Some traditions don't stand the test of time.

As society evolves, certain practices, ideals and stances on social issues are no longer considered appropriate or acceptable.

I believe the Dutch practice of Black Peter falls into this category and needs to become a thing of the past.

A story in today's Rotorua Daily Post has the local Netherlands society standing by their decision to have a Black Peter, also known as Zwarte Piet, alongside Saint Nicholas at their local market this weekend.


Defending the use of the character, one of the society's members called it a tradition. But I call it by another name: Racism.

Creating a caricature of a black man, with dark curly hair, a blackened face and red lips to provide comedic relief for children is, in my opinion, nothing short of racial stereotyping.

To further add insult to injury, the character is often played as silly, dumb, someone who keeps messing up, needs to be led and a helper to Saint Nicholas, perpetuating old-world views that black people are somehow less than their white counterparts.

Just recently the Hāwera Mount View Lions caused outrage when its parade float at the Hāwera A&P show featured people in blackface.

In my view, Black Peter is no different.

Just because something is a tradition, it doesn't make the practice any less racist and it definitely doesn't give you a free pass to continue doing it.

Rotorua Netherlands Society member Douwe Visser admits that maybe the tradition does need to change "a little" because some find it insulting, but goes on to say that it's hard to change people's attitudes, especially when something is done for so long.

He also says a lot of traditional Saint Nick songs have Black Peter in them and the character was never intended to be insulting.


And maybe it wasn't in 1850, when it first appeared. But it's now 2018 and in this day and age, it is insulting and shouldn't be tolerated.

New Zealand is a country full of different cultures and ethnicities and I like to think, on a whole, we're a pretty accepting, progressive bunch.

So I feel we, as Kiwis, have a responsibility to say we support an open, accepting, equal society and we condemn racism, whether it's casual or overt, intentional or not.

It's time to put Black Peter where he belongs - in the past.