Is ‘Black Pete’ Racist?tags: racism, Netherlands, Christmas, Black Pete
John McWhorter is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University and the author of What Language Is (and What It Isn't and What It Could Be).
Recently a student asked me why a photo he found of me shows me at a conference about Indonesian languages taking place in the Dutch city of Leiden, of all places. It’s because of the Dutch’s other hegemony in Indonesia, where today countless brown-skinned people are comfortable in Dutch as a legacy of the colonial era.
Black Pete, then, is not the Dutch version of a Finnish teen bouncing
to Jay Z in an Afro wig. Black Pete in 2013 is a lame, thoughtless
thing, carrying an implication that all that slavery and servitude and
imperialism was some kind of cartoon. Black Hollanders often feel the
same way, in a country where blacks from former colonies are
overrepresented in housing projects....
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