Black Pete: A Holiday Miracle
Black Pete is a Dutch holiday character who accompanies Santa Claus on his Christmastime adventures through the Netherlands (as well as a few other countries around the world). He's been a popular fixture since the mid-nineteenth century, helping Saint Nick deliver presents and spread holiday cheer. Pretty sweet gig.
Historically, Black Pete has been depicted as a blackamoor — a decorative statue of an African servant who looks pretty fucking stoked about holding a tray.
But now, he dresses more like a Renaissance court jester. Instead of holding a fancy tray, he prefers to give candy to children at parades and such. Cool guy, overall. They dig him in the Netherlands. And I get it. Santa is great. Sidekicks are dope. Candy is rad.
Oh, right. One more thing. Black Pete is a white guy in blackface.
That’s right. Around the holiday season, white citizens of the Netherlands merrily paint their faces black and their lips red, pose for pictures and show up at public events. Black Pete. Santa’s Sambo. Al Jollyson. How did…? Why…? Can we please…?
You know what? Nevermind. I could go on-and-on about how Black Pete is wholly offensive for a myriad reasons, but right now, in today’s America — a nation wrought with never-ending race issues ranging from mass incarceration to a big dumb wall — sometimes you’ve just gotta take a win.
We’ve got problems in this country, but at least we can say this:
We don’t have Black Pete.
According to the NAACP, black men in America are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white men. However, if you go to the Mall of America, this man will not be working at Santa’s Workshop.
Due to centuries of oppression and institutionalized poverty, the “black on black” murder rate in this country is far, far greater than that of the next largest pairing. On the other hand, you will not see a white man in blackface riding Santa’s Sleigh during the Macy’s Day Parade.
The President of the United States of America intends to build a literal, physical wall to prevent brown people from entering the country so that they can't take white men’s jobs and rape white men’s white women. But thank God, at least when you attend your holiday office party, there is no chance that one of your co-workers will be donning black grease paint, ruby red lips, and that wig Sam Jackson wore in Pulp Fiction.
While the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 has helped to partially roll back the insane mandatory minimums for crack cocaine sentencing (which disproportionally targets blacks), there are still thousands and thousands of people being incarcerated by this unjust system. Though, yet again, and I want to make this very clear: Black Pete is a white Dutchman in blackface, and he doesn’t exist in America. Good on us.
Look, I’m not trying to create a 1:1 equivalency between systemic American racism and a fictional holiday character. The problems we have stateside are certainly way worse and will require a ton more work to remedy than eliminating an offensive costume. But I’m just saying, let’s take a moment to pat ourselves on the back.
At least we don’t have white people dressing up in blackface for fun…
What’s that you say? Oh, shit…
Oh, shit. Fuck.
Fuck me! C’mon!
Nevermind. We do it, too. Americans totally wears blackface. I can’t believe I forgot all about that. I mean, Black Pete definitely still sucks and the Dutch should totally get rid of him, but yeah… we got… *facepalms forever*… we got a lotta blackface here, too.
Happy Holidays, I guess, and whatever your nationality, please don’t incorporate blackface into any of your celebrations.