Saint Nicholas has arrived in The Netherlands. For the next two and a half weeks, the country’s children are under the spell of this folkore children’s festival which culminates on December 5th with basically lots of presents and candy. The country’s adults will, as has become a tradition of its own, be engulfed in a battle between supporters and opponents of Saint Nicholas’ trusty helpers: Black Pete. A group of protesters wanted to go to the “official” arrival of Saint Nicholas, but were blocked (quite literally, they blocked the freeway) by angry parents and Black Pete supporters, causing the protest to be canceled by the authorities. So this year, we also get to discuss freedom of speech and the right to protest.
According to Black Pete’s detractors the character constitutes blackface, and they want to rigorously and immediately change his appearance. Black Pete’s supporters see no racist connection and consider him a beloved character, looked up to and respected by children. To be clear, I fall in the latter category.
While I respect everybody’s right to protest and to express their opinion, seeing this particular protest thwarted by a fairly spontaneous “uprising” of the people was exhilarating. The protesters are welcome to their opinion, and are free to express it, but for the past couple of years (including this year) they have been given an “A-location”, meaning right by the route of the Saint Nicholas welcome parade. This usually turns into them chanting slogans at parents who are out to celebrate with small children, and calling them racists.
For years, even decades, the authorities have had no problems sending right wing protests to non-residential areas due to threats from leftist counter protesters. Many protests are canceled altogether. But now for the first time (that I know of) the shoe was on the other foot. A leftist band of full time protesters, professionally offended by everything and anything white, was blocked by a grassroots counter protest of angry Frisians. (It doesn’t help that the protesters mostly came from the largest cities of The Netherlands, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and went to the rural province of Friesland / Frisia, where many inhabitants consider themselves Frisian first and Dutch second. They are particularly stubborn in nature and weary of people from the city coming over to tell them how to do things).
The polarization has been deep, and instant. The left has been up in arms about “the end of democracy” and “basic human rights”. When asked if they were ever as vocal about their criticism of canceled right wings demonstrations (by the Dutch branch of anti-Islam movement Pegida, the political party Forum for Democracy, or even dating back to the time of Pim Fortuyn), they go predictably quiet. The Dutch arm of Amnesty tweeted about the importance of the right to protest, politicians from establishment political parties did the same. None of them have ever spoken out for the right’s right to protest. They have all exposed themselves as partisan hacks.
If the authorities would have given the anti-Black Pete protesters a more appropriate spot for their protest, I don’t think there would have been any sabotage. Personally at least, I support their right to protest, I just don’t think that everybody should have to accommodate them at all costs. If everybody had always had an unconditional right to protest wherever and whenever they want, that should have counted for this group as well. But that is not the reality in which we live. In our reality, those with the biggest willingness to use (threats of) violence decide who gets to protest. It has always been the left robbing the right of their rights. Now, for once, it was the left being robbed of theirs. Don’t expect me to feel bad for them.
“Away with us”
The pro-Black Pete protesters may be fined for blocking the freeway, but a crowdfunding campaign has already raised more than 30,000 euros to pay for them – which should easily be enough. It seems petty and superficial that something as trivial as a children’s holiday character would evoke such intense emotions and responses from adults, but obviously the case of Black Pete doesn’t stand on its own. We, just like in all Western countries, have been bombarded for years now with an “Away with us”-mentality that challenged everything we hold and held dear, sought to destroy anything we once considered the norm, and to put on a pedestal any and all influences from foreign cultures, because apparently since they are not Western (i.e. white), they are superior and / or deserve special treatment. People are sick of it, and if Black Pete is where we, the Dutch, draw the line in the sand, I welcome that wholeheartedly.
The perpetually offended
Black Pete has had support of a stable 80-90% of the population (of all colors, by the way) and while the “debate” continues to escalate, that number does not look to be going down. Our very left-wing capital of Amsterdam has been pandering to the race-obsessed “anti-racism” crowd for several years now. In Amsterdam, Saint Nicholas (based on the Bishop Saint Nicholas, who lived from 270 to 343) was already stripped of the Christian cross that should adorn his hat. And this year, they got rid of Black Pete altogether and replaced him with “Spanish nobleman” characters. Anti-Black Pete crowd satisfied, you might expect? Nope. Spanish noblemen still remind them of slavery, so it’s still no good.
It should come as no surprise that people whose reason for existing is to be offended, will never stop being offended. But let us hope that those on the sideline will also open their eyes to the reality that there is no pleasing these people, and pandering to them is pointless. It’s a dead-end street, that leads us to hospitals calling all expectant mothers “pregnant people” instead on the off-chance that there could be a pregnant transgender person among them. On the Dutch Antilles by the way, with a largely black population, there is no such discussion happening. Their Black Pete is still black as can be, and enjoyed by almost all without cries of “racism”.
A quick side note: if Saint Nicholas sounds and looks familiar at all, that’s because our Saint Nicholas once formed the basis for the American Saint Nick: Santa Claus. I might go into the historical context of Black Pete a little more at some point if I have time. Sometimes this debate of ours makes it across the Atlantic and finds some foothold in the US. For many Americans (and certainly the most vocal ones) it’s hard to look beyond any association with blackface, but I was surprised by the amount of understanding and respect I have seen from Americans for Black Pete in the past.
Update: Soros connection and the left’s playbook
Dutch MP Martin Bosma (of Geert Wilders’ Party For Freedom) pointed out on Twitter how the left is following their standard play book in the Black Pete “debate”: the underworld (using violence and “direct action”) is tied to the mainstream (politicians and elitists). Add their media monopoly and access to government subsidies.
Oorlog tegen Zwarte Piet. Helemaal volgens het boekje. Strijd op vele fronten: linkse onderwereld (geweld, acties) en bovenwereld (politiek, bestuurders). Plus monopolie van media en subsidiepotten.
Succes verzekerd. https://t.co/wkvRdNLkSt
— Martin Bosma (@Martinbosma_pvv) November 23, 2017
Also, it turns out one of the organizations involved in the “Kick Out Zwarte Piet” movement is the Urban Collective, which is partly funded by George Soros. Imagine my surprise.