that we should change the tradition and that Zwarte Piet can no longer be Zwart (black). This year the United Nations have gotten involved and are going to determine whether or not the tradition of Zwarte Piet is racist or whether it part of Dutch folklore.
It makes me sad to see a discussion like this. I truly can not understand why the fact that he black is racist. Zwarte Piet is fun, he gives you candy and he makes you laugh with his tricks. The little mermaid is too young to really understand what will happen on the 5th of December, but we will still put out her shoe, sing songs for Sinterklaas and she will receive presents from him. We will go and see Sinterklaas and his helpers arrive in Dubai and I hope that once she is older Zwarte Piet will still be Zwarte Piet and continue to bring much joy to many Dutch children.
I think that in a lot of countries we are trying to be so P.C. that we lose sight of what racism or discrimination actually is. Saying that someone is black, or tall or short or whatever is not racist. The fact that these Piets work for a white guy is also not racist. By all means he treats them well and they seem to enjoy working for him. Every year there are several television programs dedicated to the celebration of Sinterklaas’s birthday and the Piets play a big part in the whole story. They are the ones that climb the roofs and listen through the chimney to see if you have been behaving, they then report back to Sinterklaas who writes everything down in his big book so that he knows exactly who has been naughty or nice.
I for one hope that this tradition will continue and my little mermaid will want to dress up as a Zwarte Piet just like I did.