Dutch reject criticism of ‘Black Pete’ tradition

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AMSTERDAM (AP) — A Dutch Facebook page seeking to preserve the country’s fall “Sinterklaas” festival exactly as it is — including clowns in blackface makeup known as “Black Petes” — has received nearly a million ‘likes’ just 24 hours after it was created.

The swift growth of the ‘Pete-ition” page reflects the depth of emotional attachment most Dutch people feel to the tradition, and their annoyance at outsiders who judge it without understanding it.

On Tuesday a U.N. expert condemned the tradition as racist.

In the festival, St. Nicholas arrives in mid-November accompanied by a horde of helpers — the Black Petes, who also have red lips and curly hair. Opponents say they are an offensive caricature of black people; supporters say Pete is a figure of fun whose appearance is harmless.

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