If you thought blackface ended when Halloween was over, you’re sorely mistaken.
A Belgian Dutch official recently dressed in blackface as “Black Pete,” who is said to be Santa Claus’ Black servant or sidekick. He’s depicted as a mischievous, happy buffoon. Flemish minister Sven Gatz decided to tweet a photo of himself in the get-up, with red lips and an afro wig.
As the backlash began, Gatz defended his acts by ironically stating that people should, “Love. Not hate.”
The character Black Pete, or Zwarte Piet, originated in the folklore of Sinterklaas, a descendent of the Dutch Caribbean. The anger over the racist costume is nothing new, and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination wants the Netherlands to alter the negative image of the character, as it represents a “vestige of slavery.” But Prime Minister Mark Rutte dismissed those requests, because he claims it’s not the government’s job to shape folklore.
“Folk traditions. Come on. What Christmas songs you should sing, how you celebrate Christmas and Easter — this isn’t what politics is about,” he told reporters in The Hague, according to Al Jazeera.
Unlike most people who learn that blackface is wrong, Gatz might never learn from his mistakes.