I didn’t foresee I would come to the point to write down whatever crosses my mind - to think it would be of any value. But maybe that is not the issue here. Maybe that is the hesitation every great writer once experienced prior to letting their words meet the paper. So let me try to put these doubts aside and clear my mind.
Lately, certain people acting in certain ways became to annoy me to new levels. I never was a person to have a quick opinion about the person next to me, and to loudly proclaim these judgments. Rather, I am someone who deals with an inner dialectical battle every now and then.
While still being in college, my criticism towards myriad things has increased as I become more and more aware of ‘the system’ called society. And moreover, how others seem unaware of vicious circles often present in societies. Striking to me is that most people are just following the mass, parroting so-called ‘authorities’ (whoever decides to whom should be listened to is another question). I really wonder where some people’s minds have gone in the last couple of years. To be more specific, I have a feeling some people in this country (the Netherlands) have lost some sense of solidarity. Within this country, the ‘we-them’ dichotomy seems more alive than dead. But we are not alone in this. As cliché as it may sound, at the end of the day we need the other (besides, we define ourselves by defining the other which is quite ironic). It still fascinates me how we are sometimes so quick to see what divides us, rather than looking for the things that unite us.
Not meant to bore you, but the case of Black Pete perfectly illustrates what I am trying to point out here. As the discussion as it goes on via the Internet (blogs, forums, etc.) has proven, this whole debate is about way more than just Sinterklaas’ servant’s skin color. The amount of harsh comments illustrated how narrow-minded people in a so-called ‘multicultural society’ can be. How completely oversimplified things are taken, and how little respect is shown towards ‘the other’. I really felt ashamed that people with whom I live within the same borders, have run the discussion to racists extents while totally ignoring other people’s feelings.
Tomorrow, December 5th, the Sinterklaas celebration will be held in numerous households within the Netherlands. And there is nothing wrong with that. The assumption that those having sour feelings with Sinterklaas’ servant being black are against the celebration as a whole, is irrelevant (to speak for myself). The celebration has indeed become Dutch tradition, embracing a bunch of gezelligheid. But celebrating a tradition shouldn’t mean not taking into account current relationships and inequalities in present day society. As I pointed out above, it’s not merely a debate about skin color. It is not about seeking for a compromise for the servant’s face paint; of greater concern is the lack of mutual understanding among many of us that is underlying the debate. And worse: how quickly we come up with one-sided and loose judgments.
It is not only the Black Pete case. Some minorities in this country suffer from discrimination far too often. So how could we proudly present ourselves as a ‘tolerant’ country, full of polite and civilized human beings, while under the upper layer exclusion of groups is going on? I friendly refuse to participate in this act. As Kanye West once put it: ‘Racism’s still alive, they just be concealin’ it.’ As the process to diminish the face paint of Black Pete is slowly taking place, at the same time people’s ‘civil’ masks are falling down and their real faces begin to reveal.