Our Colonial Hangover

Zwart als roet, the English version

Our Colonial Hangover

Zwart als roet, the English version

Our Colonial Hangover analyzes the debate surrounding the racist component of the Dutch Black Pete character. Although the debate always heats up around the time of the Saint Nicholas celebrations every December, it reached an unprecedented level of ferocity in 2013. Black Pete is the black-faced assistant to that generous friend of children Saint Nicholas. Is this helper an insulting, racist stereotype, or is he part of an innocent tradition that should not be tampered with? Last year, opponents and supporters faced off, the Amsterdam city council held a hearing, a judge got involved, a United Nations work group published its assessment of the matter, and social media ripped open this can of worms. It all begs the question of just how tolerant the Netherlands is. Director Sunny Bergman’s personal search brings to light unconscious prejudices, everyday racism and the legacy of the Dutch colonial past. She visits London dressed as Black Pete, where her appearance provokes intense reactions. She also looks closer to home, engaging in personal conversation with friends and exposing the phenomenon of white privilege in her own social circle. Meanwhile, the authorities are attempting to calm frayed tempers by coming up with typically Dutch compromise solutions, including Petes in alternative colors and without earrings.