Activists appeal for calm in blackface Zwarte Piet debate

Activists involved in the debate surrounding blackface Zwarte Piet released a statement calling for calm on Monday after a meeting with the Ministry of Social Affairs. They feel a calm and respectful discussion is what is needed on the subject, RTL Nieuws reports.

In the statement they renounce any form of threats, violence, polarization and aggression. "We are setting the interest of the child central. We strive for a festival that is for all children", the statement reads.

The statement was signed by, among others, Stichting Sinterklaasintocht Amsterdam, Knowledge Center Intangible Heritage Netherlands, Sint Nicolaas Genootschap Nederland, Surinaams Inspraak Orgaan, Overlegorgaan Caribisch Nederland, Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter and Stichting Sint en Pietengilde. A number of neutral parties such as RTL Nederland and Detailhandel Nederland were also involved in the meeting. These parties don;t take a firm stance, but has a lot to do with the subject.

The Sint- en Pietengilde released a separate statement calling for a cease-fire. "There is certainly sympathy and empathy for the way some people of color experience the party. But give the Dutch the space to develop and to come up with ideas themselves. Don't force it by stuffing demanding change through protests and social discussion. Also stop making demands of what those changes should comply to. As the Children's Ombudsman rightly said, let us as adults stop with the bickering and eternal debate."

On Friday Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer released a report stating that Zwarte Piet in his current form is in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and must be adjusted. "The current form of Zwarte Piet as part of the Sinterklaas festival can contribute to bullying, exclusion or discrimination and is therefore contrary to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child." she wrote. This resulted in dozens of threats made against her.

A recent poll by Maurice de Hond shows that an increasing number of Dutch think its time to get rid of Zwarte Piet’s black face makeup. Though a massive 70 percent of voters are still in favor of keeping the controversial character as he is.

In the Children’s Ombudsman report, the kids that participated in the study also said that adults are unpleasantly dominating the Zwarte Piet discussion.