New film Blackface on Dutch Saint Nicholas holiday


This video says about itself:

18 December 2012

Is The Netherlands’ tradition of putting Santa’s helpers in black-face racist or a harmless custom? We look at Zwarte Piet or Black Pete

This video is the new film Blackface; about the Dutch Saint Nicholas holiday, and the role of the blackface character Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in it, as seen by an African American.

The video says about itself:

30 November 2015

‘Blackface’: Dutch holiday tradition or racism?

You know the story. Every December jolly St. Nicholas visits the children of the land — accompanied by his servant, Black Peter, a goofy, singing, candy-giving Renaissance-clad figure in blackface, giant red lips and a curly wig.

What? That doesn’t ring a bell?

It would if you lived in the Netherlands, where the visit of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet on December 5 — the eve of St. Nicholas’ birthday — is a longstanding tradition. But it’s a tradition that’s been called into question in recent years, including by Roger Ross Williams, the director of the short film “Blackface,” which looks into the character and his past.

“It was shocking to me. The arguments of the Dutch is that it’s a children’s holiday and that it’s a tradition,” says Williams, an African-American whose short film “Music by Prudence” won an Oscar for short subject in 2010. Many don’t see the racist aspects of the character, he adds.

When he announced his documentary, he was insulted online, told to “eat a banana, black monkey” and other epithets. He hasn’t been alone in raising hackles; his film shows one black protester being hauled away from a crowd welcoming Zwarte Piet because, in the protester’s words, “I made them feel so uncomfortable that they had to get the cops.”

The issue of racism is a complex one in the famously liberal Netherlands. (Indeed, its liberalism was a huge attraction for Williams, a gay man who is married to a white Dutchman and now lives in Amsterdam.) The country profited greatly from the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries; one of the roles of the Dutch West India Co. was to transport slaves from Africa to the Americas. The Dutch didn’t ban slavery in its territories until 1863, though it was illegal in the Netherlands.

Dutch blackface tradition debated

Though the story of Zwarte Piet is said to date back hundreds of years, it was popularized in a 19th-century children’s book. The character is Sinterklaas’ Moorish helper, and his arrival from Spain with Sinterklaas — who rides a white horse — has become a yearly celebration, complete with Sinterklaas’ boat pulling into a Dutch harbor and a welcoming parade. Children and adults dress up as Zwarte Piet at parties.

“It’s just tradition. It has nothing to do with racism,” says Ronald Livius, a commodities trader who grew up in the southern Netherlands and now lives in Switzerland. A former Atlanta resident, he says that the Surinamese members of the Atlanta Holland Club who played Zwarte Piet had “absolutely no issue doing so.”

Williams, the filmmaker, dismisses this as “Dutch innocence.”

“They’ll say that Black Pete is not blackface, but you’re literally blacking up your face … and (adding) hoop earrings and an Afro wig,” he says. “It’s pretty obvious to us, but it’s like a whole country in denial.”

There has been some reconsideration of Zwarte Piet. There’s a Facebook page in opposition, and some fans have tried to recast his blackface as chimney soot.

Still, resistance has been strong. A U.N. committee asked the Netherlands to get rid of the character, but the Dutch government “dismissed” its request, The New York Times reported in August.

The right-wing party of Geert Wilders, one of the country’s most popular politicians, proposed a “Black Peter Law” last year that would ensure the character would remain as he is.

And when Emily Raboteau, an American who spent a holiday season in Amsterdam, tried to explain to locals why she had issues with Zwarte Piet, they ignored her.

“You’re being racist,” she said her Dutch neighbors told her. “We love him.”

“I was arguing with a wall,” she wrote in an essay for Virginia Quarterly Review.

For his part, Williams has been asked why he doesn’t focus on race problems in America. He says he has, but that’s not the point — he lives in the Netherlands now.

“This is something that’s upsetting and disturbing to me, and I’m not going to look the other way,” he says. “I can’t look the other way.”

About film maker Roger Ross Williams on 30 November 2015 to Dutch RTL TV (translated):

The US American documentary filmmaker Roger Williams received death threats since he announced he was making a documentary about Zwarte Piet. “I got an e-mail that I would get a bullet in my back and I had better watch out,” he told the RTL Late Night show.

It was the most violent of thousands of hate mails he received. In his documentary ‘Blackface’, broadcast by CNN, Williams takes a clear stand against Zwarte Piet as an outright racist phenomenon.

‘Nerve hit’

The attention he received since then was overwhelming. “I’ve hit a nerve, I believe.”

Williams, who lives in the Netherlands, says he does not understand how many Dutch people just do not see the problem. “People say to me that it is a harmless children’s festival, and then next they say that, being a black monkey, I should keep my mouth shut.”

Dutch Child Ombudswoman says blackface Zwarte Piet role hurts children.

In this weekend, and next weekend, there will be blackface parades throughout the Netherlands, but the national parade, the main one, was to be yesterday in a Dutch village called Dokkum. The Dutch government, national and local, not only subsidise this national blackface extravaganza, they also set the police in to prevent peaceful anti-racist demonstrators from protesting against this racist imagery promoted to children: here.

Zwarte Piet

History of Dutch Black Pete conflict: here.

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11 thoughts on “New film Blackface on Dutch Saint Nicholas holiday

  1. Pingback: Belgian minister’s blackface scandal | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Haagse rechtbank: arrestatie van anti-Zwarte Piet activist Afriyie was onrechtmatig

    Vanmiddag net na 13:00 uur steeg in de rechtszaal luid gejuich en applaus op onder de naar schatting dertig medestanders van Jerry Afriyie, toen de rechter meldde dat hij was “ontslagen van alle rechtsvervolging” in de strafzaak die tegen hem was aangespannen. Twee jaar lang heeft het OM hem gestigmatiseerd en gecriminaliseerd, maar eindelijk kan hij zich nu ontdoen van de zware last die hij heeft moeten dragen. De uitspraak van de Haagse rechtbank kan worden beschouwd als een vorm van eerherstel voor Afriyie en een steun in de rug voor alle activisten tegen Zwarte Piet. Lees meer: http://www.doorbraak.eu/haagse-rechtbank-arrestatie-anti-zwarte-piet-activist-afriyie-was-onrechtmatig/


    Onderteken de petitie tegen subsidiëring van het Zwarte Piet-racisme door de overheid

    Doorbraak-activist Jennifer van Leijen is een petitie begonnen tegen de subsidiëring van de racistische blackface-traditie door de Nederlandse staat. Via haar Engelstalige oproep hoopt ze vooral veel internationale druk te kunnen opbouwen. Dat moet ertoe leiden dat de overheid de financiering van tv-programma’s gaat stopzetten zolang het Zwarte Piet-racisme daar nog deel van uitmaakt. Doe ook mee en onderteken de petitie, die aangeboden gaat worden aan Tweede Kamer-voorzitter Khadija Arib. Lees meer: http://www.doorbraak.eu/onderteken-petitie-subsidiering-zwarte-piet-racisme-overheid/

  3. Update on the campaign against the Dutch government subsidizing blackface on children’s television

    Doorbraak activst Jennifer van Leijen recently initiated a campaign to stop the Dutch government from subsidizing blackface (Zwarte Piet or Black Pete) on children’s television. Thousand people already signed. Here are some updates by Van Leijen in which she also comments the Amsterdam mayor who said he’s going to phase this racism out, instead of effectively and immediately eliminate it as he ought. Read more:

    http://www.doorbraak.eu/update-on-the-campaign-against-the-dutch-government-subsidizing-blackface-on-childrens-television/


    Second update on the campaign against the Dutch government subsidizing blackface on children’s television

    Doorbraak activst Jennifer van Leijen recently initiated a campaign to stop the Dutch government from subsidizing blackface (Zwarte Piet or Black Pete) on children’s television. Thousand people already signed. Van Leijen regularly writes updates. Here’s the second batch. Read more:

    http://www.doorbraak.eu/second-update-on-the-campaign-against-the-dutch-government-subsidizing-blackface-on-childrens-television/Update on the campaign against the Dutch government subsidizing blackface on children’s television

    Doorbraak activst Jennifer van Leijen recently initiated a campaign to stop the Dutch government from subsidizing blackface (Zwarte Piet or Black Pete) on children’s television. Thousand people already signed. Here are some updates by Van Leijen in which she also comments the Amsterdam mayor who said he’s going to phase this racism out, instead of effectively and immediately eliminate it as he ought. Read more: http://www.doorbraak.eu/update-on-the-campaign-against-the-dutch-government-subsidizing-blackface-on-childrens-television/


    Second update on the campaign against the Dutch government subsidizing blackface on children’s television

    Doorbraak activst Jennifer van Leijen recently initiated a campaign to stop the Dutch government from subsidizing blackface (Zwarte Piet or Black Pete) on children’s television. Thousand people already signed. Van Leijen regularly writes updates. Here’s the second batch. Read more: http://www.doorbraak.eu/second-update-on-the-campaign-against-the-dutch-government-subsidizing-blackface-on-childrens-television/

  4. Third update on the campaign against the Dutch government subsidizing blackface on children’s television

    Doorbraak activist Jennifer van Leijen recently initiated a campaign to stop the Dutch government from subsidizing blackface (Zwarte Piet or Black Pete) on children’s television. Thousand people already signed. Van Leijen regularly writes updates. Here’s the third batch. (You can also still read the first and second ones.) Read more:

    http://www.doorbraak.eu/third-update-on-the-campaign-against-the-dutch-government-subsidizing-blackface-on-childrens-television/

  5. Pingback: Christmas, midwinter and the Arctic | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. This week PILP has filed an appeal against a decision by the mayor of the city of Sittard-Geleen. The decision contained conditions for a demonstration (against Black Pete). One of the conditions to be met to be allowed to demonstrate was that the protesters could voice ‘only positive messages, meaning no negative messages on racism in relationship to the festivities of Sinterklaas.’

    By imposing conditions on the content of a protest, the mayor has applied censorship.

    This is detrimental to the right to freedom of expression and the right to protest. This constitutes a violation of the law, the Constitution and human rights.

    The freedom of expression should especially protect opinions that might be less popular. Mayors should know this.

    The mayor’s decision seems to be part of a worrying trend in the Netherlands.
    On several occasions in the last years the rights to protest and freedom of expression of several groups, from opponents to Black Pete to opponents of refugees, have been restricted.

    This is one of the reasons PILP has decided to start litigation on this issue.

    http://pilpnjcm.nl/pilp-starts-litigation-against-censorship/

  7. De eenzame strijd van een moeder in een PVV-achtige gemeente tegen het Zwarte Piet-racisme op de school van haar zoon

    Jarenlang heeft Carmen geprobeerd om te voorkomen dat haar nu zesjarige zoon Orlando het Zwarte Piet-racisme opgedrongen zou krijgen. Daarvoor heeft ze een hardnekkige strijd moeten voeren binnen de school van haar zoon en ten opzichte van de meerderheid van witte ouders. Eind 2016 heeft ze eindelijk een overwinning geboekt: Zwarte Piet wordt op die school afgeschaft, waarmee de school de eerste is in de gemeente waar Carmen en Orlando wonen. Een gesprek over haar ervaringen. Lees meer:

    http://www.doorbraak.eu/eenzame-strijd-moeder-pvv-achtige-gemeente-zwarte-piet-racisme-op-school-zoon/

  8. Pingback: Anti-semitism in the USA and the Netherlands | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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