Attendance at a Sinterklaas Party
December 2, 2009 10:59 PM Subscribe
Should I go to a Sinterklaas party in the U.S. when its holiday tradition of black Peters makes me really uncomfortable?
Sinterklaas is on Sunday, and some Dutch friends of mine from work are having a party. One Dutch friend in particular is a very good friend of mine, and we have become very close over the past year. She is leaving to go back to the Netherlands in 3 weeks, so if I were to skip this party, it might hurt her feelings. (She has already asked me if I have been working on my Sinterklaas picture, and whether I'm bringing a traditional tangerine.)
There is a very long debate about whether the tradition of having black Peters is a racist one (here on the blue), and I don't want to rehash the debate. My particular difficulty here is that this is a party to be held in the U.S., where such a tradition can be perceived as racist, and I fear that such a party might turn sour.
When I have talked about this tradition with my various Dutch friends (none of whom strike me as racist people), what bothers me most is their staunch defense of the tradition, telling me that it was my problem and not theirs, that the Dutch never had slaves so it wasn't an issue, that these Peters have "soot" on their faces (but they also have painted red lips?), and on and on. I would feel much more at ease if they would simply recognize the possibility for the tradition to be perceived as racist by people from the U.S.
My question is whether I should go to this party, given that I am very, very uncomfortable with the idea of white people in blackface (although I do not know for sure if anyone would dres up), and that these friends of mine are also colleagues. I realize that this tradition is just a small part of this holiday, and I don't want to offend the hostesses (both of whom I consider my friends), but I feel very strongly that the party could become horribly offensive very quickly (only one invitee is black, not that I think that should necessarily make the difference). And if I choose not to attend, do I make up an excuse, or do I tell her simply that I am uncomfortable about the holiday tradition but I would be happy to do something next weekend?