Blackface is history© 10 November 2019 Marthijn Uittenbogaard
On 24 January 2018, I wrote the text: 'My cup of tea about Blackface' (see this website). And today Blackface is again a hot topic in the Dutch mass media. This is the case every year, for five or so years in a row. And in 2020 it will be again hot in the Dutch news media.
A short explanation what it is all about. In The Netherlands we celebrate Sinterklaas every 5 December. This Sinterklaas traditions goes back a very long time. It is much older than the Santa Claus tradition. When people first started the Sinterklaas tradition is not properly known. It also is different in some other parts of Europe where they have this tradition. And like every old tradition it changed throughout the years. At some time Zwarte Pieten (Blackfaces) were added to this tradition. The Blackfaces helped Sinterklaas with the delivery of all the presents to the children. These Blackfaces were introduced in a time when hundred percent of the Dutch population was white. Today many different skin colors are visible in our streets. Some people argue that Zwarte Piet is about racism. Others argue it is not.
If someone is putting on black (or brown) makeup, then he or she is not per se a racist. He or she can be totally against racism and very much like people of all colors. But!... If you know that a group of people feels terrible about this Zwarte Piet, then it is logical to not ignore the feelings of these people. If a company in its ignorance uses a symbol that looks a bit like a Swastika and people start complaining about this, then this company will of course change their logo.
Last Friday, a group of activists had a meeting. The group is called Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP). This group wants to see Blackface being history. Many people react very aggressive to this group. 'They want to force us in changing our traditions.' And many people react not only violent but also full with racism to the peaceful people of KOZP. Around sixty people, wearing masks on their faces, turned aggressive to the KOZP members. They could not enter the building and then they threw heavy fireworks to the building and they smashed many windows of this building and they also heavenly damaged some of the cars of the KOZP members. Some people were arrested by the police.
In most large Dutch cities they replaced Zwarte Piet with the 'roetveegpiet'. This Piet has some black makeup on his or her face because of the chimney's soot. They deliver presents through chimneys: yes really. Even though less houses have a chimney... Most smaller cities and villages still keep the Zwarte Piet.
Would I like being a Zwarte Piet, knowing that a large group of people hates it? Would I like being a Zwarte Piet seeing and hearing racist people very aggressively applauding to you? Of course not. After the explosion of violence I hereby declare Zwarte Piet being history. Not everyone can handle this fact yet, but what on earth is their problem? If you can not except this change, then be consequent and start wearing wooden shoes. No they are angry, like many people were angry responding to the Martijn Association as well, because they want fascism to return. They just need scapegoats to address their hate to. We live in a very agressive and hostile society were scapegoats are again 'needed' by masses of people, unfortunately. And many politicians are using and exploiting this hate even further. When you look at the reactions on Twitter and so on, you see so many fascist reactions, that you know it has nothing to do with our traditions. Or it must be our tradition of fascism.
By the way, children don't mind how Piet looks. They are as happy in parts of the country were the already banned Blackface.
I'm very much pro free speech. I'm against a law that would totally ban Blackface. But schools, companies, elderly houses and so on would be wise to ban Blackface. And not only in the big cities.