As the annual debate about Sinterklaas begins anew, American Netherlander Greg Shapiro says: Why not a Sinterklaas Reboot? Specifically, why not take Zwarte Piet and give him a Michael Jackson makeover?
The reboot trend is everywhere.
Batman had a reboot. Spiderman had a reboot, just 10 years since his last reboot. Even Sinterklaas was reinvented by Dutch director Dick Maas. If you didn’t see ‘Sint’ from 2010, it’s the one where Sinterklaas is portrayed as a child-murdering psychopath.
So why not reboot Zwarte Piet? ‘Oh, no!’ cry the Dutch. ‘You can’t touch our beloved Zwarte Piet! He must be covered in blackface, or the children won’t believe!’ Dick Maas himself says it’s okay for Sint to kill kids. So why not make Zwarte Piet a shade lighter?
I’ve had this argument with both Dutch people and black people. Quinsy Gario is the founder of ‘Zwarte Piet is Racisme.’ He insists that the title is not a matter of opinion; it’s a simple fact.
I agree with him. But I don’t agree with his remedy – the Dutch people should admit that they’ve been racist and stop immediately. But that ain’t gonna happen.
There’s a great precedent that everyone is ignoring. Neger Zoenen. These chocolate covered marshmallow cookies were called ‘Neger Kisses’ for years (or even ‘Negerinne Tieten) (use your imagination).
But around 2005, someone had the good sense to ask ‘why not drop the “Neger?”‘ Now they’re simply called ‘Zoenen.’ Are Dutch families forever damaged? No. And they get to congratulate themselves for their common sense.
My recommendation: drop the ‘Zwarte.’ Just make him Piet. Then the next year drop the Afro. The next year, the blackface becomes soot – which is how Mr. Piet is meant to have come by the blackface in the first place.
By then, – if any Dutch people still complain that you’ve ruined their lives- then you can call them racist.
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