Subscribe to Newsletter

Enter your email and get newsletter from Greg Shapiro

Dutch Children Exposed to Mind-Altering Chemical Found in Zwarte Piet Makeup

Date: Monday, November 20, 2017
Category: Blog, News

Dutch Children Exposed to Mind-Altering Chemical Found in Zwarte Piet Makeup

It’s that time of year again – for children to celebrate the saintly Saint Nicolaas, and for adults to claw each others’ eyes out debating Zwarte Piet. My recommended compromise dress code for Zwarte Piet 2017: Give Him a Beard.

If you’re experiencing Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) for the first time, let’s review: YES, there’s a Dutch tradition of parading around town in blackface. YES, this tradition must be respected! It’s as old as the Dutch tradition of ignoring their role in the slave trade. But NO, the blackface isn’t intended to be racist. As countless Dutch people will tell you: ‘Black Pete is not black! It’s the soot from coming down the chimney!’ The chimney, which gets soot on his face – and none on his clothes.

Apparently, there is some mind-altering chemical in the face-paint applied to Dutch children when they’re young. It causes them to believe three key things: ’Black Pete is black from coming down the chimney (which we likely don’t have). The chimney (we don’t have) also causes him to have big, red lips. And the (non-) chimney also gives him a soot afro.’ Trying to argue any of these points with a Dutch adult is rather like telling a child Sinterklaas is not real. 

Luckily, the Dutch are famous for tolerance and compromise. Acknowledging that ‘some’ people might find Zwarte Piet offensive, they agreed to change Zwarte Piet’s afro – into dreadlocks. It was a start. And luckily, the Dutch are famous for common-sense problem-solving. Which is why they’ve tried coming up with every other alternative than the one that would work. Regenboog Piet looked like a mascot for a 1970’s rodeo. Kaas Piet looked like he had jaundice disease, and Stroopwafel Piet looked like he had the flesh-eating virus.

Now, finally, there’s Soot-face Pete (Roete Piet) – but with one remaining disadvantage. The soot isn’t dark enough. The kids can still recognize the adults. ‘I’ll just go back to the old way! It isn’t really racist,’ say the adults readying their old makeup (that is literally called ‘neger zwart’). But there is another solution: just add a beard.

And there you have my compromise dress code for Zwarte Piet 2017: Soot-face + beard. We’ve tried Rainbow Piet. We’ve tried Soot-face Piet. The time has come for Hipster Piet.