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www.wmfd.com - In the Netherlands, one holiday tradition is sparking outrage, with many activists calling it downright racist, as CNN's Diana Magnay has more. }}" />

Netherlands Tradition Of Blackface Many Are Calling Racist

Story By: Larry Stine



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  Original Published: 11/20/2013 Trees, lights, and of course, Santa Claus. These are a few things most of us think of when we think of the Christmas holiday. But in the Netherlands, one holiday tradition is sparking outrage, with many activists calling it downright racist. CNN's Diana Magnay has more. This is a November ritual in the Netherlands. The day Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, arrives in town with his army of black-faced helpers. White beneath the face-paint, sporting afro-wigs, this year without their traditional golden earrings. The only nod to critics who say these "Black Petes" as they're called, are a throwback to Colonial days. This time two years ago, Quincy Gario was detained by police for wearing a T-shirt saying "Black Pete is Racist" at the annual parade. That hasn't stopped his campaign. But he says now he's the one asking for police protection. "I've been receiving death threats for the last couple of months and it's been a really harrowing experience because you don't actually expect this in a country like the Netherlands," says Gario. "But they're coming at me from all sides." "And do you think those death threats are serious?" asked CNN's Diana Magnay. "We've had two politically motivated murders the last 10 years in the Netherlands so I do think I have to watch my back," says Gario. The image of a black assistant first appeared in Holland's St. Nicholas tradition in the 1850's. Since then, Black Pete has gone through various incarnations, the demonic to the dumb to now-a-days, this historian says, the executive assistant. " He is the manager now of St. Nicholas, he manages the whole feast, he buys the presents, he tweets," says Albert van der Zeijden. "He's a modern figure, not stupid anymore." A modern figure clambering ropes in renaissance garb, the festive centerpiece at this high-end department store. "'f they're black or white or small or blue or red, there are some people who say you have to paint them in all colors of the rainbow," says Trudy Nucteren, a shopper. "And what's the difference. Black is a beautiful color. Black people are beautiful. And they're very friendly men and women so we have no problem with it." Black Pete has stirred debate since the 1980's, when the cultural mix here in the Netherlands began to change. This year, it's been especially heated after a U.N. representaive told Dutch TV she felt Black Pete was racist. A Facebook page set up after that to defend Black Pete's image received 2-million likes in two days. But you can't help but feel whether Black Pete's days are numbered. Whether the Dutch people are clinging to a traditional so hard, because they know it's in its way out. Even if they won't let it go without a fight.
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