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Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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This topic seemed like it warranted a new thread, since I know out of personal experience this issue can spin out of control pretty easily. I really want your (objective) views about this matter C-R, because this debate is driving people nuts here in the Netherlands. I'm talking about this guy:
Spoiler: for size of image
Image


This guy is Black Pete (or Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands) and you may have heard of him on your local news. Black Pete is associated with a Dutch holiday for children called 'Sinterklaas' (Saint Nicolas) where this guy hands out treats and presents to children, because Sinterklaas is too old to deliver everything by himself. You could compare his role to the little elves in the Christmas fantasy stories. However, this guy has been sparking big national debates for the last 2-4 years and even making the news at international news stations. The main reason:
1: He's black, has red lips and black curly hair.
2: All helpers are black and the 'main figure' (Sinterklaas) is white.
3: Just like Christmas does Sinterklaas have it's own songs for children. In these songs (which are based of a book in 1850) Pete is mentioned as a knave/servant (knecht).

Ergo on a superficial level you can easily draw a parallel between the holiday and the Dutch history of slave trading. I'll explain why the debate bothers me so much in a bit. First I need to tell you about the Pro-pete standpoints for the 3 reasons above.
1: Yes he has black, red lips and curly hair but that is because Petes used to deliver presents through chimneys when kids are asleep (another similarity to Christmas). The soot coming from the chimney is what makes Pete black.
2: Sinterklaas stands out from the crowd because he is white with a mostly red suit (Christmas) so he is the 'main attraction' so to speak. The man decides the fate over who gets presents or not. However he is getting on in his age and has trouble that comes with age (like remembering stuff). This is why the Petes is depicted as both Manager and Operative in this holiday. Petes makes the candy, makes sure the presents are in order and delivers both on time etc.
3: Pro-Petes can't deny this or make excuses. Just that that's the way they sang the songs and they pretty much don't want to change it.

So as a kid it goes as follows: A month before the actual gift giving Sinterklaas comes to the Netherlands and you are excited. You'll be able to get some presents you marked in a advertisement folder somehow in a month and before that you get to eat delicious candy. Every day during this month you get excited to wake up, because when you've been exceptionally good you might find a small treat in your shoes next to the chimney delivered by Pete. When you're at school it's possible that Petes can burst in and hand out treats to all the children. You can tell Sinterklaas what you want on Gift Evening (universal day when you get your presents, 5 Dec) and he'll ask you if you've been a nice or naughty boy/girl. You'll say yes off course because your presents are on the line and he has a big book that tells magically whether you've been good or bad. Finally when Gift Evening arrives either Sinterklaas comes personally or a Pete mysteriously leave all presents just somewhere around the house.

Now let's get down to business. I agree that on a surface level the Black Pete comes off as pretty racist. It's pretty much the Blackface (wiki this if you don't know what Blackface is) phenomenon, it's all black people 'working' for 1 white man and he's depicted as a knave/servant.
The thing is, you don't see that as a child. Like a Santa and Elves at a mall Sinterklaas is the one you need to impress for your presents and Pete mainly hands out candy and helps Sinterklaas. Not until you're a bit older you fully understand the concept of racism and some facts in history. This is years after you stop believing in the fairy tale, so there is absolutely no harmful intentions coming from the children. The adults who put on the show do it to please the children so they also do it without harmful intentions, because they got the same holiday when they were young.

But protests are rising from the 'black community' (sorry if I lack a better word for them) in Amsterdam. They claim this holiday hurts them in their private life, as it is a reminder to slavery and makes them feel less validated in the community. They also imply that Black Pete is a racial slur for black people. This is why they want to change the character Black Pete drastically (but not abolish him, at least for now). There are mixed opinions about what should be done, but their general consensus is that Pete of different colors is the right answer. This year 'rainbow Petes' have been introduced, who look like this:
Spoiler:
Image

They have also lost the red lips, but the curly hair remains.

Although this change is purely cosmetic it makes things pretty differently. The whole story about delivering presents and sweets through the chimney no longer applies, because Petes no longer have 'chimney soot' on them. This means the story needs to change a bit. Also remember that I previously mentioned that the songs to celebrate are changing so Pete won't be called a knave/servant anymore.
This outrages a lot of Dutch people. 87% (official polls) want the holiday to stay the same without the rainbowpete and change in songs. The government is pressing on however with the changes to please the 8% minority who wanted these changes because they felt discriminated against. This is THE holiday for children and pretty much everyone has fond memories about this holiday. The fact that the way it needs to be celebrated (songs) and the story (soot) are changing is upsetting a lot of people.

Think of a holiday you love. Maybe 8% of people in your country do not like this holiday and feels like it harms them in a private matter so the way to celebrate and the story needs to be adapt. That's how a lot of dutch people feel when this issue comes back year after year.

But this year thing are really spiraling out of control. Anti-Pete protesters are literally screaming that Sinterklaas does not exist at public spaces where he makes appearances for children. They even went as far as to call a 3 year old boy a racist because he was dressed like a Black Pete. On the other side you have extremist nationalist who are starting to beat up Anti-Pete protestors, because for the previous reason, but saying you want to change Petes appearance can sometimes be enough for these extremists. In reaction to this threats have popped up from extremist socialists who are going to kill 'all the white haters' with pictures of guns (who are VERY illegal here, all guns)

The sad thing is that children are caught in the middle of this. They don't know what racism is but they want to see Sinterklaas and Pete. Now at those gatherings protesters ruin the fairy tale, fights break out and police forces are more and more common. Instead of smiles and candy you now have children asking to go home in fear or even cry.
Spoiler: just look at the kid in his red costume
Image


The current situation is horrible. Personally I don't mind changing the appearance, but changing the songs or the way you celebrate the holiday goes to far. Things seem to spiral out of control more and more each year. Although I'm pretty 'Pro-Pete' in this debate I tried to inform you guys as objectively as possible what the problem is, the context and why the problem is getting worse. In the Netherlands everyone has his/her mind pretty much set on the issue, leaving pretty much no room for open minded discussions.

It's been quite a long post, but let me ask you this: Do you guys think Black Pete's image should change or other aspects of this holiday? If so, how much should be changed? If not, why should it remain the same?
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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The photo you shared doesn't really suggest to me that he has soot on his face. He looks like a man with naturally dark skin rather than someone who spends a lot of time in chimneys. I'm not one to attribute his appearance to a racial caricature, but I can understand why African-Dutch (or whatever the Dutch equivalent of African-American is) would be bothered by it. Admittedly, I'm an American, so I'm not as familiar with the situation as you are, but the answer that comes to mind for me is changing his makeup to make him actually appear to have soot on his face. So in a sense, his appearance would change, but it would be in a way that both suits the story about him (at least from what I've gathered) and should satisfy those who are offended by his current appearance.
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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Do you mean something like this GL?
Spoiler:
Image

Because there were indeed experiments to not make the whole face black but make it look like a face covered with soot. Anti-Pete people still took offence to it, but they saw it as a step in the right direction. Pro-Pete were annoyed (but not outraged) and pretty much saw it as a first step in the wrong direction.

Oh and we don't really call people African-Dutch or something. Most people are simply called Dutch no matter where they come from. Everyone does have the option to keep your original nationality. Like a Dutch person of Moroccan descent can be allowed to identify with either nationality, although immigration services stimulate immigrants to adapt into our society and therefore prefer a Dutch nationality.
Since it comes down to choice in this matter we have 2 terms to use in media:
1: autochtoon (native): Person born in the Netherlands and grew up here.
2: allochtoon (foreigner): Person who was not born in the Netherlands or did not grew up here.
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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Quote:
Anti-Pete people still took offence to it, but they saw it as a step in the right direction. Pro-Pete were annoyed (but not outraged) and pretty much saw it as a first step in the wrong direction.


Gaah it's called compromise!

It's what I was going to say at first. Just show a wide variety of ethnicities as "Piets" with soot on their face.
The man brings joy to Children, ultimately Sinterklaas couldn't do it all on his own, the "Rainbow Piets" just look silly.

I get that it seems mighty offensive, but this is ultimately an old Dutch tradition. For them Pete means something different, and something special. It doesn't mean they are supporting racism though I suppose that's what it looks like to outsiders.

Not that I can't see the points otherwise, origins suggesting Saint Nicholas tamed a Devil who now serves him. That's a pretty nasty connotation. Also I hear Petes are often portrayed as dumb and inferior.

It's such a tricky thing to handle. I'd just stick with the "Sooty Petes" and go with it. Might not be perfect but people will get used to it. If they stick with it generations will grow up with a new idea of what "Black Pete" is. For traditions like this you aren't going to win public opinion overnight.

However to the majority of the Dutch Public, Pete has nothing to do with racism and is a beloved Holiday figure. I don't think the "Anti-Pete" groups are justified in their actions. Why spoil joy for children? It just hurts their cause when they do such things. Intentionally causing a child to lose their innocence is a far worse crime than misconstrued racism in my eyes.
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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Pierre wrote:
Quote:
Anti-Pete people still took offence to it, but they saw it as a step in the right direction. Pro-Pete were annoyed (but not outraged) and pretty much saw it as a first step in the wrong direction.


Not that I can't see the points otherwise, origins suggesting Saint Nicholas tamed a Devil who now serves him. That's a pretty nasty connotation. Also I hear Petes are often portrayed as dumb and inferior.


Wow I'm pretty impressed you know the origin of the story to that extent! Before 1850 Sinterklaas indeed tamed demons. Those demons would spank kids with ree and kidnap them with a bag if they were bad. There are still references to this in modern day Petes, but obviously way more child friendly. The Ree is gone and the bag is now for carrying presents and sweets.

Pete being portrayed as dumb/inferior is something that did not happen during my lifetime. That image of him belongs to the 1850 - 1950 era. Nowadays he's smarter than Sinterklaas (since he is old and old people tend to forget things) and obviously more helpful. A good change if you ask me.

Pierre wrote:
It's such a tricky thing to handle. I'd just stick with the "Sooty Petes" and go with it. Might not be perfect but people will get used to it. If they stick with it generations will grow up with a new idea of what "Black Pete" is. For traditions like this you aren't going to win public opinion overnight.

However to the majority of the Dutch Public, Pete has nothing to do with racism and is a beloved Holiday figure. I don't think the "Anti-Pete" groups are justified in their actions. Why spoil joy for children? It just hurts their cause when they do such things. Intentionally causing a child to lose their innocence is a far worse crime than misconstrued racism in my eyes.


Yeah it's one thing if it's a fight between 'left and right wing' kind of thing. But destroying the fairy tale for children goes way too far, there is no excuse for that.
I think people would eventually adapt to the 'sooty Petes' if you give it some time. I don't think it would end the debate whether the character itself is racist though.
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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Quote:
Wow I'm pretty impressed you know the origin of the story to that extent! Before 1850 Sinterklaas indeed tamed demons. Those demons would spank kids with ree and kidnap them with a bag if they were bad. There are still references to this in modern day Petes, but obviously way more child friendly. The Ree is gone and the bag is now for carrying presents and sweets.

Pete being portrayed as dumb/inferior is something that did not happen during my lifetime. That image of him belongs to the 1850 - 1950 era. Nowadays he's smarter than Sinterklaas (since he is old and old people tend to forget things) and obviously more helpful. A good change if you ask me.


Eh I figured as it was the "Anti-Pete's" must have a stronger case than it seemed so I thought I'd do a bit more digging. The connotations of Pete as a devil Sinterklaas tamed is substantially worse than before after all. Still undoubtably things have gotten better in recent years but some folks won't let go of the past it seems. Not that things should be forgotten but I think Pete has lost any of the racist connotations he might once have had.
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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Pierre wrote:
Eh I figured as it was the "Anti-Pete's" must have a stronger case than it seemed so I thought I'd do a bit more digging. The connotations of Pete as a devil Sinterklaas tamed is substantially worse than before after all. Still undoubtably things have gotten better in recent years but some folks won't let go of the past it seems. Not that things should be forgotten but I think Pete has lost any of the racist connotations he might once have had.


It's nice to hear that from someone outside the Netherlands. On an international level this whole discussion it feels like everybody condemns Pete as a racist character (solely on appearance, oh the irony) and this country continues pleading that we aren't racists and Pete is neither and we want to keep the tradition going.
But I wonder how things will proceed from this year on. It definitely felt like a line was crossed, which shouldn't have been crossed this year.

Ropfa wrote:
The jury in the Michael Brown case just decided not to indict the officer who shot him. Facebook is furious.

I haven't really kept up with the case since the first few weeks after it happened, so I don't know if there's been any major developments. I'm honestly not surprised about the verdict though. There's enough corruption and bias in the system that it was almost inevitable, even with all the press it got (perhaps especially due to that?)


The headlines from this case are also shown (in small sizes) on the news here. All I can say is that police violence against civilians (+ racism and corruption) isn't really that big of an issue here in the Netherlands.

Back to the topic at hand: Ropfa, what do you think of Black Pete?
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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It appears that I just read the "political discussion" part of the title and not anything that came after it. My apologies. I wasn't trying to get off topic.

Can't say I know anything about him, beyond what I've read in this thread.
Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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Hmm, maybe a general political discussion topic needs to be opened up in the future?

I created this thread because the 'sensitivity' of the subject didn't fit anywhere else on the forum, but I guess there are a lot of other sensitive subjects people want to talk about.

I've seen some photo's of the riots in Ferguson. Although these people are legitimately (unless the cop was 100%, which is a chance of 5% if you ask me) pissed resorting to looting and destruction is not the right answer. This will only cause a vicious cycle:
1: Police uses violence
2: Use destruction and violence to show the seriousness of the issue and how displeased the part of the population is
3: Police needs to use more excessive violence to control peace and order
4: more excessive destruction and violence to show the seriousness of the issue and how displeased the part of the population is
5: repeat step 3

It can end in 2 ways imho:
1: People use peaceful protests and hope government officials will improve the general situation
2: The issue will escalate untill a figurative (or literal) bomb explodes. This is when shit is really going to hit the fan (even more than it already has)
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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Sjibbey wrote:
Do you mean something like this GL?
Spoiler:
Image

Because there were indeed experiments to not make the whole face black but make it look like a face covered with soot. Anti-Pete people still took offence to it, but they saw it as a step in the right direction.


What possible reasons could they have for objecting to this design? It looks nothing like a racial caricature (at least from my perspective), and if this whole controversy is centered around Black Pete looking like a racial stereotype (which he clearly is) then I don't understand how they could take offense to this design.
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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Mr. Bear Jew wrote:
Sjibbey wrote:
Do you mean something like this GL?
Spoiler:
Image

Because there were indeed experiments to not make the whole face black but make it look like a face covered with soot. Anti-Pete people still took offence to it, but they saw it as a step in the right direction.


What possible reasons could they have for objecting to this design? It looks nothing like a racial caricature (at least from my perspective), and if this whole controversy is centered around Black Pete looking like a racial stereotype (which he clearly is) then I don't understand how they could take offense to this design.


It's hard to explain. Basically this has become the biggest game of 2 sides yelling yes or no to each other respectively I've ever witnessed. Both sides have 'extremist' individuals. One is only satisfied if everything stays the same and the other is only satisfied with the holiday completely abolished. The sad thing is that these people are the ones who get the most attention in the media which makes the discussion seem extremely divided and controversial.

'Extremist' anti-Pete people are beyond reason now. They can't abolish the whole thing (it's too embedded into our culture), but if they settled for a compromise then Anti-Pete people look like they have forsaken their plight. That's why they probably still object to this compromise.
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Re: Political Discussion: Black Pete (Zwarte Piet)Topic%20Title
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I imagine there are people like that in every country. In my experience, a lot of the American ones prefer to prowl YouTube and Yahoo! comments sections. Most of them have enough of a brain to know that their rhetoric might cost them a few teeth if they regularly spouted it out offline, though.
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