‘It doesn’t stop’

Belgium’s lone black TV presenter says she’s ‘had enough’ of staying silent about racial abuse

TV weather presenter Cécile Djunga grew emotional while recalling racist comments made to her by viewers. (Facebook)

A social media post from Belgium’s only black TV presenter detailing the racially abusive comments she receives on a daily basis has gone viral, prompting calls to improve diversity on the nation’s airwaves — and even a statement of a support from Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel. In a Facebook post that has since been viewed upwards of 2.4 million times, Cécile Djunga, 29, explained to viewers that she had recently received a bizarre call from a woman who complained that her skin was “too black” to show up properly on her television and urged that someone else replace her.

While Djunga initially laughed about the “absurdity” of the comment, she soon grew emotional and began to recall other incidents of racism she had endured since she took on the lead weather presenter role for broadcaster RTBF in 2017.

“It doesn’t stop,” she confessed, according to a translation of the video provided by The Guardian. “I’ve been doing this job for a year and I’m fed up of getting tons of racist and insulting messages … It hurts because I’m a human being. Obviously, I try to rise above it because I’m someone who keeps moving forward. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it — it’s just a vocal minority. But actually it’s just not funny any more. Getting ‘filthy nigger, go back to your country’ actually isn’t funny.”

“So I’ve had enough,” she continued. “I’ve been doing this for a year and I haven’t said anything. I want to move forward, I say nothing. But now, I’ve had enough so I’ve decided that I’m going to talk about it because there are too many people in Belgium who think racism doesn’t exist, but that’s not true.”

In the wake of Djunga’s comments, Belgium papers such as Le Soir published articles calling for broadcasters to make a push for greater diversity in the nation’s television industry, a call that was answered by promises from RTBF and some other broadcasters to hire more diverse TV presenters. Prime Minister Charles Michel also addressed the video, noting that he was planning action to try to curb racism against blacks and Jews in the country — a promise that was bolstered by the recent revelation that a youth movement once beloved but since disavowed by N-VA, the anti-immigration Flemish nationalist party, was actually a cover for a far right anti-semitic group.

Djunga, for her part, told The Observer on Saturday that she was “not an activist” or “spokesperson” but that she was glad to see her video drew such a tremendous response. Many Belgians, she said, were also in denial about the country’s dark colonial history, which includes the killing of 10 to 15 million people in slave labor camps during King Leopold II’s brutal rule over the Congo Free State between 1885 and 1908.

“I think in Belgium we have a problem in that we never explained the truth about colonization, and it should be told in the schools,” she said. “Black people, but not just black people, are explaining their suffering. And we have to talk about that. We should not be ashamed … The racists are a minority. Belgium is behind — but it can change.”

Watch Djunga’s video below.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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