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Is Amsterdam Racist?

Amsterdam is renowned as the number one liberal city in the world. This is the land where prostitution and owning a brothel is legal. In 2001, the law allowing same-sex marriage was passed and homosexuality became widely celebrated with the annual Gay Pride parade and party. If this doesn’t shout liberation from Amsterdam’s rooftops, then the fact that it’s allowed to smoke marijuana in public, will.

How can such a progressive and open-minded city be racist? This is the question that’s on everyone’s mind and as Zwarte Piet time comes around each year (December 5th) tensions run high on the subject.

Amsterdam is a multicultural melting pot, with people from all over the world calling it their home. Today a wide range of ethnicities live together like one big happy family. But as we all know, when it comes to families not everything is perfect behind closed doors.

Sure there are conflicts, but despite the odd blow here and there, people do try and live in harmony by 

Geert Wilders-quote-Take-a-walk-down-the-street-and-see-where-this-is-going.

tolerating one another. Tolerance is the one thing Amsterdam does well. But this doesn’t mean that everything is accepted; it’s just put up with. After years of tolerance, everyone is bound to come to the end of their line.

Geert Wilders was perhaps the first to buckle. He certainly didn’t do the Netherlands any favors by stepping forward with his disturbing right-wing views, which a few of his fellow Dutchies shared. Thankfully the rest of the nation had their wits about them and were in uproars. Wilders may not have been the nation’s favorite person, but he certainly opened a can of worms with his controversial beliefs and documentary to boot. It wasn’t long before people started glaring at the big, fat elephant in the Netherlands: Zwarte Piet.

In July 2014, it was widely reported when the Dutch court ruled that Zwarte Piet is indeed racist– The Netherlands Has Decided Traditional Black Face Is Racist

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, here’s the lowdown: Sinterklaas (Sint) is the Dutch equivalent of Santa. He’s a white-bearded old man in a red suit who travels from 

Zwarte Piet is Racist

Spain to the Netherlands each December, bearing gifts for the young ones. He also threatens to take any naughty kids back to Spain in his dreaded sack.

Much like Santa, Sint has his not-so-little helpers called Zwarte Piet, which literally translates to ‘Black Pete’. These are men dressed in pantaloons with their faces painted black.

For generations, the Dutch have enjoyed the annual festivities, which includes thousands of men dressing up as Zwarte Piet and running around town giving out pepernoten to children. It’s only in recent years that the Netherlands has become divided on this character. They rightfully questioned: Why is Pete, black?

Hardcore Sinterklaas fans and Patriots swear the blackened face is to represent the soot one is covered

Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) and Zwarte-Piet-Netherlands

 in when climbing down a chimney. But the opposition stands firm that it is reminiscent of and glorifies black slavery. This is not a topic to be touched on lightly, and the nation has seen many protests against this age-old tradition.

Word of the ‘racist’ Zwarte Piet spread far across the globe. People around the world have become confused about their most loved and free nation and have even taken to online forums to express their concerns. Is Amsterdam racist? Is Amsterdam safe for non-white travelers?

To lay the matter to rest. No, Amsterdam isn’t a racist city. There aren’t people shouting racist slurs at you as you walk down the street. People aren’t having crazy rants on buses and trams, shouting at people to ‘go home’. Amsterdam is anything but a racist city. But if you go looking for trouble, of course, you’ll find it. Even in a city as peaceful as Amsterdam.


Zwarte Piet Candy: Poisoned

This is the Police warning that went viral this week causing many worried parents across the Netherlands to almost choke on their hagel slag. The warning states that children should not take candy from Zwarte Piet during the annual Sinterklaas festivities, as they may be potentially ‘dangerous’.

Sinterklaas, which takes place every December 5, sees thousands dress up as Zwarte Piet and go around offering candy to kids on the streets. It’s quite normal to see a man or woman dressed in pantaloons with their skin painted black, sporting a black Afro, red lipstick and dishing out candy to passers-by. This generation-old Dutch tradition has the nation divided, as of late Zwarte Piet has been labeled racist.



Many parents and individuals took to the internet to voice their concerns and utter disbelief. How could the candy be poisoned? How could this possibly be true? Who is behind this? Are all questions people were asking on various social media platforms.

It wasn’t long before the Police confirmed the warning was, in fact, a sick hoax. Their website branding was replicated and used to post the fake warning online, to make it appear as they were issuing the message. The Police assured the Netherlands that the candy, namely ‘pepernoten’,  is safe and there is no threat of it being tampered with.

It is, however, unclear who is responsible for this elaborate hoax, and the Police are currently investigating the matter. In light of the fake warning, the nation is speculating the cause behind the hoax. Is it an attempt to rid the nation of the racist Zwarte Piet for good? Or perhaps it’s a frightening reality of how easily the nation and Police can be manipulated by an unknown source.

“Watch out Zwart Piet about”

Whether it’s racist or not is beside the point; what is a major cause for concern is that Zwarte Piets are essentially strangers offering kids candy. Surely this alone should set some alarm bells ringing loudly.pepernoten (Dutch Sweets)

“Don’t take candy from strangers”. This is what parents around the world have been teaching their kids for decades gone. It’s the first thing kids learn as they grow up. It’s widely recognized that candy has been used to lure a child into a stranger’s car, hence the admonition. So why are we contradicting ourselves during Sinterklaas and even Halloween, by allowing kids to take candy from strangers on this one day?

Poisoned or not, children are being given mixed messages about taking candy from strangers. While Americans argue that during their beloved holiday children are always escorted while trick-or-treating at known neighbors, in the Netherlands any Tom, Dick or Harry can dress up in costume and offer candy.

It’s clear that Sinterklaas is not as heavily controlled and monitored as Halloween, and this recent Zwarte Piet scare is perhaps the wake-up call the Netherlands needs to protect their kids from all the dangers lurking in the dark. Because whether it’s Sinterklaas or Halloween, the Boogeyman is real.

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