World

Highest Dutch sidesteps debate on whether Dutch 'Black Pete' character is racist stereotype

  • People wearing T-shirts reading "World Against Racism, No More Black Pete" and holding a poster with a picture of Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan attend the ruling over a complaint that the city of Amsterdam had no right to authorize a parade with Black Pete because he is a negative stereotype of black people, at the highest Dutch administrative in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The court declined to wade into the increasingly acrimonious national debate around Black Pete, the black-faced sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus, and ruled that the city of Amsterdam was right to grant a permit for parade with Black Petes. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    People wearing T-shirts reading "World Against Racism, No More Black Pete" and holding a poster with a picture of Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan attend the ruling over a complaint that the city of Amsterdam had no right to authorize a parade with Black Pete because he is a negative stereotype of black people, at the highest Dutch administrative in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The court declined to wade into the increasingly acrimonious national debate around Black Pete, the black-faced sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus, and ruled that the city of Amsterdam was right to grant a permit for parade with Black Petes. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

  • People listen as court President Jaap Polak reads the ruling over a complaint that Black Pete is a negative stereotype of black people, at the highest Dutch administrative court over in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The court declined to wade into the increasingly acrimonious national debate around Black Pete, the black-faced sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus, and ruled that the city of Amsterdam was right to grant a permit for parade with Black Petes. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    People listen as court President Jaap Polak reads the ruling over a complaint that Black Pete is a negative stereotype of black people, at the highest Dutch administrative court over in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The court declined to wade into the increasingly acrimonious national debate around Black Pete, the black-faced sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus, and ruled that the city of Amsterdam was right to grant a permit for parade with Black Petes. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

  • Court President Jaap Polak reads the ruling over a complaint that the city of Amsterdam had no right to grant permission for a parade with Black Pete because he is a negative stereotype of black people, at the highest Dutch administrative in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The court has waded into the increasingly acrimonious national debate around Black Pete, the black-faced sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus, and ruled that the city of Amsterdam was right to grant a permit for the parade based solely on the analysis of security risks, and that the organizers of the parade were the ones to be held accountable for possible negative stereotyping. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Court President Jaap Polak reads the ruling over a complaint that the city of Amsterdam had no right to grant permission for a parade with Black Pete because he is a negative stereotype of black people, at the highest Dutch administrative in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The court has waded into the increasingly acrimonious national debate around Black Pete, the black-faced sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus, and ruled that the city of Amsterdam was right to grant a permit for the parade based solely on the analysis of security risks, and that the organizers of the parade were the ones to be held accountable for possible negative stereotyping. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

The Netherlands' highest administrative court has refused to wade into the increasingly acrimonious national debate around "Black Pete," the sidekick to the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus.

Opponents call Pete, who is often played by white people wearing black-face makeup and a frizzy Afro wig, a racist caricature. Most Dutch people insist he is a harmless fantasy figure.

The Council of State on Wednesday overturned a lower court's decision that Amsterdam municipality shouldn't have allowed last year's festive arrival of Sinterklaas in the city because Pete "forms a negative stereotyping of black people."

Council of State president Jaap Polak didn't rule on the issue of whether Pete is discriminatory. Instead, he said Amsterdam's mayor isn't empowered to take the issue into account when granting permits for the celebrations.