With close to 700 years since the commencement of the famous enslavement of African by the Dutch, is it relevant for the people to keep memories of the dark days of racism and xenophobia alive? Does it serve to grow our progressive society that fights for equality and growth of a cohesive society? These questions are critical to the government and the society to synthesize and to come up with the right answers that will help grow a sustainable society, characterized by togetherness and equality. Most residents of our beloved country have come of age and are willing to promote these values that were not valued in 1850. Indeed, times have changed. People have learned the need for equality regardless of skin color. Zwarte Piet’s practice is characterized by painting self-black on the face and painting the mouth red to celebrate the St. Nicholas day(Raboteau, 2014). With the abolishment of slavery in 1873, the question that the government must ask is, are these relic memories important? Do they serve the nation’s interest in promoting nationhood? The answers to these questions will give us a clear way to forge as a society and government in our quest to build a sustainable society for our children, grandchildren and the future sons and daughters of this dear country.
A 2016 study on Zwarte Piet clearly showed that 32% of the respondents who participated in a survey by Dutch News.nl maintained that the celebrations should remain black as it is. This is a major concern in the attempt to revolutionize our society into adopting equality and fighting racism.Continued participation in this celebration of Zwarte Piet serves to engrave the mind of our children in the dark past(Anjum Nayyar, 2017). We give birth to children who know no color or race. They are clean beings who solely depends on what we feed in their minds. They are innocent ladies and gentlemen full of love. To them, their Black or White counterparts are human just like they are equally deserving of fair treatment and judgment. It is such things as Zwarte Piet that have served our country so unfairly. It is such believe that we must commemorate the dark past that tells our dear children that we are different. That the White Dutch children were slaves. That the Blacks are not actually due to citizens of our dear country since their origin is Africa. Our children do not know these things until the time we, the people, the democratically elected government allow them to witness this elusive backward culture. Is it right? Is it fair to instill these memories to these innocent souls? Do they deserve to know the hatred that they have nothing to do with? Is it fair for the government that we elected to protect the citizens of our dear country to allow what I would describe as moral decay to ruin our future by allowing the brainwashing of our children? The answer is no. This no answer is the reason why the government must stand up. The government must steer the fight to secure a better future. That of love and equality. That of justice and positive living of the people of this country.
There are claims that most of the jails in the Netherlands are mainly occupied by Black people. This has been attributed to the stereotyping of the Black Dutch resulting from the Zwarte Piet. The White Dutch still view the Black Dutch as their subjects(Rebecca Hayes, 2018). This has resulted in unfair judgments in courts. The Black Pete narrative of Zwarte Piet fuels racism. It keeps the ill memories of the slave trade. Africans feel offended and this has widened the gap between the Blacks and the Whites. There is more division every time this festival, that the Dutch people are reluctant to relinquish is celebrated. There is more hate. In 2018, the festivities were characterized by chaos and actual racism. It was reported that the celebration was so offensive where the participant even used the Hitler signs and White power sign. This was a clear Dutch racism day. This was followed by the anti-Zwarte Piet demonstration demonstrating against racism. Tom Vandeputte reported that the demonstrators who went to the street peacefully to demonstrate against Black Pete were attacked violently by the people and the police officerbeat them mercilessly. Many of the peaceful demonstrators were arrested and charged. It is sad to see that the police who are supposed to protect these demonstrators turned against them and instead of dealing with the wrongdoers, the took up the innocent people of goodwill. This further fuels the question of government commitment to securing the future of this beloved country. Is it worth it to allow this to continue happening at the expense of decay of the society? Is it okay for the government to continue allowing fertilization of the seed of racism and hatred?
Schools in the Netherlands have reported cases of White Dutch children bullying their Black Dutch. They associate this behavior to the Zwarte Piet. This drains the Black children as they feel inferior. They start hating their colleagues(Waelde, Catherine Cummings, Pavis, & Enright, 2018). They avoid interacting with them as they want fair treatment. Where there are fewer Black kids and majority Whites, the situation is worse as they are denied their very right to fair treatment and representation. Our government must be keen to ensure that this does not happen. The curriculum must be redrafted to ensure that Zwarte Piet is abolished. This will be a key step in cleaning up the mess the festivity has resulted in being. The government must also encourage teachers to work on building ties between children regardless of their skin color while discouraging the perennial practice of Zwarte Piet.
For the government to realize its potential of promoting unity and fostering economic growth, there is a need for participation of all the citizens to actualize this dream. This has not been the case in our country where the Black Dutch feel left out and to as equal in the national matter(Weiner & Báez, 2018). Zwarte Piet has fueled this notion even more as the Black are viewed as inferiors. They are not engaged in decision making as the seed of discrimination has germinated and blossomed. The government has continued to allow it to bear fruits. Fruits of hate and disregards of humanity. This makes it difficult for the country to realize its potential since there is no unity of purpose. There is only hate that weakens our chances of realizing our goals as a country. The government must work towards unifying the country for its purpose of realizing its goals to prevail. This will be highly bolstered by abolishing the ill traditions of Zwarte Piet that serve more to separate us than bringing us together.
A study by a New York University showed that children are susceptible to implicit bias. Zwarte Piet is a children’s party(Anjum Nayyar, 2017). These expose children to the thought of hate and discrimination that is associated with the festival.Children are curious beings and they are keen to find out what the festival stands for. The festivity portrays the Black as dirty and as the servants of the Whites. This played a key role in disorienting the Dutch children especially the Black Dutch children who feel inferior and demoralized. It is difficult to change this mentality for the whole of their lives. They start segregation which can be identified in most junior schools in Dutch where the young Dutch White kids adopt a view of looking down upon the Black children. As they grow up, this seed finds the root and establishes itself in society. The seed of hate and racism. The overall impact of this is a racist society. This is translated in the working places, in the churches, in the government. Is this what we want? Is this what our government stands for? Absolutely no. This gives our government a reason to rise and come up with laws that bar Zwarte Piet.
In defense of Zwarte Piet, most people have argued that the intention of the festivities is not to promote racism and that no malice intention drives the practice There is also the argument that the ambiguous origin of the character does not depict the actual origin of the slaves. This is, however, a misinformed argument since the practices of Zwarte Piet demonstrate racism.It plays to show the tribulations the Africans were subjected to in the dark days of the slave trade in the Netherlands. This does not augur well. It stimulates different emotions. Being a children event mainly, with their vulnerability due to age, children adopt the vices of racism. It grows slowly in them and that is how it ends up as a threat to our social fabrics. These beliefs are attributed mainly to the lack of enough knowledge of how the event works to grow racism. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the government to take up the matter of creating awareness. Our government must support the calls to put an end to this practice.
The attempt to fight Zwarte Piet due to its racism effect are dated back to 2011. The character Black Pete demonstrated by White people in blackface painting and with a wig and lipstick has been viewed as racism against the black people and the remainder of the Dutch enslavement of the Blacks. In recent times, it has even resulted in very violent fights suspending peace all over the country. This has resulted in calls on the government of the Netherlands by anti-racism groups to end this practice. The United nation in 2018 also addressed the matter terming it as a retrogressive culture that was not fair to the 15% population of the minority Black Dutch. The fight against Zwarte Piet has however faced opposition from the locals who are not willing to give up the practice.Status quo has been a major blow in the attempt to abolish a practice that many people see as Dutch culture. A survey done in 2019 showed that 59% of Dutch people support the Zwarte Piet in blackface while 26% were of the view that the practice should be altered gradually. This marks a significant step in the fight against racism since when the fight began, only 7% of the population were willing to have the tradition which has premiered for decades to change. This is also an indication to the Netherland government that indeed the people are willing to change. With the right support from the government machinery, it will be possible to change the norm that over the years served as a way of propagating racism.
To effectively fight this menace, the government must employ must commit to working with the organizations that have sprung in the last 10 years to fight the practice. This will be done through the goodwill of the government by offering security to the peaceful protesters. Cases of the anti-Zwarte Piet protesters being attacked by mob have been reported. In 2018, the protesters were meted with severe beating and attacks by the police and the locals. Some protesters were also arrested. With the goodwill from the government, large strides will be made in this fight. The government can also participate in funding public education on the threats that Zwarte Piet poses to the country(Weiner & Báez, 2018). This can be done by sponsoring the group fighting the vice. The curriculum must also be amended so that the content of Zwarte is completely faced out. Further, the government can engage the local dailies and television stations in preaching against practicing Zwarte Piet with the Black Pete. Social media communication may also be employed to reach people especially the young who mainly utilize social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It is a thing of the past to imagine that racism and fights against it is only restricted to the United States of America. This way, gradually, will win, not for ourselves, but our young children, for the children of our children who will inherit this country from us. We will be remembered as the people that fought for equality regardless of the color. We will be remembered for foregoing a thing we valued to safeguard our generations, the future of our country.
Anjum Nayyar, Y. U. (2017, November Monday 27). Retrieved from York University: https://news.yorku.ca/2017/11/27/research-finds-children-show-implicit-racial-bias-from-a-young-age/
Raboteau, E. (2014). Who is Zwarte Piet? Virginia Quarterly Review.
Rebecca Hayes, K. J. (2018). Black Petes & Black Crooks? Racial Stereotyping and Offending in the Netherlands. Milton Park, Abingdon: Routledge.
Waelde, C., Catherine Cummings, (., Pavis, M., & Enright, H. (2018). Research handbook on contemporary intangible cultural heritage: law and heritage. Cheltenham, UK:: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.
Weiner, M. F., & Báez, A. C. (2018). Smash the pillars: decoloniality and the imaginary of color in the Dutch Kingdom. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.