UN investigator pleads for abolishing Sinterklaas

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The head of the work group of the United Nations researching Zwarte Piet, thinks the Netherlands should abolish the Sinterklaas tradition.Verene Shepherd, human rights researcher for the United Nations, states this Tuesday in the TV program EenVandaag.

The work group can't understand why Dutch can not see this is a step back to slavery and this festival has no place in the 21st century, states the Jamaican Shepherd. She goes on to say if she, as a black person, would live in The Netherlands, she would object too. Shepherd admits this is her personal opinion.

Sinterklaas_zwarte_piet
Michell Zappa
Wikimedia commons

The UN is conducting an investigation into whether Zwarte Piet is racist. Although the official UN investigation has not been completed, Shepherd has already formed its opinion.

According to the researcher  the appearance of Zwarte Piet is downright insulting. Black people don't take to the streets and say, this is how all white people look like or that is how all white people look.

If the researchers find out their information is incorrect, they will change their opinion. But based on the current information they think the traditions should be abolished, states Shepherd.

Shepherd calls on prime Minister Mark Rutte to put an end to Sinterklaas. The prime minister has the power to influence the group that maintains this habit. If the Dutch government recognizes the Sinterklaas tradition is outdated, they should instruct the groups organizing it, to stop, according to Shepherd. And what is wrong with  one Sinterklaas? Why does The Netherlands have two?  Shepherd wondered in the program, referring to Santa Claus.

Saturday it became clear the UN is investigating Zwarte Piet. A committee examines the question whether the phenomenon is racist stereotyping. Judgment is expected next month.

The discussion about the discriminatory nature of Zwarte Piet is fiercer than ever this year. Prime Minister Rutte said last week that Zwarte Piet is not a matter of the government, but of society. Zwarte Piet is black, and we can't change a lot about that, according to Rutte.

A delegation of MPs, visiting the United Nations in New York, wants to meet with Shepherd, announced one of the delegation members, CDA MP Madeleine Toorenburg, Tuesday.

Research by Maurice de Hond  (Peil.nl) and No Ties, Tuesday, shows that 92 percent of the Dutch don't see Zwarte Piet as the slave of Sinterklaas. Only a small proportion of  the 1,697 respondents associate Zwarte Piet with slavery.

91 percent of the Dutch is against customizing the appearance of Zwarte Piet. Interestingly, this number is lower among GroenLinks voters (53 percent) and Amsterdam residents (65 percent). Yet the majority of those groups also opposes an adjustment.

Comedian Erik van Muiswinkel, who has been Head Piet during the national arrival of Sinterklaas, since 1998 wrote in an opinion piece on Nrc.nl Tuesday, that Piet must stay, of course, but he may be less black. Also, Zwarte Piet should no longer be a servant, according to Van Muiswinkel.

Zwarte Piet has since long become Piet, especially on television in The Netherlands.  He can also be a she, no longer has exaggerated red lips and shiny earrings, nor does Piet speak broken Dutch or scare children.  The comedian believes the solution lies in making Piet less and less black, and less a servant, but nobody wants to see the tradition abolished.

The foundation Minima club of the Groningen province will deploy rainbow Pieten for the celebration of Sinterklaas with low-income families in Hoogezand-Sappemeer, announced RTV Noord Tuesday.

These helpers are not painted black, but have, as the name suggests, all colors of the rainbow.
The statement the foundation wants to make is that it doesn't matter if Piet is black, green, yellow, or blue, the children are happy to just get their sweets, according to chairman Henny Litterop.

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