December 8 & 11, 2011: from Santiago - Benghazi, Libya - Zimbabwe - Somalia - Boston - Independencia, Peru
A student shouts slogans against the riot police during a protest in November 2011 against the government, to demand changes in the public state education system in Valparaiso city (Photo: Reuters: Elisio Fernandez)
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Camila Vallejo (C), one of Chile's student leaders, reacts after being hit by a jet of water during a rally in Santiago in October 2011. Chilean students are demanding for free and better state education, as well as for an end to profit-making in the public state education system. (Photo:REUTERS/Cristobal Saavedra)
Don't be ridiculous. I'm 83. Sinterklaas came with his black pieters when I was young without any questions raised. Why must every tradition be analyzed in light of everybody's sensitivities nowadays?
I was at first quite taken aback when I saw the Zwarte Pieten...But having lived (in The Netherlands) for 11 years and seeing how innocently children of all races accept and love them...I realize that there is no malice or offense intended. To take the Zwarte Pieten away would be the equivalent of taking Santa Claus away from Canadian children.
Black face? Really? This hasn't been acceptable in decades nor should it be. I'm sure the children DO love it. Children love all forms of pageantry and costume, but we also need to teach them why this sort of thinking is outdated and condescending to ALL people.
By no means do they symbolize slavery or subservience of blacks. Far from it. They symbolize the victory of Bishop Nicholas over...prejudice and fear...instead of eliminating them, let's celebrate that victory and honour those black helpers who give us so much: the Zwarte Pieten of Sinterklaas.
From the purely objective realities of the Netherlands' deep involvement with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the colonization of Africa and support and defense of now-dead apartheid in South Africa, Black Peter emerges as a symbolic glorification of the enslavement of black people by Europeans. Within this history, the tradition of Black Peter also stands as a celebration of historical notions of black inferiority and subservience to Europeans.
It's all a charming folk tale, that's all. But these days, it seems that all the societies whose past used to involve a colonial empire and some amount of slavery, anything resembling a black guy from the 'colonies' is drawing some of the politically correct critique that's so common these days. That's just a symptom of the strange times we live in.
What kind of kid is going to draw the conclusion that since Black Peter is the mischievous black one, that they should look down upon all black people? Historically, racism probably played a part in making Sinterklaas the nice white one, and Black Peter the mean one that kidnaps you if you are bad. But I don't think anyone uses as a tool to spread racist hate.
As kids we were scared of (Black Peter) not because of his colour but because he was said to gather up bad kids and turn them into cookies, hows that for creeping out kids? ... Please do not make an issue of Peter's skin colour, it's who he is.
Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad march through the streets in Homs, Syria on December 6, 2011. The protests are being watched avidly by Syrian refugees in Libya, who still worry about theirrelatives back in Homs (photo/Reuters)
Concrete pipes are arranged along a road building site in Hanoi. Scientists at MIT are working on making greener concrete, to try to cut down on the Co2 emissions caused by cement manufacturing (Photo: Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters)
Newlyweds raise a toast after getting married during a mass wedding ceremony on Valentine's Day, 2010 in Lima, Peru. Mass weddings like this one - sponsored by the government are an enticement for common-law couples to tie the knot. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)
We've just had this exact 'controversy' arise in New Westminster, where the Holland Shopping Centre sponsors the arrival of St. Nicholas. This year, he writes, "Black Peter was "deleted" from the festivities because of complaints by "Afro-Canadians." This was a terrible decision: the equivalent of taking away Santa's Elves because people with dwarfism complained.
We regret to inform you that the Sinterklaas celebrations...have been CANCELLED. We encourage the community to keep up their Sinterklaas tradition. For those of you who feel this is a great loss, we agree.
It was never my intention to cancel Sinterklaas. I believe it is a wonderful tradition that deserves to continue indefinitely. The organizers in New Westminster decided that they wanted Black Peter or nothing. I still cannot grasp how they came to that decision. Canada is supposed to be a welcoming society. Zwarte Piet/Black Peter does not belong here. African-Canadians have fought too long to be treated with dignity and respect in this country.The Sinterklaas story has changed many times throughout history. Why not make another change for the best? If you can convince your children that a Black man from a far-off land, comes on a boat as a helper for an old white man, passes out cookies, possibly puts little children in a sack and spirits them away; then you can easily spin another tale!
....being of mixed heritage...racism was the last thing I thought of during Sinterklaas. ...I am sure if one analyses any tradition, one can find fault, or maybe even racism. But if the nature and spirit of the tradition is all about uniting, giving, and being with family - should that not be more important?
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