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Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Black is Black versus Black is Beautiful

31 August 2015


I am angry. Angry about a U.N. comity deciding what is best for the annual Dutch children’s party called Sinterklaas – or Santa Claus as the Americans call it. On the evening of 5 December, the Dutch children get presents from parents and siblings. Usually presents accompanied by funny rhymes.

A few weeks prior to 5 December, Sinterklaas arrives by boat from Spain. He is dressed like a bishop and rides on a horse while in The Netherlands. He is accompanied by helpers who climb on the roofs of family homes and deliver the presents through the chimneys. On December 6 he leaves back to Spain where he resides. So far so good. (Wikipedia)

The U.N. comity’s problem is however in the use of the colours in this children’s party. Sinterklaas is a white guy with a long beard, a red coat and a red miter – like a bishop. The horse is also white and the helpers are black – so called “black Petes”. A few Dutch – black -activists have been able to get the U.N. interested in this open display of racism – as they refer to it.

Saint Nicholas – or Sinterklaas or Santa Claus – was the bishop of Myra, a city that now belongs to Turkey. (Wiki) In those day, the Moors lived in Turkey and also in Spain. Wikipedia: “The Moors were Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors were initially of Arab and Berber descent, though the term later covered people of mixed ancestry and Iberian Christian converts to Islam”. Hence, it’s quite likely that the “black Petes” represent Moors. However, nobody even cares about such “details”. Black is black (Wiki).

On Friday 28 August 2015, a U.N. body called on the Netherlands on Friday to revamp its “Black Pete” Christmas tradition, where white performers black up to entertain children, as many saw it as a “vestige of slavery”. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte quickly dismissed the recommendations, saying it was not the government’s job to shape folklore. “Guys. Folk traditions, come on. What Christmas songs you should sing, how you celebrate Christmas and Easter – this isn’t what politics is about,” he told reporters in The Hague. (Reuters

Black Pete, who often appears with bright red lips and a curly black wig, has become a fraught topic in a country which has long regarded itself as progressive and tolerant. Surinamese, Antillean and African minorities perceive the tradition as a legacy of colonial racism. The National Platform on Slavery, a group which campaigns for atonement for the Netherlands’ past role in the slave trade, said many black children found the depiction disturbing. Last year, an Amsterdam court ruled that Black Pete was racist, but the decision was overturned by the country’s highest administrative court. (Reuters)

Actually, I am wondering: what happened to ‘Black Power’, Black Pride’ and ‘Black is Beautiful’ ?? Since when is being black equal to being a victim? The Dutch – black – activist may win this battle but will lose the underlying war. Basically, such U.N. statements acknowledge that being black is still equal to being a former slave. 

How can the black community ever develop a sense of pride and dignity when being black – by legal and political definition – means that you are a victim – and never a victor?


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