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Just like the Dutch, the Spanish found nothing wrong with wearing racist blackface

January 09, 2019 at 02:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Staff Writer

January 09, 2019 at 02:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Spanish teenagers in blackface at the Three Kings Parade -- Screenshot via Ruptly

The more things change, the more things stay the same and it seems like a section of white people still can’t get their heads over the fact that donning blackface is absolutely unacceptable despite consistent condemnation by black people and activists.

In Spain, as part of their Christmas and New Year celebrations, people wearing the racist blackface depicting certain characters are seen as inoffensive but rather a part of their culture and centuries-old traditions.

It is with this notion that the Three Kings parade and Three Kings Day is observed annually in January. The parade marks the arrival of the three wise men or three kings – Balthazar (who is portrayed as black), Melchior and Gaspar at the birthplace of Jesus Christ bearing gifts.

According to Independent, the procession, which dates back to the 19th century features the three kings, with Balthazar in blackface walking through the streets and dishing out sweets and gifts to children.

Unlike other Christmas rituals where children apparently receive their presents from Santa Claus on Christmas day, Spanish children receive theirs from the Three Kings on the Three Kings Day on January 6.

Popular Spanish footballer Andrés Iniesta was heavily criticized for sharing a photo to mark the Three Kings Day with two people in blackface

In the town of Alcoy, which has hosted the parade longer than any other location in the country, that is since 1885, a video was shared by Ruptly of teenagers in blackface with exaggerated red lips handing out gifts to children in the parade.

A Councilmember, during the parade, was asked if it was racist depicting Balthazar in blackface but he begged to differ.

“It’s in no way a racist act; it doesn’t have any racist connotation, quite the opposite. As I said earlier, we consider him to be a very beloved and highly valued character within the cavalcade itself, if it were truly a racist act, all these kids would not want to take part in this event.”

This blackface depiction is similar to that of the controversial Dutch Christmas character, Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). Despite years of protest, the tradition continues.

During this event, thousands of Dutch holidaymakers paint their faces black and lips red to parade the streets ahead of Christmas festivities depicting Black Pete – a Dutch folklore character who assists Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus or Sinterklaas in Dutch).

Blackface wearing white people in the Netherlands — Photo: snippet from “Black Pete, Zwarte Piet: The Documentary” by Shantrelle P. Lewis

Black Pete first appeared in an 1850 book by Amsterdam school teacher Jan Schenkman who introduced him as a Moor from Spain. He distributes sweets and presents to children on the eve of December 5 which is the festival of Sinterklaas.

However, the blackface, afro hair and red lips have been widely condemned as racist by activists who equate it to the black minstrel shows in 19th century America when white actors wore black faces depicting black people as slow and dumb.

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