The Dutch tradition of “Black Pete” has long offended people of African ancestry living in The Netherlands.
By now we’ve all seen this year’s brand new crop of horrific blackface Halloween getups, the most viral of which being an outrageous couple’s costume that was both racially insensitive and offensive to victims of domestic violence by depicting Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his battered wife, Janay. It seems that every year, Halloween brings out the worst in people who don’t quite know the difference between what’s funny or clever and what’s racist – because, well, they’re racists. Unquestionably, the desire to whittle a person or persons down to a set of racially-charged tropes and stigmatizing stereotypes for your own entertainment is indicative of a belief that members of non-White, non-dominant cultures are “less than” you.
Certainly Black people are not the only oppressed group in America who’ve been subject to this type of blatant public humiliation; when the sombreros, feather headdresses, and bindis come out on October 31st, there are very few brown people left unscathed in the U.S. of A. And it’s not just an American problem; people of African ancestry in The Netherlands are currently in the process of rejecting the centuries-old tradition of Zwarte Piet (or Black Pete) that rears it’s offensive head every Christmas season. While the general consensus amongst POC is that Blackface and other offensive forms of cultural appropriation are hurtful, there are White people, and some members of minority groups, who don’t understand what all the fuss is about. To be honest, it’s taken me quite some time and concentrated effort to be able to articulate just why seeing Blackface makes me so angry – so I thought I’d offer my personal perspective as fodder as we collectively work to eradicate this deplorable “tradition.”