What do the four signs of the black face, the switch, the bag and the chain stand for? What does Black Pete stand for? Actually it stands for a lot of things. In any case he doesn't stand for a person or a group of persons even if he is impersonated by a person. (For many people (kids and adults) it is nice that they can see him as a friendly person though.) The Saint Nicholascelebration is a Midwintercelebration. It symbolizes from pagan times infertility and fertility, dark (night) and light (day), winter and summer and christianizing the celebrations by adding Saint Nicholas added to that evil and good and the educational element that was (and is!) used to teach kids morals. This is still an important and integral part of the Sinterklaascelebrations. Children often hear that they wont get presents if they aren't good. The switch may be absent physically but actually it's still there! Saint Nicholas and Black Pete don't care nowadays if the kids have been bad or good! They tell parents that when they hear them say this to their kids. Maybe changing the meaning of the switch is an idea here too. Especially since it is still in scope.
The clothes of the figure especially when we look to the cartoon of Knecht Ruprecht down below symbolize for instance the filth that has to be cleaned up in a persons life or in the world. This refers to people of all colours, because everone recognizes their own faults and what is wrong around them and that is what Black Pete symbolizes. (This element of clothes is absent in the current Black Pete with his very colourful clothing.) (and no this is not a garbage collector or another human being because: Black Pete is not an image of a person! This is very important to remember, because otherwise he will be offensive to people no matter what he looks like.) If everyone realizes the historical truth that Black Pete isn't a person then we won't make such associations anymore. Then we all know what Black Pete with his special appearance stands for, and then we will also understand that Saint Nicholas and Black Pete belong together because they convey such an impotant message: who has white hair, a white beard and a white Alb? Indeed: Saint Nicholas: to signify light, fertility, summer, good and all kinds of beautiful things.Also in the end Saint Nicholas isn't (just) the person from Myra (in what is now Turkey) but has become the symbol for all these things and is revered as such.
Saint en Pete are together a real image of reality als we all know it with the good and the evil, the light and the dark. The good must conquer and is therefore treated with respect. This is something else than submission on the part of Black Pete. He also does his positive part by bringing evil to the surface so it can be transformed into good! Furthermore being naughty and going against the rules is sometimes necessery, This is what we see in Black Pete when he makes faces behind the Saints back and behaves mischievous! Saint without Pete is unimaginable and deleting him or deforming him from this standpoint is a deformity of the celebration (but also of real life) that this isn't an option.
Black Pete from this standpoint must be as black as you can make him with the charcoal from a fire. That's how it was in prehistoric times (the basis of this masquerade!), has worked through the ages and can continue tot this day because of this long history and symbolism. It is important that people are aware of its meaning and realise this. The black and white does not automatically mean a master-slave relation and interpreting it like this may be understandable but there is definately much more to say about it as is shown in this piece.Giving this information should help with that. Both Saint Nicholas and Black Pete can be played by people of all skincolours if they wish to play them. The Saint doesn't need to be whiteskinned, the oldest images of Saint Nicholas show a man with darker skin! This can be a celebration for everyone, all colours all people! He has other characteristics to portray light like his hair, beard and Alb and with Black Pete the colour of the skin doesn't matter either if you cover it with soot to symbolize the dark (along with the other characteristics that symbolize this.) If we do think about changing Black Pete a little it would be good to see if we can keep a strong link to history and this symbolism in place.