Zwarte Piet is a throwback to slavery, says UN working party chief

The head of the UN’s human rights committee said in an interview with television show EenVandaag that she would object to the character of Zwarte Piet if she lived in the Netherlands.

Verene Shepherd, who is Jamaican, said in the interview that the UN working group cannot understand why ‘people in the Netherlands do not see this is a throwback to slavery and that in the 21st century this practice should stop.’

Last week it emerged the committee is looking into the Sinterklaas celebrations and the role of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) following complaints that it is racist.

 

Investigation

 

‘As a black person, if I were living in the Netherlands I would object to it. As a member of the working group, I am obliged to do further investigation,’ Shepherd said.

 

‘If we find out our information is wrong, we will change our position. But the information we have at the moment from the people of the Netherlands is that it is racist, a throwback to slavery and it should not happen.’

 

Every year the discussion flares up about the role of Zwarte Piet, played by a white person in black face make-up with a wig, red lips and gold earrings. This year protestors are trying to have the traditional Sinterklaas procession in Amsterdam banned because of the role of Zwarte Piet. This year’s procession is expected to include 500 Zwarte Piets.

 

Meanwhile, research by opinion pollster Maurice de Hond shows 92% of the Dutch do not associate Zwarte Piet with slavery and 91% oppose any efforts to change his appearance. In Amsterdam, however, 65% oppose efforts to make Zwarte Piet less of a stereotype.

 

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