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Rotterdam police use Zwarte Piet as a disguise

Wednesday 05 December 2012

Rotterdam police are dressing up as Zwarte Piet to act as decoys and observers in ‘suspicious’ situations, the AD reports on Wednesday.

The use of the Piet disguise, with police officers being made up with black face paints to resemble the Sinterklaas servant, resulted in the arrest of one youth with a stolen iPad, the AD said.

Other people were given warnings for insulting the Piets. These included discriminatory and ‘sexually-tinted’ statements, the paper said, without giving further details.

‘You would not want to know all the things which are shouted at Piets,’ a spokesman told the paper.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

‘You would not want to know all the things which are shouted at Piets,’ a spokesman told the paper.
Being of mixed race I know all too well what things are shouted. As an aside I find Zwart Piet one of the most insulting things the Dutch do. Don't tell me he wasn't a slave as the origins go back far enough to make his being anything else impossible. Political correctness didn't exist back then. Considering Zwart Piet replaced the devil then it's not hard to see the twisted logic, i.e. the devil equals blacks.

By groverpm | 5 December 2012 8:16 AM

I just saw at my daughter;s school a poster with "Zwarte Piet" ,i took a picture with my iphone; not to mention that for me this is some sort of "apogee of racism" ,ai also see that the person in the poster has an incert sexuality ,could be or an efeminate boy with long eyelashes and botox implant ,or a masculine girl. Pretty scarry ,especially near a santa poster with an obviously alcoholic guy looking angry.Or maybe is everything in my head only....

By confused | 5 December 2012 2:39 PM

@groverpm: if you go down that road, you could accuse almost all human or anthropomorphic folkloric figure as "racist", according to the "race" they are represented.

Sinterklaas is just harmless fun, only people with own issues will make a point against Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaas.

By A.L. | 5 December 2012 2:47 PM

Unbelievable! Shouting racist things at a guy dressed up in blackface? Who would have thought!

By Chris B | 5 December 2012 3:20 PM

Well said A.L.

By woods | 5 December 2012 3:44 PM

I love Christmas in the Netherlands. Oliebollen, speculoos, white people telling non-white people that they've got a problem if they find Zwarte Piet racially offensive.

One day, the people of the Netherlands will look back on Zwarte Piet and no amount of boot polish will hide their blushes.

By John | 5 December 2012 4:06 PM

Hooray! It's time for the annual DutchNews.nl 'Zwarte Piet is racist' comments...that way you really know Christmas is nearly here again!

By Dirty Percy Pickles | 5 December 2012 4:12 PM

oh for goodness sake....leave the traditions alone.
every country is different, hey we celebrate the 4th of july...hope we dont offend the brits!
if we were all the same .....how politically correct but so boring
live and let live, as long as there is no violence

By jenny | 5 December 2012 4:47 PM

@A.L. well said I too agree. I really don't see why folks have such a problem with Zwarte Piet I enjoy the Dutch holidays and the history behind them.

By dee | 5 December 2012 5:06 PM

If this subject is raised every year why doesn't someone or some organisiation force the issue instead of griping?

By Gdog | 5 December 2012 5:55 PM

I just went to a random company and made sure to let the employer know how horribly racist he was for employing black people. How dares he! Only white people should get a job, as a black person getting a job means he gets a status that puts him below the white employer!

^ A short summary of the Zwarte Piet complaints.

By Someone | 5 December 2012 6:49 PM

Coming home today I saw a teenager dressed as Zwarte Piet being called over by 2 Moroccan mothers wearing headscarves and their children to ask for sweets. All were smiling and happy. Having this tradition alive in NL is brilliant because it simultaneously shows Europe's racist past and the absurdity of taking it too seriously today. Every western country has a racist history; it is only those that explicitly hide it who really have something to hide. Merry Christmas.

By Richie | 5 December 2012 7:19 PM

oh i just love the tradition behind the blackface!

the lips get bigger on these things each year... it's offensive to anybody non-dutch, not just black people...


By moose | 5 December 2012 7:27 PM

Folks stop interfering with traditions to political correctnes.
I say the legend is that Piet hired Santa to do all the hard job of listening to the brats and organizing the presents. Such a hard job for a poor old man in retirement. Why should a poor old man work for a pittance. This is politically UNcorrect.

By mel | 5 December 2012 8:09 PM

@deeet al: the reason why people have a problem with zwarte piet is because it is racist-period.All along in history the stereotypically foolish behavior and childlike way he acts is a way to denigrate Africans and black people as being unable to be adults and masters of their own destin. It is not enough to say "we mean it well so it's all ok" - only (some) Dutch (and pro-apartheid people) can think this acceptable and funny. Moreover, the traditional sinterklaas song reads "Wees maar gerust, mijn kind, ik ben een goede vrind, want, al ben ik zwart als roet, 'k meen het wel goed." That Sounds racist to me. Traditions change with time and collective consciousness.

By the_expat | 6 December 2012 10:06 AM

"Tradition" isn't a good enough reason. Especially since it was only a tradition as of the 19th century.

Santa as we know it was only a 20th century invention.

Traditions evolve as the people change; no reason why this one shouldn't as well.

"Folks" have a problem because it is racist. Simple as that.

By CW | 6 December 2012 10:38 AM

If a cop in any other European country did this they would be branded racist.But no in NL.Why not because somehow the Dutch think its there right to celebrate the past history of slavery?

By jason buttle | 6 December 2012 11:05 AM

"Zwart als roet" indeed. Being of advanced age it was perfectly normal that he was black. Since he went down the chimney he looked exactly like the coal delivery men who turned black from the coal dust. Nothing in my child's mind thought of a person of a different race. So please stop projecting your hidden racism/insecurities. Hands of our folklore!

By hans | 6 December 2012 11:10 AM

@Someone: it is not the employment that is racists, it is the fact that Zwarte Piet is portrayed as a funny fool who is not to be taken seriously, with the underlying assumption that blacks/Africans are actually like children. If you read Gone with the wind you'll see that it is said that blacks must be treated with patience like little children because they are simple. This is exactly what Zwarte piet (which is only "institutionalised" in this way in NL) endorses. Whether an employee is black, Asian, white or native american has nothing to do with this at all.

By the_expat | 6 December 2012 11:19 AM

It's not enough to say "it's racist, period" or "it's racist simple as that". You have to justify your statements if you want them to carry any weight.

Personally I'm not sure that a black person being kind to children is a negative portrayal.

If, instead of Zwarte Piet it was, say, Fat Mary, would we be saying it was offensive to women, Catholics and fat people?

By Wit Piet | 6 December 2012 12:04 PM

I think they have had that Zwarte Piet
for a hundred years or more so get over
it it seems to be mainly for the kids
so don't sweat the small stuff.

By drecked | 6 December 2012 1:02 PM

@CW: what about countless Norge-Viking mythological figures that are presented as milk-white blue-eyed characters? Are they "racist" as well? Is Santa Claus itself racist against the Finnish?

Racism, in this case, is on the eye of the beholder.

By A.L. | 6 December 2012 1:43 PM

Zwarte piet is offensive plain and simple. There is nothing funny about making caricatures and mockery of Black people. If it wasnt dont u think Black people would be willing to play Zwarte Piet

By d | 6 December 2012 3:15 PM

Perhaps we can resolve this by insisting on the inclusion of 'White Piets', which could be of african or any other ethnic minority (including women). That way, everyone would have a part to play and nobody could possibly take offense although it might confuse a few children . .

By Peter | 6 December 2012 4:43 PM

Just ask any real black person what they think about it, this is not rocket science. Any normal person can see right away why this is not a good thing for this or any other society in 2012 (or 1990 for that matter). However as with many many other things, it may take Dutch society many years to catch up, or even to understand why this is not appropriate.

By B | 6 December 2012 5:05 PM

@hans: I think you are the only person who thinks that Zwarte Piet is black just because he goes down chimneys and that it has nothing to do with being a black person. This is not about "hidden racism or insecurities". I find mockery of people not nice (also not jewish bankers with a big nose, for example).
@ A.L.Norge-Viking mythological figures are not portrayed as a mockery so that is hardly the same thing (as history has shown).
@Wit Piet: it is not that "a black person being kind to children" is bad but in this case his being kind to children is a corollary to his being "simple like children"

By the_expat | 6 December 2012 5:35 PM

@d: why a particular group of people should be "protected of making fun of". And, Gosh, Zwart PIet is not even something about mocking Blacks.

Is Homer Simpson offensive because it threads on redneck stereotypes, for instnace?

It is just fun.

By A.L. | 6 December 2012 6:38 PM

Santa Claus and his Elves are more racist than Sint and Piet. Ever noted how Caucasian they are? Not a black person among them. So Anglo-Saxons: enjoy your all-white fest while blaming the Dutch for racism!

By Mirror | 6 December 2012 9:11 PM

@ex_pat. I don't think I am the only one. I gave an explanation. That newcomers ( by age or from abroad) don't know about it, is no excuse. Will Sinterklaas be attacked as a paedophile next year because he portrays a Catholic bishop and has children sit on his lap? And would you fire a person (as the mayor of LA did a few years ago) because (before you faint: look up the etymology in your dictionary) a person uses the word niggardly? Ignorance is no excuse!

By hans | 7 December 2012 10:35 AM

In the U.S., stereotypical black makeup — called blackface — was phased out in the civil-rights era. But in Britain, a TV show featuring blackface lasted until the late 1970s before the practice became taboo. Blackface crops up in other European countries from time to time, such as in a theater performance in Germany this year, but it’s only in the Netherlands that it’s institutionalized in the form of Black Pete See: http://www.salon.com/2012/12/04/criticism_of_dutch_black_pete_tradition_grows/

By the_expat | 7 December 2012 10:40 AM

@Hans: I'm sorry to insist but going down the chimney hardly gives big lips and frizzy hair. Maybe you are not the only one, certainly the Netherlands is the only country where such a mockery of another race is institutionalized and accepted. As you say "ignorance is no excuse" but that is valid also for one's self and one's own society.You seem so focused on your own traditions that you ignore completely what such a portrayl means to the rest of the world. I am saddened that many Dutch people take any critique as an insult. With kind regards

By the_expat | 7 December 2012 3:55 PM

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