Black Pete the slave: Race, Power and Identity in the Netherlands

From This Is Africa Wed Dec 5 2012, 12:01:00

Two blackfaced white Dutch girls walking the streets during the Sinterklaas/Zwarte Piet celebration I once heard a joke that went something like this: when the world is coming to an end, move to the Netherlands because everything happens there 50 years later. A bit harsh, I thought, after all, the Dutch are a relatively progressive people with much to recommend them: from the high level of volunteering and Amnesty International membership relative to other European countries to their pragmatism and absence of hysteria around subjects like cannabis, prostitution, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. And the Netherlands is also the originating country for the World Press exhibition. Then there are other humane and social indicators such as the unemployed being entitled to holiday money and time, and homelessness is one-fifth that of the States. On the matter of race, though, you do wonder.

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