Draft 5 currently under revision : click here for version 4 of the paper : ZP_hist_context_Draft4
Every year when festivities of Sinterklaas come to the Netherlands, the skewed debates around Black Pete (zwarte Piet) raises it’s ugly head again. What really annoys me is the incompetence and utter selectivity with which historical claims are made in this “debate” and criticism is brushed aside simply by playing the racism card.
History is an academical discipline and a hard one at that. It’s not a plaything that one can simply cherry-pick in order to construct an arbitrary interpretation of history. Unfortunately, our shared history is often abused by individuals or groups in order to either claim personal grievances or greatness. This selective laymen attempt at historical identity manufacturing has been frowned upon, rightfully, for decades now by most people because it is a fallacy and often a dangerous one at that. By superficially skimming historical narratives one could link ones identity to that of kings or martyrs easily and, to the untrained eye, convincingly.
For the last couple of years in the Netherlands , such a fallacy has been used to claim personal grievance cause by the most detached and mundane of sources. A fictional character from a children’s festival. The figure of black Pete (Zwarte Piet) has been at the center of attention because a small focal minority claims that this character is racist in essence and causes them grievance.
This claim is often supported by the argument that Black Pete is a product of a time in which, officially, slavery in the Netherlands was not yet abolished. Black Pete as a servant of a White man is therefor automatically a pro-slavery institution.
This reasoning however, is a prime example of selective and amateurish interpretation attempts in history. The argument makes generalized assumptions, deliberately chooses the wrong context and omits important details from more detailed contexts in which this matter should be viewed.
In the linked paper that you can download here, I make a case why this particular argument is not only wrong, but more surprisingly much more likely to be the opposite of what Quincy Gario and his movement claim. I will show that correlating Black Pete to slavery just because the character was written 13 year before Slavery was officially abolished is a impressively poor contextual analysis and that, given the proper context, no such correlation will stand up to any scrutiny.
Download the paper : ZP_hist_context_Draft4
The paper still has draft status and should be finalized when I have the time, but because 5 December is upon us, I decided to put it up as a sort of Sinterklaas present for Sinterklaas himself.
My hopes are that this not only settles the debate on the matter where it concerns the historical argument, but also that people might realize that history must not be used as a personal DIY identity kit that somehow grants one special rights or tries to take something away from others. History itself is riddled with examples of this and most do not end well.
For feedback I’d like to thank Arnold Jan Scheer, who proofread an earlier draft.