American artists Tre Songs, Waka Flocka, and model Megan Milan have spoken out against the racist Dutch blackface caricature Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) after they were exposed to images of Sinterklaas’s helper via social media.
“Netherlands I can’t f—-ing believe this L I’m disappointed because the people showed me so much love man I fucking hurt L #NetherlandsBand until y’all apologize and erase this f—-ing holiday!!!! Stop spreading global hate and separation!!!,” rapper Waka Flocka shared on his Instagram profile. Singer Tre Songz shared the same Al Jazeera article on his Instagram timeline as Flocka did and wrote that he was ‘Getting a lot of dms about this”. He thought that it was “Straight b—sh-t.” After seeing images of Zwarte Piet in Amsterdam model Megan Milan wrote on her Instagram that she was sorry that people had to go through this. She said that she knew how hard it was to fight racism in other countries ‘with all of the ignorance’. She wrote that she didn’t know what to do to change the racist tradition but that she would at least try to make people aware of it taking place.
Every year the Netherlands celebrates the holiday ‘Sinterklaas,’ which is a holiday based around Saint Nicholas of Myra, Turkey. Myra wasn’t always located in Turkey but used to be a part of ancient Greece. The Dutch holiday starts in November when Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands in a steamboat that departed from Spain, he’s accompanied by his helpers. His helpers are called ‘Zwarte Piet’ which in English is Black Pete. They are dressed in page costumes, wear an Afro whig, have on golden hooped earrings, have red lipsticked lips, and are mostly white people wearing black face paint. The children are told that Zwarte Piet became Black by coming down the chimney.
In 2014, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was asked why he didn’t change Zwarte Pete due to its racist characteristics. PM Rutte responded by saying that he couldn’t change Black Pete because of his name. ‘Black Pete is Black, and I cannot change that,’ said PM Rutte. He continued by saying that his ‘friends in the Dutch Antilles are very happy when they have Sinterklaas because they don’t have to paint their faces’ to play Black Pete because they’re already Black. The Dutch Antilles are Islands in the Caribbean and were former Dutch slave colonies, they include . PM Rutte then admitted that when he plays as Black Pete it takes him days to get ‘the stuff’ off his face. A day after making these statements PM Rutte apologized to Prime Minister of Curacao Ivar Asjes.
The Sinterklaas parade which is actually a minstrel show has faced controversy since the 1930s when the first demonstrations took place. More recently a collective of anti-racism activists have formed an organization named Kick Out Zwarte Piet, better known as KOZP. They are an umbrella organization that allows for multiple anti-racism organization (such as ANITFA) to join forces and operate as one group. Over the years they have faced false arrests, police brutality, attacks by White extremists, and more recently an attack by a group of so-called Black Pete supporters who tried storming a building in The Hague where KOZP was hosting a meeting with supporters. Men, women, and children had come together to discuss plans for a demonstration in The Hague. A few days prior to the meeting a large group had organized in Scheveningen, After the gathering KOZP held an emergency meeting in the The Hague. KOZP believes the meeting was brought into danger after the address of the meeting was spread via social media by John van Zweden. They believe that the Tweet mobilized a radicalized mob of Zwarte Piet supporters.
The mob threw fireworks and vandalized a number of cars outside the building, which included the car of anti-racism activist and KOZP member Mitchell Esajas. The mob also tried storming the building and damaged a number of the building’s windows. The police arrested 5-suspects. KOZP has announced that they will be hosting demonstrations at 12-different locations throughout the Netherlands and have said that they will arrange their own security because they don’t believe the police will protect them from what they see as radicalized Black Pete supporters.
Esajas was interviewed by the Dutch National Broadcaster (NOS) regarding the attack.