UN investigators threatened after calling for an end to black-faced Dutch Christmas character Zwarte Piet
United Nations investigators have been threatened and insulted in the Netherlands after calling for an end to one of the country’s most beloved traditions — Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete.
The black-faced, curly-wig wearing, red-lipped character has been helping Sinterklaas, or Santa Claus, hand out presents to Dutch children for hundreds of years. About 600 Black Petes turned out last Sunday at the annual Amsterdam Sinterklaas parade.
But some see him as a racist character who is becoming increasingly controversial.
This week, Verene Shepherd, head of a UN working group investigating whether Black Pete is racist, called for the character to be abolished.
“The working party cannot understand why the Dutch cannot see that [the Zwarte Piet character] is a return to slavery and that this festival must stop in the 21st century,” she said on the Dutch TV program EenVandaag.
“If I, as a black person, were to live in the Netherlands, I would have objections,” added Ms. Shepherd, who comes from Jamaica.
The Dutch have taken exception to the UN investigation. Local media report widespread support for Black Pete and a Facebook page set up in praise of him has received almost two million “likes.”