Zwarte Piet



“Spice up your life!”


That’s the one


An old bit from David Sedaris on This American Life which references it


Never liked Spice Girls but fair play to them there. That lad deserves a kicking.


Yeah, the Swarte Piet decorations which appeared in shop fronts about 2-3 weeks ago properly blew my mind. My brother had told me about this last year, when his (American) company - who have a very tight-knit startup culture, so everyone shares lots of social stuff on Slack - had to send out a memo to their Dutch employees basically saying “what you get up to in your spare time is up to you but don’t share that racist shit on the company Slack channel”

What I’ve noticed is there is a major retcon occurring at the moment with people claiming Piet’s face is black because Sinterklaas has been sending him down chimneys and he’s covered in soot.


Yeah, that’s bollocks and even if that were the case it’s bollocks.

I’ve been using this as a counterexample to that particular argument angle:


Sinterklaas is around the corner, and it feels like a duty to my child to share our experience.

Today I walked the street with my 2-year-old son, when a child started calling to him. “Hey, black person!” Hey boy! “” Little black man! “” Come with your gingerbread nuts! "This lasted for a few minutes, and I finally decided to record it.

Maybe you think this is innocent, it breaks my heart. My child is not a caricature. He is not a clown. He is not a bogey man. He is not a servant. He is not black like soot. He is an ordinary boy with dark curls and a smile that makes your heart melt.

Although many adults argue that “black pete” is really very different from someone of non-white origin, the parables with certain ethnicities have not escaped the kids. And that shows.

Now Elijah is still too young, but will I have to explain to him in a few years why others compare him to black pete?

Please people, for children it makes no difference whether their pete is black, red or blue … Black face paint or an afro wig is really not necessary to make a child happy or to give a party a party. Rainbow or soot soak, whatever, let the black goat disappear and make this party fun for ALL kids !!

#Black epicisracism


Our experience is not the only time, certainly not the first and unfortunately not the last time this happens. This is an important insight to understand where my, and the problem of many others is, exactly.

The problem is not this calling child, and not even his parents. The problem is a society that normalizes the use of derogatory racial caricatures.

The order of this child had not reached my goal, that is purely symptom control. A drop on a glowing plate. By sharing my experience, I hope to offer people a perspective that they might not have had before. It is up to you to include this or not in your judgment.

I wish everyone a nice Sinterklaas, and I hope Elijah can also celebrate it in a few years without this bitter aftertaste.

That’s all. :hugs:


wife’s sister and family live in holland so have spent time there over christmas and know a fair amount of people. virtually all of them think piet should be abandoned completely, but I do know one guy who gets properly defensive about it and is convinced its not racist at all and has nothing to do with race in the slightest, that it would ruin the fun for children if you took it away. When I said what about the effect it has on non-white children who fear christmas because of what Piet means for their day to day lives, a brief moment of a look flashed across his face like he had never considered this before before instantly the shutters came back down and he was back to insisting that it wasn’t racist etc. Just so ingrained dunno if the goodies are ever going to be able to win this one.


I was stunned a few years ago when I found out that this was something that was still in existence in Cornwall.

It may not originally have had anything to do with race but it’s impossible to separate blackface with anything else now (especially if they call it ‘darkie’ day ffs!), but hey, it’s tradition.


Y’know how Robertson’s jam used to give away racist toys and badges? Easy to think that was generations ago. 2001 they stopped. 2001, ffs.


Just asked the Cornish bloke in the office if he ever did this. His answer ‘oh, darkie parties?’ :no_mouth:


Ah yes the Robertson’s golly (yeah, dropping the racist epithet doesn’t make it ok guys), 2001 wow, I would have guessed late 80s or something.


yikes :grimacing:


There were boycotts in '83 and a TV ban in '88, but they continued their pinbadge scheme until 2001.

Seems absolutely potty that to me, though sadly not wholly surprising.


There’s a movie:

Wonder does James Earl Jones regret this.


Ah, yes. They’re from Rossendale, between Accy and Manchester - like the Welsh valleys but with incest, Juliet Bravo and Dear Superstar.

Apparently that lot insist that “blackface” is actually nothing to do with “blacking up” but to do with the mining heritage and giving the impression of people who’ve just worked a hard day down t’pit. :thinking: :joy: I can genuinely see why people might be 100% sincere in that belief but also why people from outside the area think it’s the ultimate UKIPpy excuse.


Earlier in the year I saw some Morris dancers in blackface in our town. Apparently the tradition stems from the days when workers would do a bit of dancing in the evening as a form of busking, but didn’t want to be caught/recognised by their employers. Which (a) sounds like a load of nonsense and (b) is a pathetic excuse for something that’s clearly going to cause a lot of offence.


I remember that - was really odd as I was aware of why such toys were banned long before that and their links with “wog” being a racial slur (also in Australia, but with slightly different connotations.)

One of the most suspicious and insidious things about “do you remember this” middle-aged/old people’s Facebooks is the glorification of such toys from their childhood and “we never meant it as rascheist at all it was the PC BRIGADE!” While some people genuinely weren’t aware, I’m always suspicious of places like the Isle of Wight, Yorkshire Dales etc. with quaint little villages here and there, and quaint little shops that occasionally have golliwogs in shop windows. Now they might have been like that since 1923, we just notice it and question it more now, but parts of why such things are there fit into occasional dubious dog-whistle suspicions I have of Middle England. The elderly couples in Clitheroe LIDL who always let me go in front of them might be lovely people with me, but their only newspaper of choice being the Mail or Express suggests they might not necessarily be lovely people with everyone.


Yeah that’s the “reason” given for the Cornish blackface. Wouldn’t a hat and a scarf be a better disguise? Wouldn’t someone in blackface have stood out like a sore thumb to their employers?
“I thought Cratchett might be here skiving off but all I can see are some innocent folks with soot all over their faces having fun who don’t look out of place at all!”


File the Raheem Sterling media hounding under this too, though at least now more people are talking about it than ever before.