Backlash over blackface in Chatham, Ont.
Grocery store has long tradition of dressing people in blackface for traditional holiday character
A Dutch holiday tradition of dressing someone in blackface sparked outrage at a grocery store in Chatham, Ont. when photos circulated online.
The Dutch Market holds its annual event at the store celebrating Sinterklaas, a Santa Claus character who has a sidekick named Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete. Zwarte Piet is typically portrayed by someone dressed in blackface.
When the store posted photos of this year's event, held this weekend, to Facebook, the owners say they faced criticism.
Dutch Market manager Dirk Van den Berg apologized for offending anyone.
"It isn't intended to be racist, it isn't intended to offend anybody," he said. "If we offended anybody, we apologize, but it wasn't intended to offend anyone."
Van den Berg defended the tradition, but said he and his staff will reconsider how they celebrate next year.
"It's an old Dutch tradition that we've tried to keep going here for the kids," he said. "Next year, maybe we'll look at doing it different so we don't offend anybody."
The store has a long tradition of the event with plenty of customers posing for pictures alongside Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet.