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4 1, 8:56pm
Interesting, but still it does not really explain why black pete is a stereotype of a black servant and not just some black-guy with bird-like features.
I just read about this because I didn't know black pete. Turns out we call it "Père Fouettard" (Père = Father and Fouettard doesn't really mean anything but it comes from the word "fouet" = whip) in France and I knew the name, but I didn't make the connection with "black pete"
I'm still wondering how black pete came to be as he is today, because he's originally not meant to be a black servant (which he clearly is), he's supposed to punish children that behaved poorly. I believe he's called Krampus in germany but has evolved into a nicer version in netherlands for some reason (Krampus is more demon-like, and has devil horns and animal face).
The more likely explanation is that those 2 come from the same characters (that may have derived from a christianisation of Odin in germany) and my bet is at some point, santa's follower evolved into black pete and Krampus.
NB1: While black pete is santa's follower as santa's servant, Krampus is santa's follower as the one that comes after santa to punish unruly children, so even the meaning of follower seem to have diverged at some point.
NB2: While Krampus is easy to see as the christian dual of santa (santa is the saint and krampus is the demon), it's harder to see what black pete is. But If I had to guess, I'll say that first black pete had the same role as Krampus and was devil-like, but for some reason (xenophobia ?) it was represented as a black person, then as society changed, he just became a black servant (slavery and all that jazz) of santa... So in my opinion, it probably involves some sort of racism or xenophobia at some point in history but well... As does almost all human history after all.
That being said, to me, the real question is not "was it racist at some point in time ?" but "is it racist today ?"
And quite frankly, a big party that features a white man with his black servant is not racist per say but it's still reaaaally clumsy... And if you really think black pete comes from some raven servant of wotan, then just drop the servant costume (that probably comes from a 18th century version of the character anyway) and give him a bird one.