On this blog we will talk about why Black Peter is problematic.

Within a few minutes, the average Dutch person becomes very agitated and emotional when this subject is discussed. This is strange, because normally Dutch people are quite rational. How is it possible that the average Dutch person defends Black Peter? How can it be, in the 21st century, that we celebrate a national holiday that denigrates another race?

All good questions. The goal of this blog is to answer these questions, and increase awareness of this issue.

A little bit of background: here in The Netherlands a lot of people celebrate Sinterklaas, who is accompanied by helpers. Approx. 150 years ago, these helpers became Black Peters (see research by Meertens Institute). For many Dutch people Sinterklaas is the best holiday of the year, filled with many positive associations, and has nothing to do with racisme. The Dutch do not want to hear anything different.

So what is actually the problem?

The problem is actually very simple: Black Peter is a black man. He is dressed up in what is called blackface he wears tights and silly clothes and dances about throwing sweets and helping sinterklaas. As a black man, he represents a stereotype. Dutch people say: No, no, he’s not a black man.

If Black Peter is not a black man, then why does he have the curly hair, fat red lips, and skin color of a black person?
Good question. Up until now, I have never heard a good answer to this question. The old story is that he is black because he came down the chimney, which doesn’t really do a lot to explain his large red lips and curly black hair.