Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) in the Netherlands, Photo: Peter Dejong/TT
Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) in the Netherlands, Photo: Peter Dejong/TT

Protest against "Black Pete" at Dutch Embassy

African-Swedes have sent an open letter to the Dutch ambassador here to protest what they consider to be a manifestation of racist stereotypes. The protest concerns the controversial Dutch Christmas tradition when St. Nicholas is accompanied by a helper called Black Pete.

Black Pete (or Zwarte Piet) is said to be dark-skinned because he is a Moor, and is typically played by a white person wearing blackface make-up and lipstick to portray a large mouth. The character has become controversial in the Netherlands in recent years as a racist and colonial holdover.

The Dutch Club in Stockholm plans to hold a traditional celebration at the Netherlands embassy on November 30, after St. Nicholas and Black Pete have walked through the streets of Stockholm.

But the embassy rejects the criticism. Karen van Stegeren, the Deputy Head of Mission, tells the TT news agency “Our government has no opinion on the issue, and as an embassy, which represents the government, we can’t either,” adding that the ceremony has been held at the embassy for many years.

A 20th century interpretation of the story says Black Pete is a chimney sweep whose skin color is due to soot.

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