"Black Pete" has the Dutch at loggerheads

The debate about the "Black Pete" tradition which breaks out in the Netherlands every year before Christmas has entered another round: following protests against the traditional Black Pete costume with people wearing black makeup on their faces, organisers of the traditional festivities in cities like Amsterdam and The Hague adapted the costumes. But in many rural areas the 'black' Saint Nicholas helpers were very much present and the debate is once again in full swing.

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De Volkskrant (NL) /

Netherlands stuck in a trench war

Writing in De Volkskrant, author Jonathan van het Reve is incensed that the recurring Dutch debate over the Black Peter tradition is being pitched as an issue resulting from the divide between the supposedly progressive big cities and the conservative rural areas:

“If you go by the picture painted by the newspapers and above all by the social media, you'd think what we have here is a fresh new argument in a deadlocked dispute that has turned the debate about integration and discrimination into a hopeless trench war. No one can come up with anything surprising anymore, year after year we're presented with endless variations on the same topic. ... In all likelihood the debate about a 'social rift' won't even produce any interesting insights - to say nothing of a potential solution to the problem.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Education system is the real dividing line

The debate over a gap between cities and rural areas is concealing the real problem, NRC Handelsblad comments:

“The gap is being used as an alibi to complain about others - and thus raise one's own profile. Yet there is indeed a real and serious gap: that between the well educated and the poorly educated. ... The open society that offers opportunities to everyone is disappearing. ... We talk and talk and let ourselves be pitted against each other and the argument is used about gaps that have no real meaning or that don't actually exist. And the real problem remains. ”