Black Pete and the double Dutch of racism

St Nicholas is a black-hating racist and so are 92 per cent of the Dutch, rules Amsterdam’s court.

Since only 80 per cent of the Dutch are white, it follows that many of the country’s black people must hate themselves. One can just see them doing a John Terry impersonation in front of the mirror: “What you looking at, you [expletive deleted] black [expletive deleted]?”

The variously coloured Dutch have found themselves in the dock on account of a tradition going back to the mid-nineteenth century.

In late autumn and early winter the Dutch celebrate the St Nicholas (Sinterklaas) festival culminating on 5 December. St Nicholas arrives by steamboat accompanied by his trusted sidekick Black Pete (Zwarte Piet), or rather hundreds of them crowding the flotilla following the saint’s vessel.

St Nicholas then rewards good children with sweets and makes naughty children promise they’ll be good from now on. He thus does in Amsterdam what his doppelgangers do all over the world at roughly the same time.

Father Christmas in Britain, Ded Moroz in Russia, Père Noël in France, Santa Claus in the States all administer the same incentive programme, immortalised in the 1934 American song:

He’s making a list,

Checking it twice;

Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

Santa Claus is coming to town…

Like their counterparts in other countries, Dutch children look forward to the event, and so do the grown-ups. This colourful, exuberant festival is rightly seen as the highlight of the year.

People big and small laugh, shout and applaud when St Nicholas disembarks, mounts a white horse and rides through the streets accompanied by a gaggle of Black Petes handing out sweets and biscuits.

There is a snag though, or at least that’s how an Amsterdam court, prodded by the United Nations Human Rights Council, ruled last Thursday.

You see, Black Pete is traditionally portrayed by a white man sporting blackface makeup, thick red lips and a frizzy Afro hairstyle. Moreover, he plays second fiddle to the offensively white saint, thereby evoking memories of slavery, the colonial past and global oppression of black people.

St Nicholas is therefore a racist swine, as are all those millions anticipating the joyous celebrations. Collectively they, according to the court ruling, promote “a negative stereotype of black people”.

This is tantamount to racism, the greatest cardinal sin of our time, and one that can be neither expiated nor redeemed. 

The good denizens of Amsterdam must therefore either ban the festival or at least rethink its props. One suggestion is to paint Black Pete some other colour, the rainbow spectrum being the court’s preference.

Now, just as Black Pete’s makeup symbolises something, so do the rainbow colours. Stylistic integrity would therefore dictate that the character should change his name accordingly. For example, Pete the P… sorry, I was about to make a facetiously alliterative suggestion that would have exposed me to the charge of homophobia, the second-greatest cardinal sin of our time.

The Dutch are used to their country being used as a pan-European test lab of neo-fascism going by the name of political correctness. Usually they shrug their shoulders and move on, but this time the people are up in arms.

Over 90 per cent of them insist that Black Pete is an innocent figure of fun meaning no insult. On the contrary, he’s kind, generous and much loved.

Even the country’s liberal prime minister Mark Rutte sided with tradition: “Black Pete is black. There’s not much I can do to change that.” This just goes to show he doesn’t understand the true meaning of liberalism.

Nothing you can do, Mr Rutte? Well, for a start, unplug your ears and listen to what the court ruled: “many black Amsterdammers felt discriminated against”.

True, they hadn’t felt offended until the UN told them they must, but that doesn’t change the fact now enshrined in judicial ruling. And true, the numbers point in a different direction: 92 per cent don’t perceive Zwarte Piet as racist or associate him with slavery; 91 per cent are opposed to changing his appearance.

But numbers, Mr Rutte, don’t change the principle. They don’t alter the deep philosophical meaning of today’s democracy.

The word does mean ‘the rule of the people’, but it’s up to international bodies and their local Quislings to decide which people should rule. That’s what real democracy is all about.

Once the ruling demos has been appointed, its task is to make sure everyone marches in step. There are many tricks to be used for this purpose, and one of them is ordering people to be offended at something that in reality offends no one but the ruling demos.

Whatever causes the mandated offence must then be eliminated in the name of progress. After all, what is progress if not learning new things and improving ourselves accordingly?

We’ve learned something vital since the nineteenth century: morality is what we say it is, not what it has been for millennia. So, Mr Rutte, you’d better bloody well do something about it if you want to remain within the ruling demos.

I hope the Dutch won’t lose their beloved festival, but I fear they will. The march of progress is unstoppable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.