“No more blackface!” How can we get people to change their minds about Zwarte Piet?

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Date
2018-03-09
Authors
Ward, Janelle
Rocha, Renata
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Abstract

When Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands in December, he is accompanied by Zwarte Pieten made up in blackface, with afro wigs and bright red lips. Zwarte Piet, translated as “Black Pete,” has created growing controversy as a hurtful, racist caricature. Increasing voices demand change, but most of the population is opposed to altering the tradition. One way forward is to examine attitude change, and gain insight into how we can facilitate this process. This paper introduces the topic and reviews recent academic work on the controversy. Then, using autoethnographic vignettes (Humphreys, 2005), we explore our experiences with the tradition, weaving our stories together in relation to personal history, awareness, and attitude change. We provide an international perspective, as Renata is a Dutch/Cape Verdean woman born and raised in the Netherlands, and Janelle is a white woman, born and raised in Minnesota, who has lived in the Netherlands for 16 years. This approach allowed us to write together from an insider/outsider perspective (Zempi & Awan, 2017). Our stories depict attitude change from distinctive starting points, and by sharing them we hope to shed light on how attitude change can occur in relation to Zwarte Piet and broader social injustice issues.

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