Scores of children were delighted when the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus arrived in the Netherlands on Saturday. But the Associated Press reports that some parents and other adults protested against a part of the tradition that they describe as racist: his servant whose face is awash in blackface makeup, Black Pete.
During the annual celebration, known as Dutch Sinterklaas festival, St. Nicholas arrives by steamboat in mid-November and spends a month with dozens of Petes, who leave cookies, chocolate and other treats for children, the AP says. The event culminates in a night of gift-giving on Dec. 5.
Opponents decry the Petes — so-called servants who wear blackface makeup, red lipstick and frizzy "Afro" wigs — calling them blatant racist caricatures that should be banned, the AP says. But most residents of the largely European country do not feel the character is a racial insult, calling him "a positive figure of fun and that the dissent is a sign of political correctness gone overboard."
While protests over the presence of Black Pete have always existed, they have grown louder in recent years. In October, the United Nations, under the authority of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced plans to investigate whether Black Pete is a racist stereotype.
"The world is watching, and the Netherlands has been found wanting," anti-Pete protester Quinsy Gario told a group of about 300 supporters in Amsterdam, most of whom were black, according to the AP.
Gario, a black artist, has emerged as the one of the loudest voices in the anti-Pete movement. As a result, the Associated Press says that he has been "subjected to unprintable insults and death threats for speaking out. But at Saturday's protest he had trouble at times being heard over supporters chanting his name."
Read more at the Associated Press News.