Dutch libraries removing Zwarte Piet from the shelves
Libraries throughout the Netherlands are removing children's books featuring blackface Sinterklaas character Zwarte Piet from their shelves. This is "logical" when considering social developments and "in keeping with the spirit of the times", Anton Kok of the association of public libraries VOB said to newspaper AD.
"Everywhere there is a growing realization that Zwarte Piet gives a stereotypical image of a certain part of the population and the libraries are moving along with this," Kok said. This is not unusual, he added. "Numerous books have been taken down over time for being 'contrary to morality'." He referred to children's books featuring derogatory images of the population of the former Dutch East Indies. "Zwarte Piet is also, in my opinion, 'contrary to good morals'."
The clearing operation was not publicized and, according to Kok, there is no hassle about it. VOB is also not forcing libraries to discard the books, that responsibility lies with the libraries themselves. "But we see that libraries are taking on that responsibility en masse."
The fact that some Dutch still want to keep Zwarte Piet in his blackface form - 55 percent of the population, according to a recent poll by EenVandaag - is no reason to keep the books, Kok said. "Some people also like fascism. And yes, that sounds crude, but I mean that a squadron cannot determine our policy."
Kok denied the newspaper's statement that libraries are determining what people read. "It is more that are they linking up with the spirit of the times," he said. "White children don't care about a different Piet and and black children find him strange and unpleasant, and that is what matters."
The removed books are often sold at a discount. One copy will go to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) in The Hague.