Here in the Netherlands we have a venerable, somewhat quaint but altogether rather innocent tradition involving a gift-giving immortal bishop called Saint Nicholas, who has a rather unfortunate side-kick called Black Peter.
Black Peter is unfortunate because of his appearance which has been closely modeled on certain racist caricatures of black people. He has black curly hair, big red lips and golden earrings, speaks with a broken accent and often plays the fool. Recently this side of our tradition has been causing a lot of friction, and this week we appear to be going through what I would like to call The Coming Out of the Racists.
- When singer Simon Keizer asked people last week to donate money to help the typhoon victims in the Philippines, people responded with angry variants on “eigen volk eerst” (“our own people first”, a slogan popularised by 1970′s racist party Centrumpartij).
- TV presenter Daphne Bunskoek made a ‘joke’ about what should happen to Black Peters returning to their country (black people go ‘home’ is another racist meme) by showing footage from the Steven Spielberg movie Amistad in which black slaves were whipped.
- Holland’s Got Talent talent judge Gordon Heuckeroth thought it would be a good idea to address a Chinese contestant as if the latter were running a Chinese restaurant: “which one are you going to sing, number 39 with rice?”
Now Heukeroth, who seems to lack talent or sophistication along pretty much every axis you might care to investigate, has made a career out of insulting people. Together with singer Gerard Joling he made a TV series in which they kept bitching each other out, so maybe he was just being in character here.
On a more personal level, a black acquaintance went to an anti-Black Peter demonstration, and one of the first things happening to her was that somebody walked up to her and said “die, nigger” to her.