For some extremely frustrating and sad reason, there are a select few idiots that think using blackface is a fun and acceptable thing to do. We know, we really don't understand it either. How in the year 2016, is this still even a thing? While it may come as a surprise, there are uneducated people right here in Canada that didn't get the memo. It's common sense: putting on blackface is a very, very stupid thing for one to do. There's a truly problematic history with the practice, but thankfully, people are now being called out on it. Case in point, a small grocery store in Chatham, Ontario.
The Dutch Market is a little establishment, who every year, has held an annual Christmas event for its local customers. As per tradition, the store is outfitted with a Santa Claus character, who takes pictures with children and anyone else that wants to get into the festive spirit. Another part of the tradition has recently come to light, however, and this one isn't so cute. Earlier this week, photos began to surface online of another costumed character, who was prominently slathered in blackface.
The racist sidekick is known as Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, and traces its lineage back to an 1850 book by Dutch children's author, Jan Schenkman. The character is said to be Santa's helper, a "Moor" from Spain, and has consistently popped up in Western society, when people are looking to keep their "tradition" alive. Just recently, someone dressed as Black Pete and marched in an Edmonton holiday parade.
When users called out the grocery store for employing blackface, Dutch Market's General Manager, Dirk Van den Berg, delivered a rather half-hearted apology. “(Santa) has a helper, his name is Pete. He goes through the chimney and delivers goodies to the children, and that’s why he gets black and a little dirty, right? That’s why he’s portrayed as being black". Before your head falls off from shaking it so damn much, Van den Berg tried to explain further. “If we offend people in this way, then we’re definitely going to change it. Maybe next year we’ll have a ‘Rainbow Pete’ with all the colours of the rainbow, so at least people won’t be offended". Welp, never mind, it didn't get better.
It doesn't look like the manager of the Dutch Market is planning to change much of anything, and even says that he was "shocked" at the backlash his store received. If you'd like to express your displeasure, as many have done, you can visit their Facebook page or official website.