This recently emerged clip from 1997 shows the Spice Girls shutting down a TV host in the Netherlands for bringing on a group of performers donning blackface.
The Spice Girls appeared on the “Laat de Leeuw” show and were bonding with their young fans when the host, Paul De Leeuw, introduced a group of white people in blackface, called “Zwarte Piet,” or Black Pete. As part of a (controversial) Dutch Christmas tradition, both adults and children dress up as “Black Petes,” the black helpers of Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Santa).
“I think they shouldn’t paint their faces. You should get proper black people to do it,” Mel B, Scary Spice, said. “I don’t think that’s very good.”
“But it’s tradition, it’s culture,” Paul De Leeuw replied in defense.
“It’s the 90s,” Mel B said.
“Update your culture,” Geri, Ginger Spice, added.
Check out the full clip below:
In the last few years, many in the Netherlands have been protesting against the folklore character of Black Pete. In fact, the character first emerged from a 19th century book called “Saint Nicholas and His Servant,” where he is, in fact, a slave.
Protesters in the Netherlands argue that continuing the tradition of sporting blackface to represent “Zwarte Piet” reinforces negative stereotypes of black people and may even contribute to the discrimination people of color face in the Netherlands. Yet, many traditionalists aren’t too happy about these protests and have even responded in violent and threatening manners.
So even 20 years later, the issue the Spice Girls pointed out is still being heavily debated. Good on them for speaking their minds about it.
Top Image via Wikimedia.