United Nations investigate ‘Zwarte Piet’

The United Nations are conducting an investigation into whether Zwarte Piet is racist.Four UN reporters on cultural minorities and racism have asked Netherlands for clarification on the celebration of Sinterklaas, after they received complaints about the stereotypical character of Zwarte Piet.

Sinterklaas_zwarte_piet

Sinterklaas_zwarte_piet
Michell Zappa
Wikimedia commons

They received information that the tradition of Sinterklaas is in essence racist, and that Zwarte Piet, stupid and a servant, feeds the stereotype of Africans as second class citizens.

This is clear from letters NRC Handelsblad published Saturday. The UN reporters warned that the Netherlands should consult with minority organizations if the government wants to put Sinterklaas on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.

This summer replied the Dutch UN Ambassador Roderick van Schreven denied plans to place Sinterklaas on a UNESCO list.

He also writes that the Dutch government sees Sinterklaas as a children’s holiday that mainly focuses on handing out gifts. The Government is aware that opinions on the role of Zwarte Piet vary.

In recent years, the number of complaints about Zwarte Piet rose sharply at the anti-discrimination office in Amsterdam. According to the ambassador that may be related to the public debate about the role of the Sinterklaas helper.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday that Zwarte Piet simply is black. The discussion is a matter of society, not the government.