Opposition has been centered in Amsterdam, home to the Netherlands’ largest black community. Mayor Eberhard van der Laan this month said he would support changing Pete’s appearance — but only gradually, as it has changed over time in the past.
“If it appears that Amsterdammers feel pain as a result of this tradition, that’s a good reason for new development,” he said.
Organizers of the festival and the broadcaster also said they would be open to changes if people want them.
The latest public figure to speak out against the tradition was none other than the (white) man who has played the part of “Head Pete” on the Sinterklaas news program for more than a decade. His commentary appeared in a top Dutch newspaper Tuesday, entitled “Make me less black and less a servant.”
Others to question the tradition include Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes and many of the country’s prominent thinkers and black celebrities.
But their campaign has failed to draw widespread support and the overwhelming majority of Dutch people don’t want change.
“Message for the U.N.: Isn’t there a war somewhere, starvation or genocide going on that you could better be concerned about?” Dutchman Peter Udo commented on the Facebook page, drawing more than 2,000 likes.
Asked about the issue at his weekly press conference, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it isn’t his place to intervene in a folk tradition.
“Black Pete: The name says it already. He’s black,” he said. “I can’t change much about it.”