back to top
World

A Children's Advocate Is Getting Death Threats After Dissing Santa's Blackface Helper

Zwarte Piet, or Black Piet, is a tradition in the Netherlands and after calling it discriminatory, a government advocate for children's rights is getting death threats.

Posted on

For those of you unaware, in the Netherlands Santa Claus has a helper named Zwarte Piet — or Black Piet — who is traditionally played by a white person in blackface.

Almost needless to say, black people in the Netherlands are NOT HERE for Black Piet. Like at all.

Remko De Waal / AFP / Getty Images

Protests against Black Piet have ticked up in recent years as more and more people have come to the conclusion that dressing in blackface and dancing around for children is kind of a bad idea.

On Friday, the Dutch Children's Ombudsman — a position that ensures that the Netherlands protects children's rights — said Black Piet's existence can cause "bullying, exclusion or discrimination."

Afp / AFP / Getty Images

The Ombudsman's office came to this conclusion after investigating 20 cases where children between the ages of 10 - 16 said they'd been discriminated against.

"Children experience the combination of a number of typical characteristics and behaviors of Zwarte Piet as negative and discriminatory against people with dark skin," the report issued Friday says, according to a Dutch News translation. "The children’s ombudsman finds on the basis of these discussions that children are being bullied or discriminated against with reference to Zwarte Piet."

Margrite Kalverboer, the ombudsman, went on to call for Zwarte Piet to be changed as to be less harmful to children.

Michael Urban / AFP / Getty Images

"We see that children can feel discriminated against through the current form of Zwarte Piet so it is a breach of their right to be treated equally," she told Dutch Public Broadcasting. "It’s not up to me to say how Piet should look, but children say they don’t like the frizzy hair, earrings, thick, red lips, or that Sinterklaas is the boss and Zwarte Piet is lesser, as they see it."

That apparently didn't go over too well with members of the Dutch public, several of whom saw fit to send death threats to Kalverboer.

Bart Maat / AFP / Getty Images

"The Children's Ombudsman says she has received many emails with death threats, wishes for her to come down with serious diseases, and notes that she and her staff should leave the country," Dutch Public Broadcasting reported. "It is only about threatening emails, phone calls are not received."

To sum up: children feel sad about themselves thanks to a character, a person defending children says as much, and she gets death threats.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.