Explaining the Questionable Dutch Christmas ‘Black Pete’ Tradition of Wearing Blackface Makeup

Vox video producer Christophe Haubursin, who spent part of his childhood in Belgium, spoke about the Dutch Christmas character Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), how Black Pete is traditionally celebrated by donning blackface makeup, the controversy over this questionable practice and the emergence of “Chimney Pete” as a resolution to remove the institutionalized racism from the tradition.

So is Black Pete racist? Pretty clearly yes. I spent part of my childhood living in Belgium, growing up with this tradition — and I’ve heard a lot of excuses that try to justify continuing the tradition. Some people say Black Pete doesn’t have black skin; instead, he’s just covered in soot from delivering presents through the chimney. Others say he’s St. Nicholas’s friend, and has never been a slave caricature. But historically, none of the defenses really hold up. …city parade organizers have taken it upon themselves to gradually remove Black Pete’s racist characteristics from celebrations.One of the ways they’ve done that is by introducing Chimney Pete, an alternative interpretation of the character without the Afro wig, earrings, or exaggerated lips — and with only a bit of soot dusted on his face.