De La Senne Equinox changed to Zwarte Piet

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by chinabeergeek, May 15, 2013.

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  1. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Pooh-Bah (1,837) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts

    this is disturbing and saddening news for me. i loved equinox, and i love de la senne. but the change of the beer's name and label to the zwarte piet (black peter) character seems deliberate and intended to offend. and for what reason? to preserve a "tradition" of racist blackface caricature.
  2. impending

    impending Pooh-Bah (2,621) Mar 12, 2010 California
    Pooh-Bah Society

    I've not seen a new label and their website shows the label they have been using
    I understand the "Zwarte Piet is Racist" thing but this is from an american perspective
    I don't have a Belgian friend particularly a black Belgian friend to ask his opinion
    a label change is only by deliberation but supposing it is intended to offend is not a safe assumption - I suggest you ask the brewer
    I also don't know if everyone sees Zwarte as St Nic's servant/slave or an employee of sorts
    racism must cease everywhere entirely
    but if the Belgian culture does not see blackface as racism then it is not
    even if it unequivocally would be racist in America

    the brew is a low B+ at best
    VABA likes this.
  3. 77black_ships

    77black_ships Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2012 Belgium

    It is most likely a reference to the Tintin comic. Often criticized for being racist in other countries. In Belgium most have learned to accept that the past was like that & we are okay with referencing it instead of hiding all of it in the darkness and pretending that such things never existed nor do they continue to exist.

    Those who have forgotten the past are bound to repeat it.
  4. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Pooh-Bah (1,837) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts

    many "white nationalist" and neo-nazi groups also honestly don't believe they are racist. doesn't mean they actually aren't. i mean hell, brad paisley just unintentionally proved that being an "accidental racist" still means you're racist. :wink:

    zwarte piet has actually finally started to be challenged within the netherlands, even though it is still mainstream. to deny there is any controversy around it would either be naive or outright dishonest.
    AlexFields likes this.
  5. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Pooh-Bah (1,837) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts

    there is a difference between remembering the mistakes of past, and mocking those who suffered under it.
    afrokaze likes this.
  6. afrokaze

    afrokaze Pooh-Bah (1,933) Jun 12, 2009 Oregon
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Never had the beer, but that seems like a really weird arbitrary label change. As a black man I sure as hell wouldn't buy it - even if it's not racist in Belgian culture, it's pretty much the same as that old southern "folk art" crap with dancing big lipped characters eating watermelon that people try to justify as "collectibles."
    AlexFields, Etan and chinabeergeek like this.
  7. 77black_ships

    77black_ships Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2012 Belgium

    The zwarte piet thing is racist as hell.

    The label not really. It is just a black guy wearing an explorers outfit form from 50’s an iconic way of dressing. He is not even a blackface his mouth is just open from the shock of seeing a monster. To me he is just a black explorer.
  8. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    You're killing me with the omission of periods in your typing.
  9. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Glad someone from Belgium chimed in. I was just in Brussels a couple weeks ago and grabbed a bottle of Zwart Piet at a beer shop because I had never seen it before and always like trying new Senne beers. Had no idea it was in fact the new label/name for Equinox, but that's ok because I have never gotten the chance to try that beer.

    Anyway, I did find the label odd, but didn't think much of it. Having read an article about ZP and Holland's tradition, I find it incredibly racist. Not the beer, just the tradition. I'm under the impression that De La Senne likes to get a rise out of people and furthermore, Holland is not Belgium, so it's not like it's their tradition.

    To the OP, you ever see the label for the Scheve Tabernak? Sorry for some reason I cant post pictures on here...never loads properly.
  10. doopiedoopiedoo

    doopiedoopiedoo Initiate (0) Oct 2, 2010 Netherlands

    Actually in Flanders Sinterklaas' helpers are also Zwarte Piet. Same tradition. Same heritage.
    Yes it's racist but it's not intended to hurt feelings, yet it does. There is a movement going on over here but it's small and I do not think the tradition will be altered one way or the other any time soon. Most of the fierce critics on this matter come from the U.S.. The children for whom the tradition is meant can make out the difference between a Zwarte Piet and my friends of an African/ Suriname background. My Suriname friends (the black ones) usually don't really care and have their children join in the festivities as well. Zwarte Piet and all...
    pixieskid likes this.
  11. Etan

    Etan Initiate (0) Jul 11, 2011 Wisconsin

    Here's the label, for anyone wondering...

    Notice how the explorer's skin tone is the exact same color as the animals he is observing. His mouth is also red, just like those of the animals'. Even without that the association the name alone brings is at least in bad taste...
    Suffice to say that if this beer was produced by an American brewery it would probably not receive label approval.
  12. Etan

    Etan Initiate (0) Jul 11, 2011 Wisconsin

    You sure about that?

    There's no such thing as a monolithic "Belgian culture." Sure, there are shared values/cultural motifs, but it's not as if every Belgian citizen endorses the same things. If any Belgian is offended by Zwarte Piet, it is no longer a matter of "Belgian culture" vs. the rest of the world. Even if all Belgians were ok with it, it could potentially be offensive to black people everywhere. Endorsement within Belgium doesn't decide whether it's racist or not.
  13. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Pooh-Bah (1,837) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts

    ok, well, here is the response from the brewers, via a shelton brothers rep:

    I admit the label is unclear, and I wanted to change it since the very first draft. But Bernard and our designer didn't. For a good reason: it is actually an anti-racist label, but too difficult to understand if you don't have the context.The label is a mocking of the first cover of "Tintin in Congo", who is a "beautiful" example of the commonly accepted racism of the 1930's. We changed Tintin into a black character to have the (Belgian) people thinking about our scandalous colonialist past. The design error for me is the following: instead of having an evident black character (like a black taras boulba or so - which I suggested), our designer worked on another Tintin item, which is a Fetish, appearing on another comics. It creates a visual and meaning confusion then, as, and especially on a small label, the character resembles a caricature of a black guy...I understand the reaction of your client, but is is of course extremely shocking to us, as we are well known to be totally anti-racists people! Ask Francis, or the hundreds of Foreigners I worked with and for when I was a social worker!I'll talk about this with the others, hoping to change it quickly.
    pixieskid, Etan and impending like this.
  14. cbeer88

    cbeer88 Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2007 Massachusetts

    I have to say, being completely unfamiliar with Zwarte Piet, I would not look at this label and jump to racism. I'd just assume the artist was trying to depict some kind of run of the mill African safari scene. I might jump to an accusation of "blackface", but upon closer inspection the art style and color palette suggest something more playful.

    Now knowing what Zwarte Piet is, I can kind of see what you're saying with the black/red colors. But we are all animals, and it's not like a chicken or a lion have ever been used to negatively stereotype black people. If they were really going for racism, they could have easily replaced that lion with a gorilla/monkey, and even left out the chicken.

    I don't know enough about the local culture of Zwarte Piet to comment on the greater sin of using that name for a beer, but the label itself wouldn't push me away from the beer.
  15. geocool

    geocool Initiate (0) Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    Thanks, Etan, for posting the label. My initial reaction is that it is racist as hell. But it is interesting to read the brewer's explanation that it is actually satire, mocking racist Tintin comics from the 30's. As a non-Belgian, of course I didn't get the reference, nor can I imagine that anyone would expect me to. So it is still ridiculous that this label was approved for export outside of Belgium, and I expect them to change it ASAP. The whole thing reminds me of the reaction to that racist New Yorker cover of Obama from 2008, remember the outrage over that? When you're mocking racism, it's very hard to avoid being the thing that you are mocking.
  16. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Pooh-Bah (1,837) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts

    if one had no idea about zwarte piet or tintin, i suppose the label might not even come across as a black man. the face frankly looks like a gas mask or welder's mask.

    anyway, as geocool said, it seems like a dumb, if honest, mistake on their part, to think that people would "get" the joke. and even the joke itself treads on thin ice. comparing to the original, it's a mildly plausible stretch, at best, to see how they were going for irony:

  17. 77black_ships

    77black_ships Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2012 Belgium

    Indeed Belgium knows Zwarte Piet as well.
    As said above Tintin is the first thing, I thought of as pretty much everyone in Belgium is probably bound to do.
  18. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Fair enough, I had no idea it was a Belgian tradition as well...Americans are known to be pretty sensitive in regards to racism, sexism, etc. (Despite the fact that we were/are some of the worst offenders in regards to those things).
  19. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Maybe I'm just another ignorant American, but until this thread came about, I was not familiar with Zwart Piet and this label meant absolutely nothing to me other than it was another odd, yet intriguing label for a De La Senne beer, so I bought it. As such, I dont think there would be any problem if an American brewery released this label with or without the name, unless people started doing some research...
  20. sajaffe1

    sajaffe1 Initiate (0) Feb 16, 2013 Utah

    I don't care if another culture has a fun harmless tradition that happens to be politically incorrect by American standards. If you find the label offensive, don't buy the beer.
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