De Telegraaf, Holland’s most popular newspaper, is besides itself with apologies over a highly un-PC faux pas committed on its website: an article rounding up global reactions to the passing of the South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, linked his death with a black-face character in the traditional Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas.
Sinterklaas, or Sint Nicolaas, is celebrated annually on Saint Nicholas’ eve (December 5) in the Netherlands.
According to the AP, the opening sentence of the article said Friday that Mandela “died on the very night of St. Nicholas (with Black Pete).”
Saint Nicholas’ helper Black Pete is traditionally portrayed by actors in black-face makeup.
AP reports that this character has been the focus of a debate in the Netherlands between fans of traditional Sinterklaas and those who see Black Pete as a racist phenomenon.
The White rulers of South African who enacted the racist laws which Mandela spent his life fighting, were mostly descendants of settlers from the Netherlands and Britain.
The Telegraaf apologized, blaming the “tasteless link” on “an unfortunate convergence of circumstances.”