Doorbraak-activist Jennifer van Leijen is een petitie begonnen tegen de subsidiëring van de racistische blackface-traditie door de Nederlandse staat. Via haar Engelstalige oproep hoopt ze vooral veel internationale druk te kunnen opbouwen. Dat moet ertoe leiden dat de overheid de financiering van tv-programma’s gaat stopzetten zolang het Zwarte Piet-racisme daar nog deel van uitmaakt. Doe ook mee en onderteken de petitie, die aangeboden gaat worden aan Tweede Kamer-voorzitter Khadija Arib.
“I didn’t realize that children associated blackface with people of color until my, then, nearly three year old did it. She pointed at a black man in the bus and shouted ‘Zwarte Piet, Zwarte Piet!'”, zo begint Van Leijen haar petitie. “During her time at kindergarten, my child had learnt to associate black people with a sort of clown. This is racism, and happened because kindergartens, schools and children’s television in the Netherlands promote racist caricatures as part of their annual national tradition, called Sinterklaas. This has got to stop!”
Vervolgens legt Van Leijen uit wat er mis is met de Zwarte Piet-figuur. “Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes, are characters in a children’s television show, played by people in blackface wearing Afro wigs. The Black Petes are portrayed as child-like, silly people, who belong a wise, old, white boss. Working for the wise, old, white boss is their only real reason for being, and the wise, old, white boss gives them the guidance they need. That associations are made between these subservient buffoons and regular people, merely based on having a dark skin color and Afro hair, is alarming. This Dutch tradition is even more offensive because the Black Petes wear clothing resembling the uniforms of enslaved 17th century Africans. There are many paintings featuring enslaved Africans of that era, which confirm this.”
Daarna gaat ze in op de collaboratie van de overheid met de blackface-traditie. “Every year children and adults of color, especially people of African descent, endure ridicule connected to Black Pete. It is a humiliating affront to their dignity. People literally dread the weeks leading up to fifth of December, because the racist caricatures are to be seen everywhere. The daily children’s television series which is central in showcasing the Black Petes, is called ‘Het Sinterklaasjournaal’. The vast majority of elementary schools in the Netherlands air the television series to their pupils. The NTR television company, which makes the blackface series, also generate income by selling lesson material to elementary schools. The Dutch government continue to subsidize this (sadly) racist, yet popular children’s television series despite various human rights reports recommending the removal of discriminatory elements in Black Petes appearance. The Dutch children’s ombudswoman also recently included the aforementioned advice in her position on the subject. Despite this, blackfacing in schools and in the media, including an annual minstrel show, ‘Het Sinterklaasfeest’, is also subsidized by the Dutch government. People should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the colour of their skin. Blackfacing in schools and in the media is supported by government subsidy, and is a form of institutionalized racism. Tell the Dutch government to stop subsidizing blackface.”