Open letter to Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Verene Shepherd
Dear Ms Shepherd,
I’m writing this in concern to your statements about Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). Although I’m sure you will never read it. As you seen way too busy to try to ban things that you know nothing about. For someone who says she’s a researcher you’ve sure seem to have done very little research into this matter. So let me tell you a bit about the history of Sinterklaas (or Sint Nicolaas).
Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet:
Sinterklaas or Sint Nicolaas is based on the Bishop of Myra, who was a historic 4th-century saint. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. He’s the patron saint for children, amongst others.
Originally, the Sinterklaas feast celebrates the name day, 6 December, of Sint Nicolaas. Half of his bones are buried in Bari, a town in southwestern Italy. In the middle ages this part of Italy was part of the Kingdom of Aragon and later of Spain.
Sinterklaas is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colourful Moorish dresses. During the Middle-ages Zwarte Piet was a name for evil. Nowadays, the tasks of the Zwarte Pieten are mostly to amuse children, and to scatter pepernoten, kruidnoten and strooigoed (special sinterklaas candy) for those who come to meet the saint as he visits stores, schools, and other places. Sinterklaas arrives on a (steam) boat from Madrid with Zwarte Piet and his horse Amerigo.
Children and Sinterklaas:
Traditionally, in the weeks between his arrival and 5 December, before going to bed, children put their shoes, traditionally next to the fireplace chimney or the radiator, near a window.
The next day they will find some candy or a small present in their shoes.
On the evening of December 5th, the children will get toys, chocolate (can be dark, might be white, do you have any problems with dark chocolate Ms Shepherd?) and marzipan. In the olden days, if you were naughty you would get a lump of coal (which is also black) or a bit of salt.
Adults and older kids give each other presents, accompanied with poems.
History of Santa Claus:
I’ve read on more than one occasion you, Ms Shepherd, have said:
What’s wrong with one Santa Claus, why have two Santa’s?
Really Ms Shepherd? Really? Have you done any research at all into the history of your Santa Claus? Because I don’t think you have. You are just being narrow-minded and you must think you are always right. Let me tell you what came first.
Your Santa is derived from Sint Nicolaas (the name is a dead giveaway). The Dutch, who set up a colonial town, on the banks of the Hudson River, called New Amsterdam (it’s now called New York) took their traditions to their new homeland. But to have Sinterklaas arrive from Spain was a bit much, so over the years the traditional Sinterklaas feast was transformed to Santa Claus.
This would mean that we should ban Santa Claus, as he’s clearly an impersonator of Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is the “real” one, Santa is not. Just because you get your gifts from Santa, doesn’t mean we Dutch should go along with that. You are not always right, Ms Shepherd!
Is Zwarte Piet racism?
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.
Why am I not surprised Ms Shepherd? You have always plaid the racism card, why is that? Because you’re black? Do you feel you have to protect your people from all evil? I’ve worked in many stores and from what I’ve seen the black population plays the racism card ten times more than other minority groups. I’m sorry I have to say this, but it’s true. So I’m not at all surprised you’ve plaid the racism card.
I don’t think Zwarte Piet is racism. Do you really think Zwarte Piet depicts black people? Do you wear a large afro, big earhoops and do you wear very bright red lipstick that covers almost half your face? If the answer to all these questions is yes, I’d say it’s racism. But I’ve seen pictures of you, Ms Shepherd, and I don’t think you look even close to Zwarte Piet.
I wear glasses, but does that make me look like Dame Edna? No, it doesn’t. Same goes for black people and Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Pieten are mostly white people who wear huge amounts of make up to look black. Which makes it look ridiculous. Black people are much nicer to look at (well, most of them, but that goes for white people as well).
Santa has helpers too, Ms Shepherd. Little helpers. They are called elves, but are plaid by dwarves in many occasion. Wouldn’t that be more racist than putting make up on white people?
For pictures of these “elves” you might want to go here. Tell me what’s more disturbing Ms Shepherd? I’d say the “elves” are…
So, let me get this straight Ms Shepherd.
Sinterklaas has jolly helpers called Zwarte Pieten, white people who put on make up to look black. Santa Claus has little helpers called elves, but they’re really dwarves.
Sinterklaas has one horse, a domesticated animal. Santa has a bunch of reindeer, wild animals which he keeps locked up.
Sinterklaas Sinterklaas lives in Spain, a nice and warm place for such an old man. Santa lives somewhere on the North pole, but nobody knows exactly where.
Trading standards can visit Sinterklaas to see if he takes good care of his workers, but they can’t visit Santa, as nobody knows where he’s at.
Sinterklaas has a normal posture. Santa is extremely obese.
Tell me which one is better!?
All in all:
I think you’re claim to Zwarte Piet being racism is clearly ridiculous. I can understand you are hurt by your ancestors suffering under slavery. I can understand you feel the need to protect your heritage. But can you please leave an innocent celebration, one that makes so many children happy, alone? You are not always right Ms Shepherd, even if you think you are!