Protest group Kick Out Zwarte Piet is pressing charges against people who left racist comments on a photo the group posted on Facebook.
Sinterklaas officially arrived in the Netherlands on Saturday, accompanied by his controversial helper, Zwarte Piet. Though the assistants are mythologized as having dark smudges caused by soot, the character more closely resembles minstrels in blackface with nappy-haired wigs, large hoop earrings, big red lips and a buffoonish demeanour.
Most schools in the Netherlands will be keeping Zwarte Piet in his traditional appearance during the Sinterklaas celebrations this year and in the years to come. About 34 percent of respondents find the racism debate surrounding the Sinterklaas helper not a concern for their own organizations, with 32 percent saying they do not find the character discriminatory, a survey of teachers by general education association AOb revealed on Tuesday.
The first episode of the Sinterklaasjournaal on Monday contained only blackface Zwarte Pieten. Popular children's channel Nickelodeon went the other way, with a multicultural team of Pieten, and not one of them wearing blackface makeup.
Half of Sinterklaas' helpers will be so-called Chimney Pieten at the Saint's arrival in Amsterdam this year. And in the coming years, the traditional blackface Zwarte Pieten will progressively make way for more sooty-faced Pieten.
On Monday the municipality of Hoorn announced in a press release that Green Pieten will attending Sinterklaas in the city this year, to emphasize the sustainable character of the city. This backfired quite completely, resulting in responsible GroenLinks alderman Samir Bashara having to issue another press release in which he apologized for the publicity stunt. Hoorn will keep to the traditional blackface Zwarte Piet.
The Amsterdam police will this year not be allowed to have internal Sinterklaas celebrations with their children with only blackface Zwarte Pieten. The parties will be allowed if Pieten of other colors are also present.
The appearance of Zwarte Piet will only be adjusted in the city of Rotterdam itself, the rest of the Rotterdam area will be keeping Sinterklaas' helper in his traditional outfit and blackface makeup. Other Dutch municipalities are also sticking to the tradition.
Maastricht schools will be discarding one of Zwarte Piet's characteristic features during the Sinterklaas celebrations this year. The announcement was made by Mosa Lira, the umbrella organization covering primary school education in Maastricht.
Albert Heijn is concerned about the security of their staff after the supermarket refused to ban Zwarte Piet. A strict Zwarte Piet manual has therefore been sent to all 850 Albert Heijn branches in the country with instructions on how to deal with difficult situations regarding the controversial character.
Sinterklaas will be accompanied by more so-called Chimney Pieten and fewer traditional Zwarte Pieten at his national arrival in Meppel this year. More of Sinterklaas' helpers will be marked with ash and soot marks on their faces, instead of the traditional black-face makeup. The cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Maastricht will be following the same trend in the coming years.
In the run-up to the national arrival celebration of Sinterklaas, held this year in Meppel, Drenthe, local mayor Jan Westmaas says he wants to enter into a dialogue with opponents of Zwarte Piet and its blackface look, as well as traditionalists who want to keep the character as is. This year's arrival is scheduled for November 14, but a representative from the municipality would not comment on the image of Zwarte Piet that will be used in this years’ celebrations, reported Nu.nl.
Albert Heijn grocery stores will continue to use the blackface character Zwarte Piet as part of their winter holiday promotions around the Sinterklaas holiday. “We are sincerely bothered that cultural practices around the beloved Sinterklaas parties may be offensive,” parent company Ahold said in a statement.
Zwarte Piet is likely to remain a big part of the annual winter Sinterklaas celebrations outside of the Randstad region covering Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Den Haag, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday. Cities like Assen, Groningen, Helmond, Leeuwarden and Maastricht have not yet come to a decision regarding the debated image of Zwarte Piet.
An organization that governs 32 public elementary schools in Utrecht says that Sinterklaas celebrations in the schools will no longer include the maligned blackface character Zwarte Piet. "An important principle of public primary education in Utrecht is that everyone is equal," the organization SPO Utrecht stated on Wednesday.
Retailers say they want an end to the ongoing negativity surrounding the continual Zwarte Piet debate, the Retail Netherlands association of 110,000 companies said in a statement on Wednesday. They are begging for a consensus on the issue and to put an end to all the "distractions."
RTL will be keeping the traditional blackface appearance of character Zwarte Piet in the broadcaster's kids show Club van Sinterklaas this year. According to the broadcaster, the Zwarte Pieten are children's heroes and are therefore keeping "their own appearance"
The decision made by primary schools in The Hague to steadily phase out discriminatory features of Zwarte Piet has caused quite an uproar in both the on- and offline world. Hundreds of opponents and supporters of the decision are voicing their opinions on social media.
Supermarket chain Jumbo will be using both the traditional Zwarte Piet and light skinned Pieten on their packaging and advertisements this year due to the public debate over the character.
The managing boards of all the primary schools in The Hague have agreed to adjust the facade of Zwarte Piet and drop discriminatory features of the character. They feel that every child, regardless of color or race, should feel at ease during the Sinterklaas festival.
The Golden Coach has joined Zwarte Piet as another symbol of Dutch culture that can be construed as racist. Action group De Grauwe Koets, The Sooty Coach in English, has organized a demonstration against the famous Dutch coach on the Museumplein in Amsterdam on Saturday. According to the Facebook event page for the demonstration, the coach's panels contain "racist images which glorify the colonial past".
The United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination has released its report on discrimination in the Netherlands following the meeting with the Dutch delegation in Venice last week. The committee highlighted a number of concerns made recommendations regarding, among other things, Zwarte Piet, ethnic profiling by the police, racist statements made by politicians, antisemitic chants during football games, the asylum policy and ethnic bullying in schools.
The United Nations' College for Human Rights will present its conclusions and recommendation on discrimination in the Netherlands on Friday. This will include recommendations on Sinterklaas' highly controversial helper Zwarte Piet
The Dutch government has promised the international community that Zwarte Piet will be changed int a figure that is acceptable to everyone. He will not be banned however.