Some words at the public hearing against Zwarte Piet in Amsterdam

Guest post by Patricia Schor

The Sinterklaas parade is the biggest annual festivity for children in Dutch cities, by mid November, when the wise old white man Sinterklaas arrives on land joined by his blackface servants, the Zwarte Pieten. A crowd of adults and children wait anxiously on the passing of Sinterklaas and his jolly black servants, carrying burlap bags filled with sweets and presents. In 2012 the Sinterklaas parade in Amsterdam included more than 700 Zwarte Pieten.

In 2013 Quinsy Gario filed a complaint against the permit the municipality had given to the Sinterklaas parade in the city of Amsterdam, due to the racist character of Zwarte Piet, and urged others to do the same. I was one of the 20 other persons that responded to this appeal. On October 17, we were requested to attend a public hearing in the City Hall of Amsterdam, whereby each of us was invited to elucidate our individual complaints to an official Committee of Legal Affairs that would decide on the case.

At the hearing I read aloud the text that follows. Egbert Alejandro Martina kindly revised the English version of the text. Jan Michiel Aeilkema kindly revised the original text in Dutch, further down.

Continue reading “Some words at the public hearing against Zwarte Piet in Amsterdam”


A Reasonable Alternative to Zwarte Piet

Guest post by Patricia Schor

There is something fundamental when one engages in social struggle that is daring to believe in real transformation.

A short while ago I watched a wonderful documentary about the US Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, where a historian defined it not as a struggle of good against bad or evil, but of good against normal. This poignant statement transported me back to the Netherlands year 2013, where and when public institutions sponsor and host the largest children’s party that centres on the figure of the holy white elder Sinterklaas accompanied by a retinue of jolly black servants: the Zwarte Pieten. This is normal or, at least, its presence is so insistent in the Dutch public sphere that the line between common (as frequent) and normal (as acceptable) is easily—and purposefully—blurred.

Continue reading “A Reasonable Alternative to Zwarte Piet”