Facebook Bans Zwarte Piet

Facebook Bans Zwarte Piet

In a move that surprises no one Facebook has now officially announced a ban against Zwarte Piet, also known as Black Pete. The traditional Dutch character has been under fire for years as activists have worked to scrub the tradition from The Netherlands. In a blog post this week Facebook says they will be banning all images and videos of blackface.

Would that preclude this story then? (We’ll see)

While this particular policy has been anticipated for a long time it comes when Facebook is increasingly under fire for censorship and dismal fact-checking practices. Facebook uses politically motivated, backed and liberal sourced media operations to power their fact-checking efforts.

Zwarte PietThe controversies of Black Pete have not really originated in The Netherlands. For nearly two hundred years they paraded the character openly on the streets during annual celebrations of St. Nicholas. There was nary a complaint.

But activists came from outside the country and soon the UN embedded itself into the country’s traditions to ban a character who was never racist in the least. But despite the history, despite the innocent play of a character covered in soot the Netherlands populace who have backed the tradition were labeled as racist without any kind defense whatsoever. Through slanted international media the country has more or less been shamed to give up a tradition that was never intended or designed to cause offense.

Facebook’s decision has already drawn criticism from some who see it as censorship, and it is sure to reignite what is already a heated—and at times violent—debate surrounding the tradition. Within hours of the decision the far right “Pro Zwarte Piet” Facebook page created an event where members plan to spam post all their pictures of the character and called on them to boycott the platform. According to NOS, the Dutch national broadcaster, in order for pictures of Black Pete to be removed, users must actively report them.

Anti-racist activists see the decision as a small victory, with the popular “Zwarte Piet is Racisme” page heralding the decision as “a happy day for the Netherlands.” But some activists have also questioned why a private corporation has taken the lead instead of the national government. While Prime Minister Mark Rutte—who himself has dressed up as the character—recently described the tradition as racist, he refused to go so far as to say that the tradition would be outright banned.

Christmas Episode of The Office Quickly Edited to Remove Blackface

Christmas Episode of The Office Quickly Edited to Remove Blackface

A classic Christmas episode of The Office has been edited to delete a scene showing an actor in blackface depicting Zwarte Piet or Black Peter, of Netherlands fame.  The revised version has been distributed to Netflix and other various streaming services that showcase it.

The Office is about a group of people trying to work together with mutual respect despite the inappropriate actions of their boss and assistant manager,” series creator Greg Daniels said in a statement today. “The show employed satire to expose unacceptable behavior and deliver a message of inclusion. Today we cut a shot of an actor wearing blackface that was used to criticize a specific racist European practice. Blackface is unacceptable and making the point so graphically is hurtful and wrong. I am sorry for the pain that caused.”

The so-called “racist” European practice has for years now been embroiled in dispute in the Netherlands where Zwarte Piete has been a tradition for hundreds of years. The character accompanies a strict version of St. Nicholas and serves, in legend, as his “helper”. The legend identifies Black Peter as a Spaniard but in modern day parades dating back more than a century the character is customarily played by a white person wearing blackface. The character in some stories of legends can be mean and dishes out discipline to naughty children. Over time, however, the character has morphed into a more silly persona who plays tricks and gives gifts.

Proponents of the tradition claim the depiction of Zwarte Piet because the blackface is not symbolic of a particular race but of soot from the fireplace. Imported protesters to the Netherlands more than a decade ago claimed it racist and have kept a steady presence at traditional parades to protest. Some times those protests have become violent and have involved children.

The international media, including most in the USA, have accepted wholesale the argument that the tradition is racist, putting pressure on government officials in the Netherlands to clamp down on the tradition. The government in recent years has responded to the controversy by introducing individuals who are without blackface playing the role of Black Peter with the goal in  mind that the blackface would eventually disappear entirely. The solution appealed to almost nobody. The racial protesters said it wasn’t enough and the proponents of the tradition have responded by showing up in the crowd in blackface.

It is doubtful that the actions of the creators of The Office will have any bearing on the blackface tradition of the Netherlands.

The blackface scene was previously included in an old version of “Dwight’s Christmas,” Episode 909, which aired in 2012. The episode has now been replaced on Netflix, and the edited version will added to Peacock in 2021 when The Office moves to its new streaming home there.

In “Dwight’s Christmas,” Dwight tries to get his coworkers in the Christmas spirit using his own family traditions with a Schrute Family Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas. He comes into the office dressed as Belsnickel, a St. Nicholas-inspired character from South German folklore, but Oscar looks up the character and discovers his unsavory roots.

Oscar informs Dwight that Belsnickel’s partner, Zwarte Piet/Black Peter, is “a slave boy often portrayed in colorful pantaloons and blackface.” Dwight replies, “Oh, come on. We don’t blindly stick to every outmoded aspect of our traditions. Come on, get with the spirit of it, you guys!”

He’s then shown grabbing his phone and sending a quick text, which goes to warehouse employee Nate, who is wearing full blackface and dressed as Zwarte Piet. He turns around after Dwight’s text, and later returns to the office Christmas celebration with most of the black makeup wiped away.

This change of the Christmas episode is significant because it is the first revision to a Christmas theme of pop culture related to the holiday to happen. It is not likely to break a lot of hearts either way because tradition of the Netherlands is barely known in the USA. But the change signals a warning that nothing will stop the level of political correctness now prevalent in American society.

We will definitely see more of this kind of thing.

 

UN Continues to Label Dutch Christmas Racist

UN Continues to Label Dutch Christmas Racist

The Netherlands continues to face pressure over a Christmas tradition more than 200 years old. The Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet or Black Pete continued without protest or notice until two years ago when a Jamaican UN observer took offense at the practice of white celebrants in black face and dressed as the character who serves as a kindly foil to the strict version of the Dutch Santa Claus. Now the Dutch government has to regularly answer to the UN for what they are doing about it.

In the first UN meetings about the issue since last Christmas the Dutch government this week made a commitment to “change” the character of Zwarte Piet but not to eliminate him.

The government is riding a fine line between satisfying citizens — who love the character and tradition — and complying with the demands of the United Nations.

The Dutch government actually took steps last year to institute change in how Zwarte Piet is perceived. Last year the parade was flooded with individuals, both male and female, depicting the sidekick of Sinterklaas in natural skin tones or in faces painted in all kinds of colors with vivid variations in Black Pete’s costuming.

Traditionalists were critical of the changes and critics were NOT appeased.

Since Christmas 2013 this has been a major issue in the Netherlands. As outside forces driven by the United Nations claim the tradition is racist stubborn Dutch traditionalists say the cultural icon of Zwarte Piet is loving and misunderstood.

The debate raged to new levels last November during the traditional parade opening the holiday season when Saint Nicholas and Black Pete make their traditional entrance.

Hundreds of parade-goers — dressed as Black Pete — clashed with out-of-the-country protesters who created a scene while being arrested. These confrontations happened in front of children and families.