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Dutch Prime Minister says that his attitude to the winter tradition of ‘Zwarte Piet’ has undergone ‘big changes’

AMSTERDAM (REUTERS) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that his attitude towards “Black Pete”, a figure from the country’s winter celebrations criticized as a racist caricature, has undergone “major changes” in recent years.

In a debate in parliament on protests against racism in the Netherlands, prompted by solidarity with American demonstrations, Mr Rutte said late on Thursday (June 4) that his opinion had changed since 2013, when he said: ‘Zwarte Piet is just black and I can’t “we do much about that” and dismissed the discussion.

In the Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas presents for children accompanied by numerous “Petes”, clownish servants who are usually depicted by white people in black face paint with frizzy wigs and red lipstick.

Mr. Rutte says he has met many people since 2013, including “little kids, who said” I feel terribly discriminated (because) Pete is black. “

“And I thought, that’s the last thing we want” in a children’s vacation.

“I expect there will be no more black bees in a few years,” said Rutte.

Although critics, including UN cultural experts, have said that Black Pete is offensive, a shrinking majority of white Dutch people claim that Pete is either a magical fantasy figure that does not portray any race or a lively fun.

Mr. Rutte noted that the tradition is already changing. Some local celebrations have blackheads with flakes of paint on their cheeks, which represent soot from the chimneys from which he would climb down to deliver presents. Others include multicolored Petes, with the word “Black” coming from the name.

The anti-racism protests in honor of Mr. George Floyd were held this week in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with more planned.

During a press conference, Mr. Rutte acknowledged on Wednesday that discrimination in the Netherlands is a “systematic problem”.

“Here, too, people are judged by their origin,” he said.

The protests were triggered by the death of Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man, while he was in custody of white police officers in Minneapolis.

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