The Dutch deny that the holiday tradition of celebrating blackface, or Zwarte Piet, is racist. But wasn’t it born from slavery? The Dutch blackface tradition, Zwarte Piet, depicts Saint Nicholas’ helpers in blackface. Some fans claim there is no racism intended, others beg to differ, saying it was born of the slave-trading past of the Netherlands and is stereotypical.
Black Pete first appeared in a children’s story written by Jan Schenkman in 1850. The portrayal of Black Pete, who joins Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas, as they travel around the country wouldn’t be so troublesome if he exhibit dim-witted behavior, much like the portrayal of blackface characters in the U.S.