Zwarte Piet, and sinterklaas. Racism or tradition?

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Hello ladies and gentlemen.

Today I present to you a topic that has caused alot of strife in the netherlands, regarding a traditional part of the sinterklaas festival, which is fairly comparable to christmas in the uk/usa.


Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”) is the companion of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in the folklore of the Low Countries, whose yearly feast in the Netherlands is usually celebrated on the evening of 5 December (Sinterklaasavond, that is, St. Nicholas’ Eve) and 6 December in Belgium, when they distribute sweets and presents to all good children.

The tasks of the Zwarte Pieten are mostly to amuse children, and to scatter pepernoten, kruidnoten and strooigoed (special sinterklaas candies) for those who come to meet the saint as he visits stores, schools, and other places. Something important to mark, is that the saint sits on a horse, while the zwarte pieten walk (wave rida’s note)

The tradition continues to be popular in the Netherlands but some activists have protested against it. Four people wearing T-shirts with the words “Zwarte Piet is Racist” were arrested during the second weekend of November 2011.

It was announced in October 2013 that the United Nations, under the authority of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, were to investigate whether Zwarte Piet is a racist stereotype. The Dutch government responded by stating that the Sinterklaas celebration is a tradition for children in the Netherlands.

Foreign tourists, particularly those from the United States and the United Kingdom, often experience culture shock when encountering the character, as dressing in blackface is a social taboo in these and other countries. Since the 1990s, there have been several attempts to introduce a new kind of Zwarte Piet to the Dutch public, among them replacing traditional black makeup with various other shades of colours. As an experiment in 2006, the NPS (en: Dutch Programme Foundation) replaced the black Pieten with rainbow-colored Pieten but reverted the characters back to the traditional all-black makeup a year later.


My question to you: Do you find it racism/ a racistical stereotpye?

I have cut all of the above from wikipedia, to view the full article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwarte_Piet

 
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A classic example of a “zwarte piet”.

 
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My question to you: Do you find it racism/ a racistical stereotpye?

Nope, if he wore rags and chains and was whipped through the streets that’d be wrong, or if he went round eating fried chicken and watermelon but I don’t really see that character as being a black stereotype.

I think we look too hard for racism these days.

 
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So… are black people not supposed to be anything to do with Christmas?

He’s just a traditional character. Racism-seekers, lighten up.

 
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It is racist because the white guy has a horse but the black guy doesnt.

Obviously all societies are racist except communism, because they all have wealth inequality.

 
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Originally posted by dd790:

My question to you: Do you find it racism/ a racistical stereotpye?

Nope, if he wore rags and chains and was whipped through the streets that’d be wrong, or if he went round eating fried chicken and watermelon but I don’t really see that character as being a black stereotype.

I think we look too hard for racism these days.

Those are all American tropes for black racism. Of course the Dutch wouldn’t use them.

On the other hand… (from the wiki)

The role of Zwarte Pieten has become part of a recurring debate in the Netherlands. Controversial practices include holiday revellers blackening their faces and wearing afro wigs, gold jewelry and bright red lipstick,8 and walking the streets throwing candy to passers-by.

Until the second half of the 20th century, Saint Nicholas’ helper was not too bright, in line with the old colonial traditions. Once immigration started from the former colonised countries, Zwarte Piet became a much more respected assistant of Saint Nicholas, often inattentive, but playful.

According to myths dating to the beginning of the 19th century, Saint Nicholas operated by himself or in the companionship of a devil. Having triumphed over evil, it was said that on Saint Nicholas Eve the devil was shackled and made his slave; a devil as a helper of the saint can still be found in the Austrian Saint Nicholas tradition, in the character of Krampus.
Some sources indicate that in Germanic Europe, Zwarte Piet was originally such an enslaved devil, forced to assist his captor, but in the 19th century Netherlands the character emerged in the likeness of a Moor, a servant of Saint Nicholas.5 Saint Nicholas is said to come from the Byzantine Empire, modern-day Turkey.

Black Peter sounds like a composite of Othello, the Devil, and Colonial Europe black stereotypes. Sounds like plenty of raw material for an anti-racist outcry.

 
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Hey guys, stop having fun with your ancient traditions because they mean something that hurts my feelings!! D: D: D:

 
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Originally posted by Dr_Money420:

Hey guys, stop having fun with your ancient traditions because they mean something that hurts my feelings!! D: D: D:

But Halloween is devil worship!

 
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He’s the slow-witted blackfaced servant of santa. It’s mindboggling that you guys don’t find anything racist about that.

But what I am thinking? It’s an ‘ancient cultural tradition’ rite? So we have to be cultural relativists about it, rite? lol. The kind of people who think there’s nothing wrong with this don’t give a shit about CR, but if it can be used to stop those pesky libs from calling it racist, then it’s all good!

 
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Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

He’s the slow-witted blackfaced servant of santa. It’s mindboggling that you guys don’t find anything racist about that.

It wouldn’t be if he has more than one servant, preferably from a variety of different backgrounds. So a simple solution would be to add others. Which I think someone said above, has been tried with different colored slow-witted helpers. It’s the kind of role your average burger flipper was born to play.

 
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Originally posted by vikaTae:
Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

He’s the slow-witted blackfaced servant of santa. It’s mindboggling that you guys don’t find anything racist about that.

It wouldn’t be if he has more than one servant, preferably from a variety of different backgrounds. So a simple solution would be to add others. Which I think someone said above, has been tried with different colored slow-witted helpers. It’s the kind of role your average burger flipper was born to play.

So if he had a brown dim witted servant, a yellow dim witted servant, a red dim witted servant and an olive dim witted servant it wouldn’t be racist? Even with more than one black dim witted servant it would be quite racist.

The ritual is a white guy on a horse, elevated above his servant or servants of different colors. Why is it that only the white guy is intelligent?

If it were reversed, I bet a lot of people that say it isn’t racist now would change their tune.

On a separate note, no one is “born” to do any job. There are burger flippers that are working their way through college as well. Your statement makes you look like quite the pompous asshole.

 
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Originally posted by jim_vierling:
Originally posted by vikaTae:
Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

He’s the slow-witted blackfaced servant of santa. It’s mindboggling that you guys don’t find anything racist about that.

It wouldn’t be if he has more than one servant, preferably from a variety of different backgrounds. So a simple solution would be to add others. Which I think someone said above, has been tried with different colored slow-witted helpers. It’s the kind of role your average burger flipper was born to play.

So if he had a brown dim witted servant, a yellow dim witted servant, a red dim witted servant and an olive dim witted servant it wouldn’t be racist? Even with more than one black dim witted servant it would be quite racist.

The ritual is a white guy on a horse, elevated above his servant or servants of different colors. Why is it that only the white guy is intelligent?

If it were reversed, I bet a lot of people that say it isn’t racist now would change their tune.

On a separate note, no one is “born” to do any job. There are burger flippers that are working their way through college as well. Your statement makes you look like quite the pompous asshole.

Why are you equating being able to ride a horse with intelligence?

Also, by different colors they meant colors like green, blue, red, and purple. I put red here because nobody has red skin unless they have a nasty sunburn D:

Stop being a stereotypical social justice warrior. Nobody cares about your white guilt or your need to be offended for minorities who dont care about the issue.

 
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Originally posted by jim_vierling:

So if he had a brown dim witted servant, a yellow dim witted servant, a red dim witted servant and an olive dim witted servant it wouldn’t be racist? Even with more than one black dim witted servant it would be quite racist.

Now try realistic colors. black servants, white servants, asian servants. Mixed race servants. Why the heck not? All it says is this guy has servants.

You will have a helluva time building a case that it is racist to simply employ servants.

The ritual is a white guy on a horse, elevated above his servant or servants of different colors. Why is it that only the white guy is intelligent?

If it were reversed, I bet a lot of people that say it isn’t racist now would change their tune.

Doubt it. It’d be like having a black president. That wouldn’t be something an intelligent person could point at and say the presidency has become racist.

Besides as Crow says, riding a horse and handing out presents are hardly signs of mastermind level intelligence.

On a separate note, no one is “born” to do any job. There are burger flippers that are working their way through college as well.

Hence average. The gormless ones who always look and act like nobody is home. They’re everywhere in such professions, whereas the smart ones get out as soon as possible.

 
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Ah, the trolls have found common cause. Excellent.

 
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Originally posted by vikaTae:
Originally posted by jim_vierling:

So if he had a brown dim witted servant, a yellow dim witted servant, a red dim witted servant and an olive dim witted servant it wouldn’t be racist? Even with more than one black dim witted servant it would be quite racist.

Now try realistic colors. black servants, white servants, asian servants. Mixed race servants. Why the heck not? All it says is this guy has servants.

You will have a helluva time building a case that it is racist to simply employ servants.

The ritual is a white guy on a horse, elevated above his servant or servants of different colors. Why is it that only the white guy is intelligent?

If it were reversed, I bet a lot of people that say it isn’t racist now would change their tune.

Doubt it. It’d be like having a black president. That wouldn’t be something an intelligent person could point at and say the presidency has become racist.

Besides as Crow says, riding a horse and handing out presents are hardly signs of mastermind level intelligence.

On a separate note, no one is “born” to do any job. There are burger flippers that are working their way through college as well.

Hence average. The gormless ones who always look and act like nobody is home. They’re everywhere in such professions, whereas the smart ones get out as soon as possible.

Those are realistic colors or color labels in racist terms. I used them that way to show how different “color” servants could also be construed as being racist. Asian is not a color by the way.

It is not racist to employ servants, the racism is in how the ritual is done.

How would it be comparable to the presidency? The presidency isn’t a guy on a horse leading his dim witted different colored servant down the road to hand out goodies on his behalf. (I realize that there are actually some comparisons to be made there, but it is still not the same situation).

It was specifically stated that the servant was dim-witted. There was no mention of “santa” as dim witted. That would imply that “santa” was more intelligent than his servant, or that santa had intelligence where his servant did not.

If the servant were a dim witted white person would there be a problem with him taking advantage of the mentally challenged?

Going back to the original post, it would seem to state that there is more than one servant and it instead refers to them as companions. So he isn’t just leading around one, but rather a group of dim-witted people. Why exactly would the ritual make the entire group black?

Yeah there is a big problem with a bunch of white people painting themselves to appear black and acting like they are dim witted. The ritual is pretty much saying that all black people are dim witted or that only black people can be dim witted.

 
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I think the revelers wearing fake afros, gold jewellery, and big fat red lips can’t be easily explained away either. They’re obviously stereotyping blacks, and doing it in the most grotesque ways. ‘Tradition’ doesn’t mean squat. And before you slam anybody who disagrees as having ‘white guilt’, you might want to consider that the netherlands is a homogenous white culture. Like other scandinavian european cultures, they have a big problem with immigrants, especially of the dark-skinned variety, coming in and disrupting that traditional, pure racial makeup. Unlike Americans or Canadians, they have little or no conception of Affirmative Action policies or making up for past screwups (ie. colonization). We might be sick of the over-saturation of racial sensitivity in our culture, but they’ve barely had any.

I also think it’s amusing that the same people who make comparisons to halloween seem to forget that the obvious comparison would be to north american christmas. If you have no problem with black peter you should have no problem with christian symbols in public places during christmas. It’s just our ‘cultural tradition’, right?

 
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If you have no problem with black peter you should have no problem with christian symbols in public places during christmas. It’s just our ‘cultural tradition’, right?

I have no problem with Christian symbols in public places during Christmas. Why would I? Christian, Jewish, Wiccan, Satanic glyphs, or anything else. Whatever symbolism you choose to celebrate with, so long as its not grotesque or explicit in a public place, go for it. Examples of ‘symbols’ I would consider inappropriate would include clearly identifiable images of open surgery, clearly identifiable pictures of someone’s private parts, or unquestionably phallic objects. Its not the sort of thing you parade about in public.

Same reason I’ll use “Happy christmas” as a greeting to anyone. I won’t use merry because that implies I’m wishing them to get drunk for Christmas, and I’d rather they didn’t. Plus of course my partner had a problem in his youth with alcohol addiction, and it would be mean to him for me to be wishing people a merry christmas, usually with him present. What others greet me with, so long as its happy, does it really matter?

I think the revelers wearing fake afros, gold jewellery, and big fat red lips can’t be easily explained away either.

That part I was unaware of. Yes, that absolutely has to go.

Although the big red fat lips could actually be something they desire. Botox for cosmetic purposes tends to produce that too :) (I’m kidding, very few people wish their lips to be quite that massively overblown)

If the servant were a dim witted white person would there be a problem with him taking advantage of the mentally challenged?

Certainly not in my view. So long as the intellectually challenged person is enjoying themself, its not exactly taking advantage of. Would give those with certain types of disabilities a way to feel more included.

It is not racist to employ servants, the racism is in how the ritual is done.

As long as you understand that, I have no complaints. It is a view I’ve encountered before that employing help is by definition somehow racist, purely because in the southern States it is usually Mexicans who are hired, and many from there pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. For example in British society of many ytears gone by, it was often poor, working class people of whatever skin color they happenened to come with, who were employed.

Unlike Americans or Canadians, they have little or no conception of Affirmative Action policies or making up for past screwups

I am surprised by that. The British certainly have such a view, and the French do to a lesser degree. Admittedly there are cultural nose-snubs. Like this daft case where the Saudis complained of the blasphemy of a nationwide chain of Mecca bingo halls. The Saudis being basically told to bugger off, and Mecca Bingo still being available nationwide.

On the flip side, there have been cases where packaging not actually meant to offend, had to be stripped because it was racist.

A number of years ago in the UK, there was a sweet you could buy. A little square of chewable licorice about an inch by a half inch by a quarter inch. It was wrapped in a little paper case with an image of a Gollywog on the cover. Often sold with ‘fruit salad’ sweets of the same size. But, because it had an image of a cartoonish form of a black man on the cover of the sweet, this made the sweet racist, and it had to go. It wasn’t just a case of changing the labelling. Because the sweet itself was associated with its branding, the whole product had to be discontinued. Fruit salad are still sold, the licorice version is not.

Anything which lampoons one race or another is banned. If the celebration is as bad as you are describing here, it would be banned in most of Western Europe.

If the EU is involved, and it is that bad, it certainly will be banned by them.

 
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I’m pretty sure the only people who actually are for the elimination of this tradition are white people who are racial apologists. Sure, the tradition may have some racial roots, but that’s like saying that you shouldn’t use the phrase “rule of thumb” because of its sexist roots. Seriously, do you think that this Dutch tradition is meant to purposefully offend black people? No.

Seriously, the feelings of people who aren’t even affected by an event doesn’t warrant destruction of tradition.

‘Tradition’ doesn’t mean squat

Except for the establishment of a country’s culture, but, you know, that’s not something that people have strong feelings about either. Unlike, say, being so obsessed with political correctness that it’s hard to speak your mind.
We might be sick of the over-saturation of racial sensitivity in our culture, but they’ve barely had any.

So, the problem with this is…? You already said they haven’t historically had much in the way of prior African, Muslim, Asian, or what have you culture in their country, so why should they adjust their culture to fit the new immigrants in? While these ethnic and racial groups may have positive effects on Europe, its their responsibility to adapt to their new environment, not the other way around.
If you have no problem with black peter you should have no problem with christian symbols in public places during christmas. It’s just our ‘cultural tradition’, right?

Yeah, pretty much. I’m an agnostic theist and I don’t mind people getting the Christmas spirit, that’s when they’re charitable. That said, treating cultural tradition like it’s a load of shit just goes to show that you really have no sense of identity. I’m sorry to hear that man, I really am.

 
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Labelling anyone who disagrees with you as a racial apologist is a good way to sweep away any opposition to your argument, well done. As is assuming that anyone who disagrees with you must be a white guy. Shall I assume that you’re a white guy too, but one ‘unencumbered’ by white guilt? Which of course is just another way of saying you don’t like being reminded of racism, colonialism, or, apparently, statist heterogenity. Canada (and America) is no longer made up exclusively of old-world descent. We’ve adapted, given non-white immigrants a space to flourish. As vika points out, most of the EU has done likewise. The few hanger-ons will have to change too, or they’ll be consigned to the level of ‘quaint and old-fashioned’ at best, and ‘monolithic fossils’ at worst. Cultures that don’t change, die.

Do I think the Dutch are purposely trying to offend black people? No. But you actually provide the reasoning quite well toward the end of your argument: they have no experience of immigrants in their own country (which is not to say they don’t have plenty of historical experience interfering with dark-skinned people in THEIR countries), so why should they adjust? The point, then, is that they’re largely ignorant that their attitudes are racist; their intention, however, does not in any way negate their behavior.

Believe me, I’m not too politically correct to speak my mind. Political incorrectness is not, as much as you would like it to be, the last stand of the free-speech loving iconoclasts. It’s more like the last bastion of the societal troll-facers who cling to that identity solely to shock and offend. I’m somewhat ironically reminded of Dawkins, who said that religious moderates provide social cover for extremists. Political incorrectness serves a similar function, providing a socially acceptable cover for actual bigotry (please note that like the moderates/fanatics comparison, those are separate groupings). I’ve got plenty of experience with political incorrectness. It’s an empty ‘philosophy’ (which is probably being over-generous to the term) that ultimately leads us nowhere.

Political correctness can operate that way too, at its extremes, but used in moderate doses (as it almost always is outside sensationalist reporting) it’s merely a synonym for civility and, yes, historical awareness. I have no interest in repeating or sustaining anachronistic attitudes, or defending those who do. Your beliefs are by no means progressive or enlightened – they’re literally moving backwards in time. Would we be any better off if we didn’t have to think about the feelings of minorities? I guess it would be one less mental burden, but personally, I’m glad my eyes are open to it, and I don’t just dismiss them with a “well if you don’t like it go back to your own country, nigger!”

See, I can be politically incorrect if I like. I don’t shy away from using unpleasant words. Nor am I saying that you are doing that, or even the Dutch. But you are covering for those who do say that, and some of what you say echoes that sentiment more than a little. It’s not ‘white guilt’ that should make you stop doing that, or historical progression or ‘PC police’. It’s the recognition that there is something more than a little distasteful coming out from between the lines, and while there are distasteful things that must be said and/or defended for the greater good…IMO, this isn’t one of them.

 
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big fukin deal.

 
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Shall I assume that you’re a white guy too, but one ‘unencumbered’ by white guilt?

You shall. I see no reason to feel bad about shit that I didn’t do, nor did any of my ancestors (they all came after slavery, and none of them lived in a Jim Crow south). Hell, I’m proud of being a heterosexual white male, just as I think that a black lesbian should be proud of who they are. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of who you are, regardless of who you are.

Which of course is just another way of saying you don’t like being reminded of racism, colonialism, or, apparently, statist heterogenity.

I don’t even know what you’re getting at here. I have no genetic ties to colonialism, and I see the subjugation of a native culture an abhorrent practice. I have no problem with those of a different race integrating into another country, but I do have an issue when an immigrant group tries to change the culture of those living there.
Canada (and America) is no longer made up exclusively of old-world descent. We’ve adapted, given non-white immigrants a space to flourish.

This is something that makes the US and Canada so unique; as nations of immigrants, we’re able to keep immigration a piece of what makes our country what it is. It’s really cool and interesting, especially since having this immigrant background helps us understand how to handle immigration. We don’t coddle them or reject them, and that’s why they successfully integrate, even while keeping their own identity.
Political incorrectness serves a similar function, providing a socially acceptable cover for actual bigotry (please note that like the moderates/fanatics comparison, those are separate groupings).

You know, there are plenty of examples where you’re right on this point and could make a strong argument there. However, it’s a false premise. I defend someone who advocates Marxism’s right to do so just as readily as I would defend someone who is a member of the KKK’s right to speak their will. Do I agree with either? Not no, but hell no. The fact is that if we don’t allow idiots to speak their mind, then we’ve got the same principles as someone who doesn’t allow geniuses to speak their mind.
Would we be any better off if we didn’t have to think about the feelings of minorities? I guess it would be one less mental burden, but personally, I’m glad my eyes are open to it, and I don’t just dismiss them with a “well if you don’t like it go back to your own country, nigger!”

First of all, I’m not saying that respecting other people is a bad thing. I just believe that traditions that have been in place for a region longer than an ethnic group has shouldn’t be suppressed just to make room for the new group. Now, explain to me why it’s a bad thing to tell someone if they don’t like a country, they should leave. Barring whatever financial burdens may be involved in it, what’s stopping an individual from looking outwards for a place to consider home?
It’s the recognition that there is something more than a little distasteful coming out from between the lines, and while there are distasteful things that must be said and/or defended for the greater good…IMO, this isn’t one of them.

A fair point, and I agree that being respectful is important, though respect should never be forced. However, if you have any understanding of principles at all, you need to recognize that if you believe in protecting your own free speech, you also must protect the free speech of your opponents. Maybe you don’t see this applying to racial issues, and if so, I won’t try to change your mind, but I would like you to just think about how different you are ethically from, say, the Nazis, who would put millions of people into death/work camps just because they thought differently.