Monday 10 December 2018
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.theguardian - 27 days ago

‘Black Pete’: the scandal we Dutch can’t stay silent about any more | Joost de Vries

Is November’s Sinterklaas festival a vestige of slavery or benign? It’s part of a debate about our culture we simply can’t escapeLast month in the city of Leeuwarden, in the north of the Netherlands, 34 people – mostly men – stood trial, charged with one of the oddest crimes in recent history. The crime had been committed a year earlier. Here are the circumstances: in mid-November, as the tradition has it, Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, was due to arrive in Dokkum, a nearby town in the region of Friesland. Each year children flock to see the Sint (Saint) come off his boat – it’s a highly popular televised event. And each year, more and more activists set out to protest against the tradition.What they protest against is not Sinterklaas himself – who rides a grey horse called Amerigo and hands out presents on his birthday. No, the problem is Black Pete. Originally Black Pete was to Sint what Luca Brasi was to Don Corleone: his muscle man, his enforcer. In the olden days, if children had behaved badly during the year, Pete would give them “the switch”. Or worse, he would stuff them in a sack and take them away. An elderly white man plays Sinterklaas. Pete is played by a white man too, dressed in minstrel clothing with his face painted black. Continue reading...

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