November 21, 2013
Black Pete is beloved, totally racist
In the form of entertaining caricature, black face has been used throughout the Western world to justify slavery, emphasize white superiority, and reinforce racial segregation. Banned in most parts of the world and widely considered part of a racist past, black face is still practiced extensively in the Netherlands. During the Sinterklaas festivities which span three weeks in November and December, black-faced figures called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) dominate TV, classrooms, stores, and family homes. Considered a quintessential part of Dutch identity, those voicing criticism against the figure have been ignored, bullied, arrested, and threatened.
In this video hoax, which was released on November 21, 2013, a Dutch man appears on a Canadian talk show to explain why critics are simply misunderstanding the Dutch tradition. In doing so, the character reflects the majority opinion in the Netherlands, including of the prime minister and major media powerhouses, which make it nearly impossible for critical voices to challenge not just Zwarte Piet but the broader issue of the presence of colonial cultural products in Dutch society.
The video triggered a social media uproar, was covered by international press, and reached over 65,000 hits before it was forced offline. This intervention was made possible with the support of the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and the Yes Lab.
In July 2014, an Amsterdam court ruled that Zvarte Piet’s black face was indeed racist and an amended character, Cheese Pete, has partially replaced the figure in official ceremonies.
Watch the video here.