It is a surprising step in the Black Peter debate: the UN is now investigating the Sinterklaas and Black Peter tradition. Chair of the investigating group professor Verene Shepherd has already concluded that Black Peter is a return to slavery and should be abolished (see http://www.eenvandaag.nl/binnenland/47577/zwarte_piet_waarom_raakt_de_discussie_heel_nederland_?autoplay=1) She is surprised that the Dutch close their eyes for racism and she thinks it is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, who should abolish the tradition (as if we live in a country with a dictator, and not in a democracy with a poldermodel). She gives her comments as ‘a black person’ even before the investigation has taken place and shows her limited multicultural knowledge by remarking that the Netherlands do not need ‘two Santa Clauses’. The Dutch only recently knew the American Santa Claus that comes with Christmas; it is certainly not a Dutch tradition and many Dutch hesitate to adopt it: they think that Christmas is for religion and Santa Claus is not part of that, or they think it is too commercial or too American. Very strange to see the head of a UN team as a promotor for American traditions around the world.
All this is part of the Human Rights policy of the UN and it leads to cynical remarks: that apparently the UN finished the job for human rights in Syria? that there is no starvation, genocide or war left the UN could better be busy with? In the meantime this year, the UN also ranked the Dutch children for the 2nd time as the happiest children in the world: http://www.dutchdailynews.com/dutch-kids-ranked-happiest-in-the-world/
So far the Dutch debate was much about the origin of Black Peter: people were trying to prove that the source was bad so Black Peter should be forbidden, as the art historian Elmer Kolfin thinks (see: http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2686/Binnenland/article/detail/3531694/2013/10/23/Geen-twijfel-over-mogelijk-Zwarte-Piet-stamt-af-van-kindslaven.dhtml), he says Black Peter reflects 17th century child slavery. Others say the opposite, that Sinterklaas has freed black child slaves or just one, the Ethiopian boy Piter, and that that is what the Dutch celebrate. Organisations were talking about experiments, working with a black Sinterklaas and white Peters, or multicoloured Peters. But the freedom of experimenting has disappeared suddenly. Whoever experiments with this tradition now, is seen as someone who calls others ‘racist’. Anger has entered the debate. The world is now really black and white, some are ‘good’ (Verene Shepherd c.s.) and some are bad, racist (the Dutch celebrating).
A new facebook page was opened yesterday to support the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas and Black Peter and it now has already 1,5 Million likes, an extreme amount of reactions for a country like the Netherlands: https://www.facebook.com/pietitie. The debate has sharpened and I think the UN involvement has done a lot of harm.