White People Suck!

Catchy title I know! Being of European descent myself, it might sound strange, but these were the exact words that came to my head after a brief online interaction that I just had.

My Dad was born in Holland, as were my 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and so on... In Holland Santa Claus is called Sinterklaas and comes door to door on the evening of December 5th with gifts. Sinterklaas does not come alone. He is preceded by a servant named Zwarte Piet, which translated is “Black Peter”.

Black Peter comes in the weeks before Sinterklaas, mainly to amuse and entertain children. Traditionally this character is a white person dressed up with their skin darkened to ‘play a Negro’. The white kids laugh and scramble for the candy and ginger cookies that Black Peter throws from his sack.

When I was growing up I was also told that ‘bad kids’ on the Sinterklaas night would not receive presents but would be snatched by Black Peter, put in his sack and taken . This is consistent with really early roots of this tradition where the Santa character defeats Satan and the devil becomes his slave. So, Black Peter is not only a servant character, depicting people of a different race, for us to laugh at, but also an evil character to be afraid of. A jester and a devil... laugh at and fear the black man.

Now, if you are not Dutch, you hopefully are thinking “WHAT THE?!?!”...

1845 Zwarte Piet made his appearance as Sinterklaas’ servant. Slavery wasn’t abolished in the Dutch colonies until 1863... So, you would think that we would be more than willing to revisit this incredibly racist and offensive tradition right?!?!

This is where you would be wrong and the thing which led me to my incredibly generalized thought that white people suck. NO! People don’t want to abolish the tradition. In fact, online, just moments ago I was reading comments online, Dutch kids in their 30s (not 95 years old) who are pissed off that people want to do away with this tradition and even saying that if you don’t like it, “don't live in Holland”. And this from a person who made sure to let us know that she in a “mixed family”.

Yet again I will hear all the typical excuses. Like I wrote about in my blog about what we choose to be offended by. One friend told me, “But it really is a white guy who got all covered in soot from the chimneys”, a new spin justifying a racist tradition. “My kids loved it... not once did they think it offensive is the adults who ruin these things!” Okay... and kids used to get a day off school to watch hangings in colonial America...

The conversation showed me again how much we suck at diversity. If you disagree with me or my traditions you should get out of the country? The whole conversation started over people wanting to call the Christmas tree a holiday tree. So what? No one is telling you what to call it. I call it a Christmas tree and if you want to as well, go for it. But if someone else doesn’t they should get out of Canada? What makes you the measuring stick for all things Canadian? Or Dutch? A multitude of opinions being allowed to coexist is the very basis of diversity.  A place where all must conform to standards of tradition has more akin to a cult or a gang than to a community.

Why do I feel more entitled to my traditions than feeling the freedom to let things go that are, in fact, offensive? People are more important than traditions.

The Zwarte Piet tradition could die tomorrow. Boom! Gone! Just to honour those who are rightly offended by it. It is really that easy. As a people with a history of colonialism and participation in the slave trade we ought to be enthusiastic to honour the people who we were instrumental in dehumanizing, not offended that we may have to leave a horrid tradition behind.

I’ve had this same discussion before about sport team names. People want to badly to hold onto their traditions.

Cleveland Indians (1915), Washington Redskins (1933), Edmonton Eskimos (1910) all have names that are potential offensive to the indigenous peoples of this land that we call home. So, why not change the names of these sports teams?

One reason; tradition!

Even worse, it is a tradition of mainly white people who named the teams in the first place. The teams are owned by white guys (or in Edmonton’s case the white community shareholders) in leagues that are primarily run by white guys.  So whose tradition is it?

Why can’t we let go of our entitlement to traditions just because it honours someone? Love, dignity, respect... those are our goal. Everything else is dispensable. What a gesture it would be to say, “Hey, we are renaming our team because we want to honour a people who have been the target of genocide and oppression since the day Europeans got to this country.”

“[We] should take a stronger stand in favour of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.” A quote from Dietrich Bonheoffer that I just used 2 blogs ago that comes to mind again in this situation. Don’t be thrown by the words weak and strong. This just speaks to those who have the authority to change things.

Even as police clear out Occupy protestors out of their cities I fear we will continue to repeat this mistake over and over again; don’t disrupt the status quo. Don’t ask us to change. Don’t draw attention to the things that are not okay. This is the way it has always been, just let it go. And when the last tent is gone and the last protester cleared out we will breathe a sigh of relief that everything can go back to normal. Whether it is getting rich at the expense of the poor or laughing at and fearing the black man, we don’t want to change. We want to protect the status quo, dishonour those who disagree, shame those who are different from you, because that is how it has always been. Whatever you do, don’t love, don’t respect, don’t dignify, if it means that you have to change.

I wish it was only white people who sucked, but most of us suck at the whole love, dignity, respect thing... I guess that’s why it takes a rebel!

Todays Toronto Star made me

Todays Toronto Star made me think of this blog from last year.

It drives me crazy that we are so set in our traditions that many don't even consider a change even if it means honouring those whom we have historically dishonoured and dehumanized.


Tradition allows us to

Tradition allows us to celebrate the past but keeps us from moving forward in other areas of life. For example highway onramp and offramp speeds were set 75 years ago when cars weighed 6000 pounds and handled like a donkey. Oh yeah and lets not forget MLB and instant replays.

I think traditions keep us

I think traditions keep us strong. And i totally agree with the fact that the offensive names and stories of some traditions should be abolished. But I don't agree with the holiday tree thing or the fact that they can't be in our schools anymore. Immigrants expect us to adapt to their culture why can't we expect the same from them? Why do our children have to mis.s out on what brought us so much joy as children. Participating in festivities at school.

And as for occupy toronto, its about time they were rid of. Yes I see the point that some were trying to make, but most people there are just squatting and abusing drugs. They've abused they're right to protest and need to respectfully leave

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