The Delicious Pleasures of Racism

The Sinterklaas tradition in its current configuration is an invocation of, and invitation to, racialized pleasure and I want to consider seriously the dynamic between racism and pleasure, or the concept “racism as pleasure,” embedded in the Sinterklaas tradition. Racism is reproduced over time through pleasure, through embodiment, and through, what Robin Bernstein would term, “dances with things.” People take pleasure in dressing up, and acting, as Zwarte Piet. As such, pleasure plays an important role in the psychological investment that gives Zwarte Piet its cultural currency. Moreover, one of the main arguments used in defence of Zwarte Piet is that Sinterklaas is a “fun” and joyous occasion for children and by getting rid of the figure we are denying children a source of pleasure… There has been an inordinate amount of focus in the Netherlands on the pain that racism causes, however, there’s very little attention paid to the possibility that enacting racism might be experienced as pleasure. George Lipsitz argues that racism doesn’t manifest itself “exclusively through hostility and exclusion.” Pleasure, joy and triumphant emotions, as well as hate and hostility, drive the processes of societal racism.

Egbert Alejandro Martina in The Delicious Pleasures of Racism (Processed life)