The stated that Piets color and characteristics

The Netherlands is often portrayed as a liberal and progressive country, however, the topic of racism is complex. Sinterklaas and the portrayal of Zwarte Piet is heavily influenced by politics and the connection to national identity. National identity is a collective identity that is fuelled by emotions and the “politics of belonging”. National identities are influenced by collective attachment and need for a sense of belonging. This need for belonging, explained by Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory, is a natural human instinct. There is an emotional tie between the celebration of Zwarte Piet and the Dutch national identity. These ideas and beliefs, which reflect the Dutch identity, are often influenced and manipulated by the government. The Dutch government is largely responsible for the perpetuation of institutional racism within the country. In particular, the Zwarte Piet debate highlights the political intergroup conflict which exists in the country today. The topic of ‘race’ and ‘racism’ remains very taboo in the Netherlands, and is generally not openly discussed (Weiner, 2014). Because of this, many Dutch  policymakers tend to use the euphemism ‘ethnicity’, which depicts more of a cultural difference, oppose to ‘race’ (Weiner, 2014). The problem with this is it undermines the social hierarchy,  struggles of disempowered groups, and colonial remanence embedded within Dutch society (Weiner, 2014). This adds another level of complexity to the political issues surrounding Zwarte Piet. In 2013, after receiving numerous complaints, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council launched an investigation on whether the portrayal of Zwarte Piet is racist (UN News, 2013; Weiner, 2014). UN experts requested the Netherlands to start a discussion on changing the portrayal of Zwarte Piet, however, the Netherlands dismissed this request. In years preceding, the heated political debate over the characterisation of Zwarte Piet has escalated. This led the UN to step in again in 2015 and further urged the Netherlands to change the negatively stereotyped image of Zwarte Piet or remove the character all together (UN, 2015). The UN stated that many portray Zware Piet as a “vestige of slavery” (UN, 2015) and although it is a tradition, “a deeply rooted cultural tradition does not justify discriminatory practices”(UN, 2015). Many Dutch politicians, including the prime minister, have stated that Piets color and characteristics are not a political matter. In particular, the Party of the Freedom (VVP) has been extremely adamant about keeping the “Zwarte Piet” tradition. The far right party, founded by Geert Wilders, proposed a law to ensure Zwarte Piet remains blackface (Pieters, 2017). Dutch far-right politician, Martin Bosma, stated in an interview: “Zwarte Piet is a tradition in the Netherlands that we should be proud of. It is total nonsense to connect Zwarte Piet with racism or slavery.” (Pieters, 2017) These politicians are only dividing people and further creating a “me versus them” political environment, where someone is always at the bottom of the totem pole. This just adds fuel to the intergroup conflicts which surround the “Zwarte Piet” issue today. The issue surrounding Zwarte Piet is very much a political matter and will not change until government is more assertive in addressing and resolving the problem. Regardless of the emotional ties that influence the country’s political denial, the characterization of Zwarte Piet is not politically correct and needs to change. Zwarte Piet may seem like an innocent childhood image, however it is also a tactic used to perpetuate the idea of Dutch white supremacy and nationality. If the Dutch claim they are a “multicultural country”, than they need to acknowledge how Zwarte Piet’s character perpetuates institutional racism and fuels intergroup conflict.