Amsterdam mayor: Black Pete fantasy figure's "negroid character" to be slowly erased

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Amsterdam's mayor and organizers of a large children's winter festival have unveiled plans to reform the image of "Black Pete" — the sidekick to the Dutch Santa Claus — to remove perceived racist elements.

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said Thursday the "negroid character" of Pete's appearance will disappear over a period of years.

Black Pete has become the subject of protests in the Netherlands, as opponents say he is a caricature of an African slave carried over from colonial times: Pete is usually portrayed by white people wearing blackface makeup, bold red lipstick and frizzy "Afro" wigs.

A large majority of the Netherlands' mostly white population say Pete is a positive figure and deny any racial insult. But a court and racism experts have found his appearance offensive.