Mayor: Zwarte Piet not racist, compromises "dumb"

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Whereas Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan threads carefully around the edges of the heated Zwarte Piet debate, a fellow town administrator from Hellevoetsluis has taken a resolute stance against any changes to the embattled tradition.

"No Witte (White) or Paarse (purple) Pieten. No dumb compromises," acting mayor Erik van Heijningen (VVD) wrote on the town's website last week. "For 25 years I played Zwarte Piet at a company (gathering) and It was always joyous for the children and adults, wherever they came from, generation after generation," he explained, charging that now there are a few Zeur (Nag) Pieten spoiling the fun for everybody by "unfairly" linking Zwarte Piet with discrimination. 

He said that as far as he is concerned, Sinterklaas and his PIeten will be visiting Hellevoetsluis this year. "A couple of white faces on a boat from Spain ... I can't fathom it."

The tradition that centers around bearded holy man and gift giver Sinterklaas and his whacky blackf aced helper Zwarte Piet has been under increasing fire since last year from predominantly people of African descent. They say the nappy headed, hoop earring wearing portrayal of Zwarte Piet is reminiscent of a time when Black people were expected to be subservient. Their complaints have met fierce resistance.

Two weeks ago the opponents won a major victory in court, when a court in Amsterdam agreed that mayor Van der Laan had not taken their objections into consideration when he granted a license for a Sinterklaas parade inclusive of Zwarte Piet.