Racist reactions force journalist to stop writing column in Dutch newspaper

Het Parool and Trouw buildings in Amsterdam (Photo: Janericloebe/Wikimedia Commons)Het Parool and Trouw buildings in Amsterdam (Photo: Janericloebe/Wikimedia Commons)

Seada Nourhussen decided to stop writing her column in newspaper Trouw due to the "extreme, negative and sometimes racist reactions" she receives, the newspaper's chief editors said in a statement. The journalist feels that the negative reactions are too focused on her person, instead of on the content of her column.

Trouw is sorry to see her go "given her important contribution in the public debate on the way we in the Netherlands treat each other". Nourhussen said she will explain her decision at a later stage. "For background, information and that."

In her column on August 23rd, Nourhussen mentioned the reactions she gets on social media. In a previous column she wrote about the disappearance of a 14-year-old black girl from Amsterdam, and her father's disappointment that Dutch media took so long to write about her being missing and the lack of public help to find her. The girl was eventually found safe over three weeks after she went missing. "Do you want to claim that I am a racist", was the tenor of many of the reactions Nourhussen received, she wrote. "You only have one goal, and that is to make all 16 million white Dutch people look racist", one reaction read. That person also told Nourhussen that they have a Surinamese son-in-law and would ask Trouw to fire her.

"I very much regret that Seada decided to stop her column. In this current polarized era she held a mirror up to white Netherlands. Seada did that sharply, abrasively, sometimes over the line: exactly what you expect from a good columnist", Trouw editor-in-chief Cees van der Laan said in the newspaper. "I understand Seada's decision. The deluge of negative, sometimes racist reactions was massive. All columnists can talk about this, but with Seada it came in droves. That this becomes too much at a given moment, I understand. As a society, we must be ashamed that this happens to Seada and other courageous people."

Trouw also spoke to other black, female opinion makers about Nourhussen's situation.

"I find it terrible that someone like Seada had to come to this decision", Sylvana Simons, Amsterdam city councilor for Bij1, said to the newspaper. "But of course I understand it very well. I know better than anyone what it is like to get death threats and hate mail: very unhealthy for the recipient. I am very understanding when people say: I don't want this for me."

"People see a picture of a woman, a black woman at that, above my pieces. There is fierce response. The majority of the reactions are zero about the contents of my columns, but about me as a person", Clarice Gargard, NRC columnist and program maker, said to Trouw. "Often I, like Seada, thought I would stop. But I am continuing for now, in the hope that something will change in the problems that are so deeply rooted in our society: institutional racism and other forms of exclusion. Because the media and politics have long ignored the existence of racism that slumbered well before the arrival of social media. And they still do not explicitly take a stand against it."

"While Seada wrote very sharp articles about racism, I find myself more of a columnist from the middle. But I also regularly get racist tirades over me. It is part of the columnist's profession, giving and taking. You hope for discussion, an exchange of arguments. Criticism is good, but racist bombardments have nothing to do with it. It is threatening and damaging. The hatred sometimes affects the themes in my columns", Harried Duurvoort, Volkskrant columnist, said. "That Seada stopped, I find a loss for Trouw. For the entire Dutch media landscape, actually. It was great that there was a strong anti-racist sound in the white mainstream media, as opposed to columnists like Ephimenco. Now she as editor-in-chief of One World is in an anti-racist bubble. But if women like us no longer want to be reduced to our color or sex, then we have to continue to let hour voices be heard in the white bubbles."