Black Pete & his opponents

In the past, Black Pete fans were predominantly Dutch children. Now that his position and appearance have come under scrutiny, adults have started rejoining the fanclub and are standing up for him.

If you ask me though, Black Pete’s real friends are the ones that wish him to be removed from the Sinterklaas celebration all together. This blog is dedicated to those people.

Black Pete & Sylvana Simons

Sylvana Simons is one of the most controversial public figures in the Netherlands. Before she became everyone’s favorite punching bag, she was a popular TV host on the Dutch version of MTV. Her unapologetic and relentless anti-Black-Pete-stance is what earned her the number one position on the Netherlands’ unofficial most-hated-figures list.

Sylvana Simons, the Netherlands’ favorite racial punching bag.

I dedicated a blog to her about a year and a half ago and some things have changed since then. The biggest change, as far as Ms Simons’ position goes, is that she has decided to focus her energy on local politics, starting in her hometown of Amsterdam.

This move wasn’t fully of her own making, given that no senate seat was granted to her after national elections in 2017. I must admit that I did not vote for her at the time either, all though I did consider it. In the end, I am happy it worked out this way, as this result means she doesn’t come up in hateful memes, harsh opinion columns and racist caricatures as often as before.

“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” is definitiely a quote that comes to mind when I think of Ms Simons. This lady is pretty much fireproof. I never saw her back down from any discussion, nor did she ever pull her punches. She was a crucial spark and if it wasn’t for her, I doubt we would actually be talking about alternative ways to celebrate Sinterklaas at all.

What we need now though, is someone who can ease those flames down a bit and lead the discussion in a more compassionate way. The fire doesn’t need to die out. It does need to be fanned in a more controlled fashion so that it doesn’t burn down the house.

Fighting fire with fire. Burning down the house.

It’s not fair to Ms Simons to say she wouldn’t be capable of fulfilling such a role. I do believe however that my compatriots would never appreciate her attempts and that therefore there is no useful part for her to play in the debate at this point. She is invited to the afterparty though.

Black Pete & Jerry Afriyie

What Jenny Douwes is for the pro-Pete-movement, Jerry Afriyie is for the anti-Pete-movement. More specifically, he is the face of the protest organization “Kick out Zwarte Piet” and sister organization “Nederland wordt beter”. 

Jerry is the son of Ghanian parents and came to the Netherlands at the age of ten. I haven’t decided yet if the fact that he is still seen as an outsider (whereas Sylvana was very much seen as a traitor stabbing us in the back) actually helps him or is getting in his way. When speaking of the Dutch he does always use the first-person plural.

He has explained in interviews how his first memories of the Sinterklaas celebrations were actually purely positive ones.

Jerry Afriyie during KOZP demonstration in Rotterdam. Photo by BART MAAT

It was all fun and games, until other kids started calling him Black Pete as an insult. He realized he was actually the butt of the joke and that all was not right in this children’s celebration. He then heard from other people that children sometimes came home crying and asked to be scrubbed “clean” as their black tone was supposedly caused by chimney soot.

As he grew up, he became more vocal about this and has described having heated discussions about the matter in highschool. He ended up joining Nederland wordt beter, which can be translated both as the imperative “Netherlands, be better” and the hopeful “Netherlands shall be better”. According to its own website, the organizations incentive is as follows:

Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter focuses on a future without racism and exclusion. We believe that this can only be achieved by recognising the influence of the history of colonialism and slavery on contemporary society and on all Dutch people. The foundation works towards spreading more knowledge about the consequences of the Dutch history of colonialism and slavery.

Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter organisation is a collective of parents, poets, artists, teachers, students, academics, bloggers, filmmakers, and historians. They are contributing voluntarily to make a better Netherlands.

Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter aims to dissolve itself in 2025. We assume that the following goals will be achieved by then.

https://www.nederlandwordtbeter.nl/en/organisation/ [23-11-2018]

To people who say, “but this is what we’ve always done and nobody has ever had a problem with it”, mr Afriyie says that ignorance of the past can be forgiven, but now that we know better we must do better.

He has compared it to someone treading on someone else’s foot without noticing. When the other says “hey, you stepped on my foot and that hurt” you can choose to say “gee, I hadn’t noticed but I’m so sorry I hurt you” or you can proceed to step on it again and then say “If you were standing where I was stepping then you must have been in the way and you are just way to sensitive anyway”.

All though his confrontations with police have led to him being barred from his profession in security management, mr Afriyie will not back down. He insists that he pushes on out of love for the country and not out of disdain for it, as his opponents suggest.

He has said it is normal and understandable that this generation is finding it hard to cope with the idea that what we have been doing all along is hurtful and wrong. He says it’s fine that people blame him for causing unnecessary discomfort.

To that his response is that he is not accountable to this generation, but to the next one…

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Three historic dinners

Who in history would you dine with?

This question was asked (and answered) in last week’s post on “Why evolution is true”-blog.

I started coming up with a couple of names, but got lost in semantics at some point. I mean, I think most people would answer that question by naming interesting characters they would like to have a chat with… right?

But the question is “who would you dine with?”

So then I ask myself, are there people with whom the specific setting of a dinner table would make the meeting more worthwhile? I suppose that would be the case with someone from the culinary world. But then again, I don’t care much for cooking myself, so I wouldn’t know what to ask a top chef or dietary guru anyway…

So then I turned it around: Are there people I would love to have a chat with, but would prefer not to do so over dinner?

And I guess there the answer would be yes.

gandhi eating

Take Mahatma Ghandi for example. I can imagine meeting him would be amazingly inspiring. Life changing maybe. But the guy hardly ate at all, and if the food is tasty and plentiful (like Indian food can be) I tend to eat like an absolute pig. The food would just make me look like a shitty individual and make me feel so self-conscious that any chances I had of saying something smart would’ve evaporated in seconds. Just like the food placed in front of me.

Or what about Stephen Hawking; super duper interesting guy, who I’d be super honored to meet. But over dinner?? I think I might have to pass on that one… Or actually no, I think he would have to.

And then there’s Donald Trump and his off putting dietary preferences. But I’m actually not really worried about this one, because I would never really consider putting his name on my dinner invitation…

I asked my boyfriend just now who he would invite and he actually didn’t have to think very long. His answers: Aleister Crowley, Copernicus and Michelangelo. He didn’t mind not speaking their exact languages and was sure he would find a way… He’s so much braver in these things than I am. 😛

So, I’ve probably given this way too much thought, but here goes:

 

Mary Magdalene

I was named after the very first woman, according to most mainstream Christian sources, Eve. A lot of women came and went after that but none has been so controversial as Mary Magdalene. I am not a religious person myself, but I do believe that many of the events described in the bible and other holy scriptures are based on true events and historical figures.

mystery-images-0-ivanov-38_1008_post_media_1VKB-998x734

I can imagine a visionary man named Jesus of Nazareth walked this earth at some point and I can imagine he did not stay single. I can imagine Mary Magdalene was his spouse and I can imagine that she was demonized after Jesus’ death for all sorts of reasons, earning her the title of “prostitute” in many tellings.

I would love to hear her side of the story. Break some bread, drink some wine, you know how it goes…

 

Sylvana Simons

Another demonized woman. I have written about Ms Simons and her tragic position in Dutch society in previous blogs. Cruel jokes and racist remarks are still part of her daily life, proving her point that Dutch society has something rotten at its core but not really getting her anywhere close to fixing it.

sylvanabuitenhof

She still fascinates me. Or rather, the fact that she has managed to get nearly every single Dutchman and -woman to dislike her, fascinates me. I have done my research and am no longer completely in the dark as to why and how this situation has come to be, but I would still love to look her in the eye and hear her out. Over dinner, sure.

 

Mercedes Sosa

La negra, which translates to “the black woman”. To most of us, she would not be considered to be black at all. It is actually a very common nickname given to those  friends and family members in not-so-black circles that have slightly darker or thicker hair or a slightly darker skin.

3af821cb741246c299db6ae8166cf94f

I have written about Mercedes Sosa in several of my music related blog posts. Her voice just never ceases to amaze me. The chills she manages to send down my spine, every. single. time. can not be ignored. I love her.

Her death was a slow process that happened in plain sight. She suffered from a parasitic disease called Chagas; every backpacker’s worst nightmare. As her body lost its strength so did her voice, all though she sang and recorded until the very end.

I don’t know what I would say to her if I had the chance to raise her from the dead and enjoy a meal with her. I would just want her to feel my appreciation for her. I don’t really know that much about her nor feel I need to. She is not even human to me. She is just that voice.

Yeah I know, sitting at a table with her would be super awkward…

So there you have it. Three dinners. Three women. Two dead. I’m ready!

Article 1

Two of my previous blog posts started out as the introductory words to this one but they ended up getting lives of their own. Hopefully this third time will be a charm and help me get this story out of my head.

It all started when the annual Black Pete discussion reached its peak this last year. I had already decided I would not avoid confrontation on this matter any longer and would ALWAYS point out to the other why I felt Black Pete was indeed a racist element in our culture and that we were making fools of ourselves by denying it.

Sylvana.pngA Dutch celebrity that became very vocal on this matter is a lady called Sylvana Simons. I remembered her merely as a charming TV show host, that started out on a Dutch music channel called TMF. When she started to become a regular on Holland’s most viewed talk show and vented her thoughts about prevalent racism in our society people went crazy… CRAZY!!

She started to receive death threats straight away, which is apparently the thing to do these days when you disagree with someone… Facebook events were dedicated to her, with “Wave Sylvana goodbye”-day as the most popular one. People all around me thought the idea was a hilarious initiative: just gather at the airport holding sarcastic banners, to see Sylvana off because “she didn’t appear to like it here anyway”.

But it’s all good! Just tongue-in-cheek banter; no ill intent, nothing personal. 

Sylvana wasn’t even going to be at the airport! So why would she even feel threatened by this frivolous idea?

Oh sure…. that’s just typical that she would use this to appoint herself the victim role again.

…suggesting they were threatening to have her deported, was she? Why would she even think that?

…we were just kidding…!

sylvana uitzwaaidag.png

…and I was completely dumbfounded by it.

What shocked me the most was how unanimous this sentiment seemed to be. People that I had always considered to be progressive, nuanced and moderate in their opinions would say things about this woman that made my jaw drop and showed me how extremely deeply rooted this problem really was… And it only proved her right, too!art-1.jpg

Sylvana then went into politics, first with an existing (and pretty controversial) party called Denk. Shortly before the end of 2016 and with only a few months left to get a full program together Sylvana started her own political party: Artikel 1, referring to the first article in the Dutch constitution, stating everyone staying in this country is to be treated fairly and equally, prohibiting any form of discrimination.

I was actually quite excited about Sylvana’s new political party and still have her in my top three candidates for upcoming Wednesday’s elections (all though not on number 1, I must admit).

It has been so difficult for me to understand why my compatriots have so little love for her, so these past few weeks I have made it my mission to figure it out.

I asked my closest friends to explain to me why their knickers got caught up in a twist every time I mentioned her name. They all seemed to agree that the way she brought her message across was counterproductive and divisive in itself. They said they did feel the Netherlands had a racism problem but that she was only pouring oil on the fire. They said it wasn’t WHAT she said but HOW she said it that bugged them.

I thought this was quite interesting, as people seem to use the opposite argument to explain why Geert Wilders is an acceptable option; they are willing to forgive him for his rude tone because they agree with the underlying message.

Why didn’t this logic apply to Sylvana, then? Her gender? Her race? Or is she really so much ruder than him?

When my boyfriend’s brother was at our place the other day and I once again got that look of disgust when I said I thought she was actually a pretty awesome power woman, I grabbed the opportunity to get some clarity.

I asked him to show me what I was missing. I admitted I didn’t watch any of the Dutch TV talk shows and that I may well have missed the bits in which she said such nasty stuff that made her deserve the cyberbuckets of shit that had been poured out over her since then.

So I watched interviews in which she definitely came across as bitchy. I saw her get angry and (unnecessarily) defensive. I saw how she interrupted other people at the table to ask them if they even heard what they were saying. I saw why people might find her annoying.

But nothing that I saw or heard justified how we were treating her. Nothing brought me that big eye-opening revelation I was hoping for. It turned out that it really was as bad as I had feared.

A woman… no… a BLACK woman… no… a BLACK DUTCH WOMAN was telling us the backbone of our Dutch identity was rotten and that we should be ashamed of ourselves.

The chapters of our nation’s history that we had so skillfully “re-interpreted” were being shown in a very uncomfortable light.

guilty dogIt kind of reminds me of one of Cesar Millan’s lessons. Yes, I am actually referencing the dog whisperer here… And yes, I am comparing the Dutch to the “bad dog” in the equation. Or more: I am comparing the Dutch to a dog that has been showing the same behavior for far too long and has a panicky fit the first time it is asked to show different behavior.

We are facing the wall, trembling slightly… not knowing what to do now… Avoiding all eye-contact. How do we go on from here? How do we change the behavior we’ve always shown? It’s uncomfortable. It’s uncertain. Who knows what else we might have to change once we allow this!

I think we all need a pep talk.

Writing a conclusion to this story is making me kind of nervous…

I would like to say tomorrow (election day) might be the nudge we need to get our minds back in motion. To straighten our backs and lift our glances back up from the floor. To admit that we were wrong but that we know better now.

Tomorrow is a new day.