Is ‘Black Pete’ Racist?

tags: racism, Netherlands, Christmas, Black Pete



John McWhorter is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University and the author of What Language Is (and What It Isn't and What It Could Be).

..As hard as it is to remember today, given what a small and peaceable nation it is, the Netherlands has as much historical blood on its hands as the U.S. when it comes to people of color. The Dutch once had colonies in both hemispheres (including what is today New York City) and committed countless atrocities in the Caribbean and South America, where they ran brutal sugar plantations....

Recently a student asked me why a photo he found of me shows me at a conference about Indonesian languages taking place in the Dutch city of Leiden, of all places. It’s because of the Dutch’s other hegemony in Indonesia, where today countless brown-skinned people are comfortable in Dutch as a legacy of the colonial era.

Black Pete, then, is not the Dutch version of a Finnish teen bouncing to Jay Z in an Afro wig. Black Pete in 2013 is a lame, thoughtless thing, carrying an implication that all that slavery and servitude and imperialism was some kind of cartoon. Black Hollanders often feel the same way, in a country where blacks from former colonies are overrepresented in housing projects....



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