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On Thursday, an Amsterdam court ruled that Black Pete, the sidekick figure to the Dutch version of Santa Claus, is a racial stereotype of black people, and that the city should think twice before allowing its depiction in holiday celebrations.
The Black Pete character is normally portrayed by a white person wearing blackface makeup with bright red lipstick and a frizzy afro, who accompanies St. Nicholas or “Sinterklaas” at festivals or events. He is often also portrayed as dumb and subservient, supporting the court’s opinion that Black Pete is a negative stereotype.
However, for much of the Dutch population, 80 percent of whom are white, as reported by the Associated Press, this reaction seems overzealous, as the character is not meant to be insulting.
The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte seems to support this perspective, saying that, “Black Pete is black. There's not much I can do to change that."
For some, the character is simply an important part of their holiday tradition, and not one that will be easily dismissed. Already people in Amsterdam have begun attempting to find solutions to the problem, such as using a different color face paint or simply using soot. Either way, The Wire reports that the mayor of Amsterdam has a big decision to make, as he decides whether or not to go through with an annual festival that has always featured the Black Pete character.