AMSTERDAM (AP) — The “Black Pete” tradition in the Netherlands is under fire from opponents who believe the figure is a racist caricature and who asked Amsterdam officials Thursday to revoke the permit for a popular children’s festival because of it.
“Sinterklaas,” the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is portrayed as a tall white man who arrives to great fanfare on Nov. 5, accompanied by dozens of clownish servants called “Zwarte Pieten” — Black Petes. These are typically white people wearing blackface makeup with red lips and curly “Afro” wigs.
Festivities around the country last a month, culminating in a night of poems and gift-giving.
The tradition is an important part of Dutch culture, but in recent years there have been growing complaints that Pete is offensive.
On Thursday, dozens of protesters overflowed a hearing about the permit at Amsterdam City Hall.
One of 21 people who filed formal complaints, Imro Rietveld, described growing up as the only black-skinned child in his class. Every year, he said he was subjected to a month of taunts such as “your whole family is coming over in the boat” and “can you do tricks?”