Beware: this is how the establishment (the mainstream press and public institutions) erases the archive of collective struggle in the Netherlands: this article, which is pretty much exemplary of the ‘news coverage’ in this country, goes about the expected changes in (public) schools regarding the celebration of Sinterklaas with blackface (Zwarte Piet). For those outside of the Netherlands: blackfacing is a major part of the primary school curriculum across the country. The article describes this change process as one motivated and carried out by the establishment itself (the mayor of Amsterdam, the municipality and school directors). There is absolutely no mention here of the sustained anti-racism struggle which is going on for decades in this country and finally managed, thanks to the collective efforts of anti-racism activists, to force social change. In the case at stake here, Sharon Walker and myself are ‘in dialogue’ for 1 year with the stichting “Samen tussen Amstel en IJ (STAIJ) (20+ public schools in Amsterdam) arguing for a Sinterklaas without blackface. We started this ‘dialogue’ after 2 years of a frustrated ‘dialogue’ with the school of our kids (under the umbrella of STAIJ). Notice that there are particular gender and racial elements to this kind of erasure: the majority of those struggling to open dialogue with schools throughout the country are “allochtoon women” (women of color). It is of paramount importance that we learn about the genealogy of social change in the Netherlands and that we recover this erased archive of struggle. If there is something changing it is due to our collective and sustained efforts. The establishment does not spontaneously opt for change. This is the his/her-story that we must tell and teach the coming generations.
Patricia Schor on Amsterdamse basisscholen kiezen voor modernere Zwarte Piet (Parool)