Dutch cities to get help tackling polarization in blackface, environment debate

Sinterklaas_zwarte_piet Michell Zappa Wikimedia commons. ()

The Ministry of Social Affairs is organizing a meeting for municipalities to discuss how they can tackle polarization on sensitive topics like blackface Sinterklaas character Zwarte Piet and the construction of wind farms in the transition to green energy. At the meeting on Wednesday, municipalities can exchange experiences and tactics on how they deal with tensions between different groups, a spokesperson for the Ministry said to RTL Nieuws.

"The theme of the meeting is: how do you deal with polarization? These contradictions can be about the Sinterklaas party, but also about the construction of windmills or pig stalls. Municipalities can exchange experiences at the meeting", the spokesperson said. He stressed that the meeting is being organized for the municipalities and that the Ministry will mainly play a "facilitating" role.

The debate around Zwarte Piet in his traditional blackface form has caused a lot of tension in the Netherlands over past years. Opponents consider the character a racist stereotype. Proponents think that Zwarte Piet should be protected as an important part in the Sinterklaas tradition. The debate culminated in protests during Sinterklaas arrival parties throughout the country. The police had to intervene multiple times, arresting anti-Zwarte Piet protesters and pro-Zwarte Piet protesters alike.

The construction of wind farms is also a controversial topic. Activists have been campaigning against the windmills for years, including by planting Nazi flags and spray painting Nazi symbols at the site of prospective wind farms and leaving asbestos at the sites of companies connected to wind farm construction. A Drenthe entrepreneur recently decided to withdraw from a wind farm project, due to threats made against him and his company. 

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