#RethinkBlackface (video)

Black face performers are “the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens.” (Frederick Douglass) Blackface was made popular in the early 1800s as a form of entertainment. Where white people would use burnt coal to darken their skin and perform as exaggerated and racist stereotypes of Black slaves. Though – thanks largely to the Civil Rights Movement – blackface has become more and more stigmatized, it still continues in Europe in the form of ‘tradition’. Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is the the Spanish Moor assistant of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas). He is depicted in stereotypical minstrel fashion, with blackened skin, an ‘afro’ wig, and a big red mouth. As part of the cultural history in the Netherlands, once a year white people take to the streets ‘dressed-up’ as Zwarte Piet. This holiday is state sanctioned despite a court ruling that it is indeed highly offensive. In 2014, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that “It is an old Dutch children’s tradition… When I play Zwarte Piet, I am, for days, trying to get the stuff off my face.” However, centuries of racist tradition and sentiment cannot be wiped off very easily. If you have the privilege of being able to wipe off the black face paint, without having to live with the stigma attached to being a Black person in a white supremacist environment, perhaps you shouldn’t be putting it on in the first place. Culture is not a costume. Racism is not a tradition to be celebrated. Blackface is a problem. Black Skin is not. I am against Zwarte Piet. I am against blackface. I am against racism.