Zwarte Piet contributes to stereotyping, racism says Justice Min
The Sinterklaas celebration with Zwarte Piet in his current blackface form can inadvertently contribute to stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice wrote in a letter to parliament. The government therefore supports the tradition being adapted, NU.nl reports.
"It is difficult, for example in the U.S., to explain the tradition of Zwarte Piet in his current form", the Minister wrote, but he added that the Dutch who "always celebrate the kids party with great joy" are not directly racist.
"The Sinterklaas celebration should be a party for all children and that is why the government is in favor of the party moving with the times. The nature of these changes and the pace at which they occur will vary by country or region", he wrote. "The Sinterklaas celebration is an ancient tradition that is shaped by society, and that continues to exist by changing."
Van der Steur wrote that the government will not force change. The adaption of Zwarte Piet should be something that comes from a "respectful dialogue".
Responding to Van der Steur's letter, Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that he himself likes Zwarte Piet. He called it a "fine tradition", but believes that the government should focus on more important matters, AD reports. "The government faces enormous challenges. People worry about elderl care, see that the economy is improving but have no job themselves, people fifty years and older are still finding it hard to work. We have to worry about that, not Zwarte Piet."
About two hours after Van der Steur sent his letter to parliament, the Ministry of Security and Justice released a statement saying that the government does not actively want to change Zwarte Piet, as the Minister's letter may suggest. The Ministry writes that there should be room for all forms of Zwarte Piet. "It is up to municipalities organizations and schools themselves to decide how they celebrate Sinterklaas."