Since the Netherlands has played its part in the Trans Atlantic Slavetrade some people think there may be connection there. The website Zwarte Piet is Racisme says this: "Zwarte Piet is a figure based on the stereotypical depiction of black people in the 19th century. His appearance is a direct reference to Dutch past of colonialism and slavery. Despite the many stories that exist on the origin of Zwarte Piet, this is the only sensible explanation for the way the figure currently looks." In the next tab about blackface there is more about what are older explanations for what we can see in Black Pete. The Meertensinstituut has done research on this. It cannot be concluded however that there is a connection. The evidence is circumstantial. It is important to note here that on this website the existence of predecessors with a black colour is proven. The Meertens research still states that Sinterklaas always operates alone before 1850.
One can oppose Schenkmans choice for an African boy in the role of the companion especially because later on characteristics that resemble blackface appear in Zwarte Piet. However there is no proof that Schenkman chose this based on racist motives, moreover his choice could have been educational instead. It is noteworthy that the chain (one of th four characteristics) wasn't used in the book: Sint Nikolaas en zijn knecht. (Later it reappears, but this isn't strange knowing the history and is an indication of the fact that this figure is a continuation of an older practice.) The dark appearance, the bag and the switch are found in the book.
Most people who oppose Black Pete simply ask to take away the blackface resemblance and the whole connection with the African boy. The way in which this should take place however cannot be prescribed and forced upon people, as some groups seem to want. Everyone who is affected by these changes, should be able to give his opinion on this. On this website recognition of the Dutch and European history is brought to the attention as is the symbolism of the celebration. It is a good thing when everyones history is taken into account and valued, especially when looking for a new way of portraying Black Pete.
One of the professors of the Meertensinstituur does support the AntiPete protesters because of the fact that even bringing up concerns seems to cause racism to come to the surface real quick and also because the Netherlands does have these black pages in history and people are still waiting to have this acknowledged by the State.
Here the following can be added: In the studies and arguments a lot of times paintings are used of royalty or nobles with a slavepage at their side. Also merchants can be portrayed like this. Sinterklaas is neiter nobility (or royalty) or bourgeoisie (middle class). He is clergy, a member of the cloth! He is a bishop, a clergyman not noted for having slaves to highten their status. The parallels that are drawn, go limp where this is concerned. The role of the church in slavery hasn't always been a good one. Still it woudn't be right to draw any parallels here. The role of the clergy in the sexual abuse of children is not to be linked to Sinterklaas because he is a bisshop and a friend of children and kids sit in his lap all the time. This abuse will certainly have taken place during the evolution of the Sinterklaascelebrations. With a certain background it is easy to then see this reflected in the Sinterklaascelebrations. It is good to be aware that this attribution is not correct. It can always be a case for a discussion about the Sinterklaasfeest, but not for demanding a change right now, in this and this direction. As this is the position of some organisations that are Anti Pete this poses a real problem.
If individual or small groups of individuals find the celebration incompatible with their beliefs a solution should be found. The reason that people make the associations they make is terrible. Most people will not deny that. People on both sides must however be aware of this difference in interpretation and determine if what they see is really part of the celebration or a later attribution. For slavery this link cannot be made. The Dutch and European history in the development of this celebration is so important and should not be shoved to the side because certain associations how logical they may seem are not factual, looking at this history and development. Also people have trouble with the word "knecht". They suppose this is a synonym for slave. This is not true. The current title would be employer nothing more, nothing less. A lot of people have ancestors that were called "knecht" in their jobs. What people are objecting to in the Sinterklaascelebration rides on the notion that the black and white are actually referring to skincolour when in fact this use of black and whit is symbolic. On this website we are of the opinion that a persons own skincolour is not a factor in whether or not a person can play Sinterklaas or Zwarte Piet. Both roles can be played by anyone who wishes to play them. Casting people for these roles should mean more attention to this face, as to see more diversity!
This picture is not included in the studies that link the Sinterklaascelebration to slavery and Black Pete riding on a horse positioned above the Saint is a contradiction to this link. (Schenkman, 1850 Sint Nikolaas en zijn knecht.) It is only until after 1907 that Black Pete isn't shown riding a horse anymore. In the maskerades on the street we do see him on his horse through the years until now though.
Including more of the history of slavery from various sources including from descendants of slaves in schools is something that is supported. This site doesn't support the claim that the existence of Black Pete can be explained from slavery history and therefore is the symbol of racism and everything connected with that in the Netherlands.