Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter aims to turn the Sinterklaas celebration into an inclusive party, for all inhabitants of the Netherlands. This is by creating awareness about the Zwarte Piet character and his role in the Sinterklaas celebration. Our end goal is to adjust the character. The Zwarte Piet is Racisme campaign strives for a Sinterklaas celebration which celebrates togetherness, without any racist element. Our ideal Piet is a Piet without the stereotyped blackface make-up and page attire. A Piet that doesn’t hide their identity. 

The festival ‘Zwart van Roet’ (‘Black from Soot’) took place in Amsterdam in 2011. It comprised an exhibition, a film evening, debates, a reading group, and a party. The aim of the event was to contribute to a constructive discussion surrounding the Sinterklaas celebration. ‘Zwart van Roet’ placed the Sinterklaas celebration and the Zwarte Piet character in a broader societal and historical context, among other things by presenting an exhibition with work by several different artists. The exhibition was combined with an historical overview of the Sinterklaas celebration and geopolitical and social events. 

The exhibition is currently not on display. Would you like to show the exhibition? Contact us!

Why is Zwarte Piet racism?
Zwarte Piet is a character based on the stereotypical depiction of black people in the 19th century. His appearance refers directly to the Dutch history of colonialism and slavery. Despite the many stories that exist about the origins of Zwarte Piet, this is the only plausible explanation for his current appearance. 

Most Dutch people and Belgians grew up with Zwarte Piet and have nice memories about him. Since the history of colonialism and slavery is not being addressed enough at our schools, it is no wonder that people don’t acknowledge the racist nature of Zwarte Piet’s appearance.  

Why this campaign?
We believe it’s time to say goodbye to the racist stereotyping of Zwarte Piet. It’s time for the Sinterklaas celebration to become a fun celebration for everyone. We are determined to turn ‘Zwarte Piet’ into plain old ‘Piet’, a character without any racial connotations, and to pass on a tradition to our children which can stand the test of time. Up until the 19th century, Sinterklaas was celebrated for centuries without Zwarte Piet, so we know it is possible. 

Isn’t racism a bit of a strong word to be using in contemporary Dutch society?
Unfortunately racism is still a reality in the Netherlands. Racism is more than just visible, verbal, or physical violence. It is not just a collection of individual incidents, but also something that is deeply rooted in society, and systems that we (often unconsciously) accept, perpetuate, and take part in. Zwarte Piet is an example of this.

When did the protest against Zwarte Piet start?
There were already protest against Zwarte Piet in the 1940s, and this grew more and more in the ‘60s and ‘70s, especially as Suriname became independent and the subsequent arrival of many people from this former colony to the Netherlands. From that time on there have been recurring protests against the character, but not on a large scale. Due to the Internet and the attention given to this issue in the media, the protest is now more visible, and people are becoming increasingly aware of the racist history and significance of Zwarte Piet. 

The Zwarte Piet is Racisme campaign started on July 1st 2011 and received a lot of attention after the arrest of two of the founders, Kno’Ledge Cesare (Jerry Afriyie) and Quinsy Gario, because they were wearing t-shirts with the slogan ‘Zwarte Piet is Racisme’ during the national celebration of Sinterklaas’ arrival in November of that year. 

Is Quinsy Gario still a member of the campaign?
Quinsy Gario is one of the founders of ‘Zwarte Piet is Racisme’ (Black Pete is Racism). However, he has not been involved in the campaign since 2012.