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Amsterdam council executive jumps into Zwarte Piet debate [December 4, 2012]
Just a few hours before the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas, city council executive Andree van Es has jumped into the Zwarte Piet debate, saying it is time to ditch him once and for all.
'The Sinterklaas celebrations began without Zwarte Piet and it is time to continue without Zwarte Piet,' Van Es told the Parool newspaper.
She's the first city council official in the country to step into the debate so openly and, as expected, her comments have provoked an outcry about political correctness and spoiling the fun.
Not that Van Es is alone. John Helsloot from the Meertens Instituut, which focused on Dutch language and culture, told the paper Zwarte Piet as 'essentially a racist phenomenon'.
He thinks the Netherlands decision to sign up to the UN convention on protecting cultural traditions is a great opportunity to ditch Zwarte Piet - and you can't exactly see the great and the good of the Unesco embracing him, can you?
'The Sinterklaas party can continue without a crude imitation of another population group including make-up, a curly wig and dancing and singing all day,' Helsloot says.
The Parool also points out that Zwarte Piet has been banned from Schiphol airport because his presence upsets travellers and that the V&D department stores are this year decorated with Piets without the blackface.
And for all those who go on about chimneys and soot and Odin - Piet first made an appearance in a book written by a school teacher in 1850 when he had not have a name and was very much a servant.
You might also like to check out the columsn on DutchNews.nl
By the way, there is no illustration to this story because I could not bring myself to put one on...