Doctoral student Suzanne van Geuns has recently published an essay titled “The New Normaal: ‘Black Pete’, Muslims and Whiteness in the Netherlands”, in the Religion Dispatches, an “independent, non-profit, award-winning source for the best writing on critical and timely issues at the intersection of religion, politics, and culture”.

The article discusses the Dutch tradition of using black face paint to dress up as “Black Pete”,  a folk character associated with the holiday season. The character has in recent years faced controversy, yet persisted as a tradition that the majority of Dutch people feel should stay as is.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

There are myriad reasons for the Dutch to love Sinterklaas: nostalgia for childhood, the deeply felt need for authentically Dutch traditions in the face of American cultural dominance, and so on. But why would one’s tradition being called racist inspire such outrage that one cannot help but block one’s ears – or a highway – while the suggestion of one’s tradition being racist is disqualified from the get-go? It is this aspect – the intense emotional response to Black Pete being called racist – that the study of religion helps frame.

Read the full essay here.