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NibiruMul
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05 Dec 2023, 9:30 pm

In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas is coming up again, which reignites the yearly debate about Sinterklaas' helper Zwarte Piet. Many people find the character to be racist, especially because he's traditionally portrayed in blackface. But others defend him as a tradition. In recent years, some celebrations have redesigned the character as to not include blackface.

Do you find Zwarte Piet offensive? Why or why not?

Personally, I do think the whole blackface thing is racist - blackface is wrong without question. But I do understand that Zwarte Piet is a tradition there, even if it's an uncomfortable one. I'm fine with the more recent "sooty" versions that don't include blackface.



Sigbold
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RetroGamer87
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06 Dec 2023, 1:15 am

So what's the solution? Make him white? Another character of colour getting white washed. You can't fight negative stereotypes in media by just making everyone white.


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06 Dec 2023, 1:18 am

I don't think he's racist at all. I think that he's a very important part of tradition.


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06 Dec 2023, 1:37 am

In 1850, the Amsterdam-based primary school teacher Jan Schenkman published the book Sint Nikolaas en zijn Knecht ("Saint Nicholas and his Servant" in English). It is widely considered the first time a servant character was included in a printed version of the Saint Nicholas narrative. The servant is depicted as a page who appears as a dark-skinned person wearing clothes associated with Moors. The book also established another mythos that would become standard: the intocht or "entry" ceremony of Saint Nicholas and his servant (then still nameless) involving a steamboat.

The character became one of the most popular characters in Dutch children's books

Image

Because of ongoing controversies surrounding the character, many schools, businesses, and other organizations across the Netherlands have begun changing Zwarte Piet's clothing and makeup or phasing the character out entirely. The most common variation has been dubbed Sooty Piet (in Dutch: roetveegpiet). This version features the page outfit but without the curly wig, earrings, or lipstick. Smeared on makeup simulates soot smudges and an actor portraying the character retains their own natural skin tone.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwarte_Piet



The_Walrus
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06 Dec 2023, 7:10 am

It isn't for me to decide whether he's offensive. I'm generally more sympathetic towards the arguments that it is offensive, because it seems distasteful for white people to dress up as black stereotypes, tradition or not.



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06 Dec 2023, 9:52 am

What matters is how it affects black people, especially black children, in the Netherlands.

Traditions evolve, and the tradition of Zwarte Piet is less than 200 years old, judging by the sources I've read. And it's not like we're talking about abolishing the entire Sinterklaas tradition.

If the point of the tradition is to be fun for children, or to remind children to be good, but if it predictably has the contrary results of making some children very uncomfortable (about something other than their own bad behavior) and causing them to be teased and bullied, then it needs to change.

For example, perhaps Sinterklaas could be given some other, purely mythological kind of helpers, such as elves? Here in the U.S.A., Santa Claus has elves, and I don't recall seeing anyone complain about Santa's elves.

Or maybe give Sinterklaas a multi-racial crew of helpers, without caricaturing the racial characteristics of any of the helpers? Perhaps one of the helpers could be black, but be played by an actual black person instead of a white person wearing (exaggerated, caricaturish) blackface? It seems to me that a non-caricatured multi-racial set of helpers, perhaps with an actual black person as second-in-command, might perhaps be the best way to send a positive message to all children in the Netherlands.

Whatever changes are made or not made, the aim should be to send a positive message to all children.

(I don't live in the Netherlands, but I'm of 50% Dutch ancestry.)


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06 Dec 2023, 4:06 pm

It could be worse. They could be bombing Black churches.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_a ... n_churches


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06 Dec 2023, 5:35 pm

Mona Pereth wrote:
Perhaps one of the helpers could be black, but be played by an actual black person instead of a white person wearing (exaggerated, caricaturish) blackface? It seems to me that a non-caricatured multi-racial set of helpers, perhaps with an actual black person as second-in-command, might perhaps be the best way to send a positive message to all children in the Netherlands.


It's highly unlikely the Dutch people will give up on this tradition. I am not sure "blackface" in Holland has the same negative cultural connotation as it did in the USA? In the US blackface was designed to denigrate and dehumanise black people. Americans culturally normalised the idea black people (and people with physical deformities) are like human zoos in a circus where you could keep an arm's length and throw rotten fruit and laugh.

In stark contrast, Zwarte Piet is a loved character for whom Dutch people have genuine affection for. Black people in Holland have only until recently not a had a problem with this cultural icon. However, with globalisation, the BLM movement and black consciousness being exported outside of the US, many younger dutch people of African origin are now sensitive over Zwarte Piet. And it's no wonder, He is basically a caricature, the dutch paint themselves the darkest shade of black paint, wear ridiculous afros and paint their lips bright red to accentuate lip size.

But again, I think it more likely offends African Americans > Dutch born africans



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06 Dec 2023, 6:24 pm

They could go one way, or the other.

Make both Santa and his helper...of undefined race.

Or make Santa also be Black. And indeed someone posted a pic of Dutch parents and their kids interacting with a Dutch Father Christmas, that later dressed in full regalia (almost like the Pope), played by a Black guy.


https://youtu.be/pk2YVP-QJtI



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06 Dec 2023, 6:31 pm

naturalplastic wrote:
They could go one way, or the other.

Make both Santa and his helper...of undefined race.

Or make Santa also be Black. And indeed someone posted a pic of Dutch parents and their kids interacting with a Dutch Father Christmas, that later dressed in full regalia (almost like the Pope), played by a Black guy.


https://youtu.be/pk2YVP-QJtI


Santa is always going to be "snow white"



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06 Dec 2023, 6:45 pm

cyberdad wrote:
naturalplastic wrote:
They could go one way, or the other.

Make both Santa and his helper...of undefined race.

Or make Santa also be Black. And indeed someone posted a pic of Dutch parents and their kids interacting with a Dutch Father Christmas, that later dressed in full regalia (almost like the Pope), played by a Black guy.


https://youtu.be/pk2YVP-QJtI


Santa is always going to be "snow white"


The original real St. Nicholas was an olive skinned guy from Turkey.

They changed him before. They could change him again. :D



cyberdad
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06 Dec 2023, 7:03 pm

naturalplastic wrote:
[
The original real St. Nicholas was an olive skinned guy from Turkey.

They changed him before. They could change him again. :D


And...nobody cares. The prototypical archetype for santa is a chubby northern European with a flowing white beard.

Heck! even white jesus is burned into my memory banks



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06 Dec 2023, 8:38 pm

cyberdad wrote:
naturalplastic wrote:
[
The original real St. Nicholas was an olive skinned guy from Turkey.

They changed him before. They could change him again. :D


And...nobody cares. The prototypical archetype for santa is a chubby northern European with a flowing white beard.

Heck! even white jesus is burned into my memory banks

If nobody cares then why do so many folks care about it? Lol!



naturalplastic
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06 Dec 2023, 10:20 pm

Was being a bit tongue in cheek...to give me an excuse to play Brook Benton.

In Russia they call Santa Clause "Father Frost". Father Frost would pretty much hafta be White (not tan like "White" people, but literally white).

But whatabout the children in the tropics?

Or in your country of Australia ...mostly in the Temperate zone...but in the southern hemisphere when Christmas comes in the summer?

Both the season and the people in some areas are not "white" at Xmas time. So a nonwhite Santa is a logical option.



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06 Dec 2023, 10:50 pm

cyberdad wrote:
And...nobody cares. The prototypical archetype for santa is a chubby northern European with a flowing white beard.

Only within the past couple of centuries. The original Saint Nicholas was Greek. European, but not northern European.


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