No apology from Johan Derksen over racist joke about Zwarte Piet and musician Akwasi

Johan Derksen interviewed in April 2012
Johan Derksen interviewed in April 2012NTRdiversiteitYouTubeCC-BY

Johan Derksen will not apologize for the "joke" he made about Zwarte Piet and ant-racism activist and rapper Akwasi on Veronica Inside last week. "I do not regret this joke at all, although it was a wrong joke. It arose spontaneously at the table," he said on Monday on the football program, reports.

"I had never heard of Akwasi. I saw him screaming and calling for aggression and violence during the demonstration on Dam Square. Otherwise it was a peaceful and good demonstration. How is it that such a person hijacks such a demonstration?" Derksen said on Monday. "When that Zwarte Piet came into the picture, I said cynically that it was Akwasi. In this program you have opinions and jokes. I can hardly say that I think it is a good joke if I have to believe the media. This was a wrong joke and that is enlarged to national riot."

Derksen also said that he doesn't care about how the 'joke' was interpreted. "I don't think it is relevant what Akwasi thinks about it. If that man can act like he does, then I am allowed to make such a joke." Later in the broadcast he said that the remark was probably misplaced against the background of the Black Lives Matter protest. "But it was meant as a joke."

The 'joke' in question was made on the program last week. Derksen said that racism was not too bad in the Netherlands. "I have every respect for people protesting, but I really only see screaming crazies getting the space on TV," he said about protests against racism and police brutality in the Netherlands. The presenters also discussed a counter-protester in Leeuwarden, dressed up as blackface Zwarte Piet and carrying a sign reading "Zwarte Piet Lives Matter". Derksen said: "Are we sure that was not Akwasi?"

The statement led to an uproar on social media, and several advertisers pulling their spots around the program and footballers boycotting the show.

"I am a lawyer and I always speak to people one-to-one. I wonder: what was your intention?" asked Natacha Harlequin, an attorney and guest on the show. She said the comment served no other purpose than to lash out at Akwasi's skin color. "I don't think you're a racist," she said. "But can you choose to have empathy? I am concerned about this country. Can you use empathy to understand what some people feel about such a comment?"

Veronica decided not to reprimand Derksen for the statement. According to the channel, the men at the table are responsible for their statements. Though the channel added that Veronica is "for freedom of expression and against deliberately hurting fellow people or populations."

Veronica Inside had 1.7 million viewers on Monday, far more than usual.