Mayor Jorritsma does not have any interest in allowing a social discussion on the skin colour of Sinterklaas‘ helpers. Although the majority of the City Council feels the decision should be up to the City, Jorritsma is sticking to his decision of banning Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) indefinitely.
The City Council believes the specifics of the celebration shouldn’t decided by politicians. This debat takes place on the street, at the bar or during dialog sessions. It might even carry on for years to come. In doing so, small steps will be made in adapting to a new norm in which people are comfortable. Banning Zwarte Piet ends this discussion abruptly. This is the reasoning of signatories of a motion for Jorritsma to reconsider his decision. “Don’t try to force it from the top, but allow it rise up from the bottom” says CDA council member, Remco van Dooren. Jorritsma has declined the motion.
Is society up for a discussion once-again over this topic? According to Van Dooren: “I also sometimes feel worn-out by these discussions. It mostly happens because of the dead-lock between two extremes: one group claims Zwarte Piet is racist and the other group wants to hold on to tradition. These groups are never in alignment. However, for the majority these specifics are up for discussion. They are willing to listen to each other. The debate must be waged within this group. As for the extremes? Ach, maybe we should listen less to them.”
City Council member Lex Janssen (VVD) agrees with Van Dooren. “The City Council could decide to ban Zwarte Piet but that doesn’t mean the debate is over. If we at the VVD announce that we are against racism, that doesn’t mean it will disappear from the City overnight. For this reason, we must continue these conversations. We should do so at work, home, school and on the street.”
Mayor Jorritsma does not want to wait any longer. On a daily basis, he and his advisers receive insults, profanities and threats. “Whatever we do…whichever decision we make…it will never be right. It is time to draw a line under this discussion. It will probably not bring peace. But we are making sure nobody gets hurt by the Zwarte Piet tradition. And that gives me peace of mind.”
Translator: Ame Harris