Our speech to the council about 'black Pete'

Dear members of the council,

In the past few years, we've spoken several times at the city council to make a racism-free Sinterklaas celebration possible in Rotterdam. In 2019, Rotterdam took steps towards that racism-free celebration. A proud mayor even mentioned the 'role of pioneers' that Rotterdam had in Piet's new appearance. That role, unfortunately, is very disappointing so far.

Because even though we as Rotterdam, as the third of the four major cities, have indicated that we will switch to a new helper, we are the only one of these three major cities that do not want to let go of racism. Because of the afro-wigs, the helpers still remain racist caricatures.

That is why we are here again. To indicate how we can turn promises into real deeds. How we as Rotterdam can take a real pioneering role. We can be the first big city in the Netherlands that no longer gives out grants to activities with racist characteristics. We can be the first big city that no longer grants subsidies to activities that use zwarte Piet.

That is what is happening now on a large scale. Rotterdam BIJ1 has asked Rotterdam citizens to report where racism was still openly present within the Sinterklaas celebrations. A shocking amount of places, we found. We have received more than 100 reports about racist activities, among others subsidized by the municipality of Rotterdam.

In IJsselmonde and Prince Alexander, the racist caricature was present on a large scale. There are also reports of the celebrations in Delfshaven, Hoogvliet and Charlois. Eleven playgrounds were unsafe places for non-white children, because they were confronted with racism during the celebrations there. The shopping centers in IJsselmonde and Prince Alexander were full of racist caricatures.

In IJsselmonde, Prince Alexander, Bloemhof, Hillesluis and Feijenoord, parents reported that they did not let their child go to school because, despite the parents' request, the school refused to organize a party for all children, without racism. In addition, there are reports about sports clubs and swimming pools that left the racist caricature to be part of the Sinterklaas activities.

Black Pete is racist, that is certain. The children's ombudsman, various judges and the UN, among others, have established this multiple times. We and many people from Rotterdam wonder why the municipality chooses to allow and even support racism in the neighborhoods, as this city council provides grants to playgrounds, schools, sports clubs and neighborhood associations, which then use that money to expose children to racism.

BIJ1 wants a Sinterklaas celebration for everyone. Whether in schools, in community centers, at playgrounds or retailers' associations. If we succeeded, then we as a city can actually claim to have a pioneering role. Only then can you say as a city: every child matters in Rotterdam and we will protect their rights. We are here to call on the council and the mayor to really take the lead and want to ask the following questions:

  • Does the alderman think that children in Rotterdam should be able to grow up without racism?
  • What does the Rotterdam subsidy policy say about subsidizing activities that involve racism? What is the council doing to enforce this policy?
  • Is the alderman willing to actively approach all subsidized institutions that work with children and to indicate that they can no longer use black Pete? If not, what is the motivation to have children consciously undergo racism?
  • Is the mayor actually prepared to take on the pioneering role he has designated and to make the Sinterklaas celebration free of racism at all subsidized locations and in public spaces? If not, why not?
  • Is the alderman willing to actively focus on reducing racism this year? What steps does the alderman want to take?
  • Is the alderman willing to enter into a dialogue with the organization of celebrations to also remove the remaining racist characteristics from this entry? How does the alderman want to tackle this?
  • Is the alderman willing to enter into a dialogue with schools in Rotterdam in order to achieve a racism-free Sinterklaas party there too?
  • Are the parties in the city council prepared to speak out for a racism-free Sinterklaas party in all neighborhoods in Rotterdam?
  • Does the alderman recognize the pediatric ombudsman and her advice about black Pete? If not, why not?