At the back of the hill

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Monday, October 28, 2013

BLACKEST MISCHIEF

Over in the Netherlands, the staid and phlegmatic Dutch are losing their minds over blackface. On the whole, they're for it. Support it nearly one hundred percent. Putting on blackface and prancing around like a fool once a year is a great social good, which benefits society.
Truly, they love their blackfaced clowns.

[Background: On the evening of December fifth, Saint Nicholas rides across the roofs with his Moorish servants (all named 'Zwarte Piet' (Black Pete), and distributes gifts to good little children. Bad little children are told that the saint and his pals might beat the crap out of them and stuff them in a burlap bag, never to be seen again. Naturally, some people dress up as the saint and his friends. Blackface. It's somewhat controversial.]

A popular singer to whose music I do not listen, and whose entire oeuvre does not twinkle my toes, got in hot water with some of her legion of fans by opining on faceboook: "Wat staan wij Nederlanders voor lul !! En niet 1 gemeente in Nederland die het eens anders wil gaan aanpakken. Ga je schamen!"

Roughly translated: 'Man we Dutch look like dicks! And not ONE city that even wishes to try a different approach. Be ashamed of yourselves!'


Well, white folks in blackface IS a problematic issue. And it is more than a little doubtful that a single one of those Black Petes intends to give a realistic and deeply thought-out performance of a black man.
The bogeymen associated with the giftgiving festivities of Saint Nicholas all over Europe are quite the beasts. Literally so in several countries; middle Europe has Krampus, the Italians have Befana the witch, the Scandi- navians have Tomten (more or less a troll), along with re-enactments of blood sacrifice and a thrashing, Iceland has Gryla the hag who kidnaps children and eats them (her sons are the gifters, leaving potatoes for naughty kids), and the soft-drink industry popularized the fat bearded pervert.
Santa and Saint Nicholas were originally pagan goblins, and the whole tradition ultimately derives from the Germanic chief god Odin or Wotan (Yolnir) riding on a wild hunt through the night-time sky with his host (the HerlaĆ¾ing), all of whom are wondrous and frightening, around the middle of winter, pursuing miscreants and passing over the good people. Following which a large number of terrified farm animals are slaughtered, and everybody gets riotously stinko drunk smeared with blood.
Scaring little children is part and parcel of the deal.
A meal of herring and gruel also may occur.
Which is in itself frightening.
And very Germanic.

Still. Folks running around pretending to be scary black men is not exactly the epitome of politically correct, though thoroughly appreciated by nearly everyone who isn't black. Little children love him, because in addition to the threat of a thrashing, he also gives out lots of candy and treats, and they wish to be like him when they grow up as he gets away with all manner of malarkey.

[Note, by the way, that a tradition of people painting themselves black and committing mayhem at night is attested, going back nearly twenty centuries.]


Not everyone in the Netherlands is on board with this, however.
Rock and roll artist Anouk got in Dutch with her fans by facebook-posting the opinion cited above ("Dutch... dicks... different approach... ashamed...").
Many of whom responded with angst and ire.


Examples:

Willem Charite: vieze rvuil vewende kankerhoer dat je bent hoop dat je binnenkort doodvalt het liefst doe ik het zelf tyfus slet.
[Translation: "filthy foul stuck-up cancer whore that you are hope you soon fall dead preferably I will do it myself typhus slut".]

Jane Smith: vergeet niet door die haters en paar racisten heb jij nou wel je gheld zal je aan dat stel apen niet verdienen zo en nee ik ben geen racist maar je kan het krijgen zoals je het wil hebben.
[Translation: don't forget that it was because of those haters and a couple of racists that you have your money that you won't earn from that bunch of monkeys and no I am not a racist but you can get it as you want it."]

John van Elteren: Viert vast wel Sinterklaas, alleen met der eigen zwarte pietjes, nikker lover.
[Translation: "surely celebrates Saint Nicholas Day, only with her own darkies, nigger lover."]

Kelly Maria Dijkhuizen: Beter een racist dan een bruine lover, vies wijf!
[Translation: "better a racist than a brownie lover, filthy bitch."]

Rob van Es: ze heeft goeie nummers hoor maar ze blijft een nigger bitch in mijn ogen en ze sterft van de capsones en vind haar superarrogant dus meschien heeft ze ook wel nigger bloed, leve SINTERKLAAS en zijn ZWARTE PIET.
[Translation: "she has good numbers, eh, but she's still a nigger bitch in my eyes and she'll perish of her pretentious attitudes and consider her super arrogant so maybe she also has nigger blood, vivat Saint Nicholas and his Black Pete."]

Natascha Beton: Ga lekker met die asielzoeker van je naar zijn land van herkomst blanke negerslet
[Translation: "just go with that asylum-seaker of yours to his country of origin white negro slut."]

Cees Vrolijk: We moeten niet discrimineren. Zwarte piet eruit, dan alle zwarten eruit.
[Translation: "we mustn't discriminate. Black Pete goes, then all blacks (should) go."]


Source: http://www.telegraaf.nl/prive/22009436/__Anouk_bedreigd_door_Zwarte_Pieten-fans__.html (article: Anouk bedreigd door Zwarte Pieten-fans, in the Telegraaf - 'Anouk threatened by Black Pete fans').


Everyone of the commenters above will no doubt assert that in fact they aren't racists, and actually have huge numbers of black friends, all of whom are dear sweet people who, if they were totally honest, would no doubt agree with them one hundred percent.

Others may opine that the opinions spewed by Willem, Jane, John, Kelly Maria, Rob, Natascha, and Cees, are NOT representative of the majority, who would never even think such filth, but they themselves never-the-less do wholeheartedly support keeping the tradition alive of white folks painting their faces black and terrorizing little children.
All in a spirit of good clean fun.
Of course.


Personally, I cannot escape the feeling that there is indeed a racist stratum to Dutch society, as well as objectionable elements to old traditions.


Perhaps instead of black-face, we could bring back witch-burnings?



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6 Comments:

  • At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Is the use of "typhus" in "typhus slut" about the dutch sticking of diseases in front of expletives, not that there exists a concept of a "typhus slut"?

    Also, I'm curious how the phrase "nigger lover" came to use in Holland, I thought that was a purely American phenomenon.

     
  • At 4:03 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    To your question, yes. Typhus, cholera, the plague, cancer, suppurating sores; all these and more add colour to cursing.

    Nigger lover shows up in American movies, television, books, articles, songs, and blogs. The Dutch are extremely well exposed to all of that. And many of them speak English as well as Americans.

    There is not a single facet of North American culture which can remain hidden. Not in the internet age, not since television.

     
  • At 4:07 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Oh, and by the way: during the sixties the Dutch were our fiercest critics regarding civil rights issues. They just could not understand why we were such horrible racialists. So consider the irony.

     
  • At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm a brownskinned woman from Indian descent. I live 33 yrs in the Netherlands. As a child I lived in Suriname, South America where Saint Nicholas tradition was forced upon us. In school Black Pete scared and beat us with sticks he carries. He put naughty kids in the bag, good kids get candy & presents. My parents gave us presents, as did I with my kids on this day, but Dutch parents make their little kids believe it's all real.
    I never liked Black Pete, but didn't dare to say so.
    Now in the Netherlands many people from my country and Africa and some caring Dutch people are protesting and want this tradition changed. The majority wants to keep it the same way and gets very angry. I'm following Anouk's facebook and thousands of postings keep coming in, positive ones, but lots badly written negativity and racial slurs, even offending her colored children. But Anouk doesn't give up.

     
  • At 10:56 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    The question I would ask is, why does it even have to be a 'Pete'?

    Grim and threatening supernatural entities are more in keeping with the ethnic background of most Dutch (just look at Netherlandic folklore for tons of horrid daemonic creatures), and given that a large part of the tradition was created barely over a century ago -- no Zwarte Piet before then -- it doesn't seem like an essential element to have a stereotype of one group, members of whom are actually residents of the Netherlands.

    An evil zombie Spaniard with horns coming out of his morion and a spiked tail would be just as "historically gerechtvaardigd", if not more so. And would emphasize the alleged Iberian residence of the good holy man.

    Besides being a hell of a lot more terrifying.

     
  • At 11:00 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Pedro El Cucuy. Or possible El Calaca.

     

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