I can tell that Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook loves the Netherlands. Just as the country is facing droughts due to an ongoing heatwave, Facebook and Instagram ban the blackface Zwarte Piet. Thus leading to tears being shed throughout the country. All those tears will undoubtedly help resolve the current water shortages. 😀 Which brings me to the subject of today’s post.

Definition of blackface in the rest of the world

dark makeup worn (as by a performer in a minstrel show) in a caricature of the appearance of a black person alsoa performer wearing such makeup

NOTE: The wearing of blackface by white performers was, from the early 19th through the mid-20th centuries, a prominent feature of minstrel shows and similar forms of entertainment featuring exaggerated and inaccurate caricatures of black people. Its modern occurrence in imitation of such performers is considered deeply offensive.

Source: Merriam Webster

Definition of blackface in the Netherlands and Belgium

:dark makeup worn (as by a performer during the Sinterklaas season) in a costume to represent soot on the face of highly paid and incredibly happy employees shareholding partners of Sinterklaas.

NOTE: The wearing of blackface by performers playing Zwarte Piet has occurred since the Dutch lived in caves and before black people even arrived in the Netherlands. (Source: An angry man on Facebook). Zwarte Piet is a happy smiling rather simple friend of children. He makes kids happy by giving them presents and pepernoten. He dances around like a clown. If he happens to share the exact same characteristics as blackface performers from the early 19th century, such as afro hair wigs, exaggerated lips and a black (or brown) face it’s purely coincidental! It’s a tradition and even if it could be perceived as racist, dat was niet de bedoeling!

a zwarte piet
What could possibly be racist about my appearance? Kanker Facebook!

There are several explanations for the blackface appearance of Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands:

1. It’s a cunning disguise

The Sinterklaas season is a kind of carnival in the Netherlands where the usually reserved Dutch let themselves go. Dressing up in blackface is an excellent disguise, especially if farmer Henk comes home early and catches Kaasboer Jeroen in bed with his usually faithful wife Ingrid. Henk will never know which of his friends slept with his wife thus preventing the loss of a lifelong friendship and the prevention of a scandal in the village.

(Jeroen leaving Henk’s farm in a hurry in disguise)


2. They’re not black it’s soot

It’s one HUGE misunderstanding. They’re black from the chimney. The afro wigs and bright red lips were a form of status amongst chimney sweeps during the 19th century. The redder the lips and the curlier the afro the higher the status of the chimney sweeps.

3. The Zwarte Piets were forerunners of the Black Lives Matter Movement

Sinterklaas bought black slaves and set them free. In return, they had to work 4 weeks a year for him delivering presents to kids. The rest of the year they were free to campaign against racism and slavery. In fact, if it weren’t for the Zwarte Piets the Dutch wouldn’t have ended slavery. The ZP’s were so loved by everyone in the Netherlands that it was no longer possible to justify keeping slaves.

dutch traditie card

Meanwhile in the real world

A lot of people who are not from the Netherlands or Belgium have always been shocked, appalled and amazed not only by the appearance of Zwarte Piet but also the incredible excuses used by Dutch society to justify the tradition. As the Kick Out Zwarte Piet campaign has become more successful over the years, the more desperate the excuses have become.

All of the explanations I’ve listed above are variants of things that people in the Netherlands say to defend Zwarte Piet. So I’m over the moon that Facebook and Instagram have finally updated its policies to ban the sharing of images of the traditional Zwarte Piet. If it looks like a duck, tastes and walks like a duck it’s probably a bloody duck. The mass denial of the racist/offensive appearance of the traditional Zwarte Piet makes a mockery of tolerant Nederland. Facebook consulted 60 organisations and historians (from outside the Netherlands) to look into Zwarte Piet in-depth and came to the conclusion that it’s racially offensive and will no longer be allowed on their platform. If people post images of Zwarte Piet and the posts are reported Facebook/Instagram will delete the images. If people persist on posting them, they run the risk of having their accounts deleted.

The response on social media to the ZP ban

Obviously, traditional ZP lovers are frothing at the mouth about the ban. There’s talk of a Facebook boycott. I’m sure that Mark Zuckerberg is losing sleep about this, as the previous boycotts by ZP lovers of organisations such as De Bijenkorf, HEMA and RTL were so effective. (Sarcasm). Hyves is trending on Twitter today. This was a Dutch social media platform that was incredibly popular in the Netherlands before Facebook came along. A lot of angry Nederlanders are now wishing for a return of Hyves or a Dutch social media platform where they can share blackface images all day long. Priorities!

The head of the Zwarte Piet is not racist Facebook group Anouk de Witte before the announcement

A Sinterklaas poem about the banning of blackface on Facebook and Instagram

It used to be so neat to share offensive images of the blackface Zwarte Piet
When black people told us they didn’t like it, we didn’t give a dam
We’d share even more Zwarte Piet MEMES and images on Facebook and Instagram
Feeling superior wasn’t hard as we accused minorities of playing the race card
But now that kut Zuckerberg supports Dutch culture haters
Facebook and Insta are acting like dictators
They’ll be hurting a lot, when we start our boycott
Which won’t last long and let’s face it
Deep down we know that the traditional Zwarte Piet is pretty bloody racist
So I suggest that ZP lovers stop whining and enjoy their lives
Or rot op naar Hyves!
Doei Doei!

No people threatening to boycott Facebook and Instagram were hurt during the writing of this post

Until next time “black don’t crack but face paint does”