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A ‘civil war’ Maykel Verkuyten Ercomer, Universiteit Utrecht.

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Presentation on theme: "A ‘civil war’ Maykel Verkuyten Ercomer, Universiteit Utrecht."— Presentation transcript:

1 A ‘civil war’ Maykel Verkuyten Ercomer, Universiteit Utrecht

2 Great majority of the population (around 85%) wants black Pete to remain as it is Very strong reactions towards the possibility of change, including adults crying and many verbal (social media) and physical – even death - threats Public debates about ‘black Pete’ have been cancelled or disturbed last Saturday at the arrival of Sint Nicolas, 90 people were arrested in demonstrations against or in favour of black Pete

3 Advisory committees and legal cases : committee of the UN (Verene Shepherd, human rights) : court decisions : council of state Social mobilization and political interference : ‘kick-out black Piet’; ‘Zwarte Piet Niet’ (ZPN) : ‘Pro zwarte Piet’, ‘Pietegilde’ : radical-right political parties

4 - ‘Leefbaar Rotterdam’ attached hundreds of negro puppets to street lights with the text ‘we want to stay’ - Political party PVV There is “a real war against black Pete”, against this “most typical Dutch feast” They propose legislation in which the physical appearance of Sint Nicolas and black Pete is defined: “ A black Pete has a black or dark brown face, painted red lips, black frizzy hair and golden earrings, and is dressed in a velvet-like suit with a knickerbocker and wears a cap with a coloured feather”

5 Why are the reactions so strong? Pro black Pete “ It has nothing to do with racism. It is our tradition and they do not have to tell us what we should do” Anti black Pete

6 What is at stake for those wanting to maintain black Pete as it is?? 1.It is ‘our’ culture and identity (Uncertainty) 2. Now ‘they’ come and tell us that ‘we’ have to change it (Power and influence) 3. We have to change it because black Pete would be racist (Morality)

7 1. Uncertainty: National identity/culture as a safe haven in times of changes and uncertainties (crisis, globalization, immigration) Research: When people feel uncertain they tend to look for certainty in collective identities and shared worldviews (e.g. increased interest in national history) Traditions provide a temporal anchoring of collective identities: a sense of collective continuity (despite ongoing changes) ‘Attacks’ on symbols of ‘who we are’ is threatening to the cultural worldview that people need in order to have a sense of certainty, grip This cultural worldview has to be valuable and people have to confirm this by showing respect for it, wanting to maintain it, and by their willingness to defend it: otherwise you are a traitor

8 Uncertainty is uncomfortable People strive to reduce uncertainty One possibility is cultural identity Adherence to norms and traditions that define and symbolize this identity In a scheme

9 2. Power and influence “If you don’t like it than go back to your own country’ “Now they also want to take this away from us” ‘They come here and tell us what to do, that’s crazy’ Research: Conflicts are often not so much, or not only, about culture and identity but about power and influence

10 1. They are a small numerical minority: dictatorship of the minority Democracy and minority rights 2. It is not ‘our’ (or in-group) minority but rather an out-group minority (‘they’) Inter-group sensitivity effect: people are more sensitive and rejecting toward out-group than in-group critics 3. Fear of loosing one’s dominant position Who can decide in this country, to whom does this country belong?

11 This country is ours (because we were here first) Prejudices towards non-natives ‘They are getting out of place’ and ‘taking over’ +

12 3. Morality Research: people are most concerned about their moral status (morality, vs. efficiency and benevolence) People need the feeling that basically they are decent, morally good persons : They invest much more in ‘reputation building’ when their moral status is at stake : They are very sensitive to threats to the moral status of their own group : They prefer to join groups that have higher moral status

13 The association with or accusation of racism is very threatening to ‘our’ moral self-image Responses: : denial that it is about race (Black Piet is black because he climbs through the chimney: not ‘Black as soot’ but ‘Black because of soot’) : denial of racism: - it is tradition/culture not racism - we are not racists (disclaimers; ‘we Dutch do not have it in us to discriminate’; ‘some of my best friends are ….’) - many black people have no objection so how can it be racist? - in the eye of the beholder: they are over-sensitive, take on the victim role : making racism ‘reasonable’: it is perhaps not okay but it is understandable, logical because ….; in this way you make people racist : reversal of racism: you are the racists here

14 PREDICTION The lobby against ‘black Pete’ in its current form will win in the end because it has a moral argument on its side In the end morality wins over social conventions, ( even if it is only a small minority that initially puts it on the agenda)

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