Dutch Newspaper Reviews Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New Book, Uses Headline, ‘N--ger, Are You Crazy?’

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book review in NRC

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest book, Between the World and Me, has earned widespread praise across the U.S., with many nodding at Coates’ unforgiving examination of race in America.

A Dutch newspaper decided that the best way to present a review of said book was to slap the headline “Nigger, Are You Crazy?” on the view, accompanied by images of blackface figures, the Washington Post reports, sparking outage.


Following the backlash, the Post reports, Michel Krielaars, the editor of the book supplement for the newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, decided to take down the online illustrations so as not to “offend non-Dutch speakers who only read Twitter,” although the images can still be found online.

Krielaars told the Post in emails about the article that “it dealt with the persistence of racism and the continuing inequality in the US. The tone of the article is pessimistic, and the illustrations, as well as the headline, were meant to reflect that. There is no racist remark to be read in the review, because that is not our cup of tea.”


The headline was taken from a fictional quote by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Paul Beatty's satirical novel The Sellout, Krielaars told the Post, another nod at race relations and discussions in the U.S.

“When choosing the headline, we aimed at the intended audience of the piece: Dutch readers of the book section (black, white, but: Dutch readers),” Krielaars continued in his email, according to the Post. “Because ‘N—’ is an English word, the offensive value in Dutch is not as direct as it is in English, comparable with the effect of less racially sensitive swear words. We realized the word is offensive, but in the headline it was meant to focus on the pessimistic message of Paul Beatty’s book when he gave the line to his fictional Clarence Thomas. Considering the fuss in your country it would have been better if we had put the headline between quotation marks.”


As the Post notes, although the content of the article may shock many people outside the Netherlands, the country of 16 million people has a population that’s 80 percent white. Many of them, in stubborn tone-deafness, have fought and petitioned to keep a racist character, Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, as part of its Christmas traditions.

The Petes are essentially Santa’s helpers (or servants) who wear blackface and red lipstick and don “Afro” wigs.


Read more at the Washington Post.

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