Not ‘too black’ to fight back

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - World/region -

BRUS­SELS – Cé­cile Djunga has been pre­sent­ing the weather on Bel­gian pub­lic TV for a year, and af­ter be­ing sub­jected to a stream of racist com­ments she has de­cided to fight back.

In a five-minute ap­peal on Face­book, Djunga says one viewer rang into work to com­plain she was “too black and all peo­ple could see were my clothes”.

The video went vi­ral, be­ing viewed by a mil­lion peo­ple.

Her em­ployer, RTBF, has given full back­ing to its pre­sen­ter.

Its head, Jean-paul Philip­pot, told Bel­gian ra­dio yes­ter­day that Djunga had passed on a string of mes­sages she had re­ceived in re­cent months and had not re­acted to them.

“There’s no place for this tor­rent of mud in Bel­gium,” he said. “Racism is a crime, pun­ish­able by law.”

As well as be­ing a weather pre­sen­ter on Bel­gium’s French­language pub­lic TV, Cé­cile Djunga has carved out a ca­reer as a stand-up comic, with a show called Al­most Fa­mous.

In her Face­book ap­peal she starts off say­ing: “If you want a good laugh, I’ve got a good one for you to­day”, be­fore talk­ing about the woman who rang in to say she was “too black”.

This com­plaint, she ex­plained later, was for her the fi­nal straw. And her anger in the video is clear.

“It doesn’t stop. I’ve been do­ing this job for a year and I’m fed up of get­ting tonnes of racist and in­sult­ing mes­sages . . . . It hurts be­cause I’m a hu­man be­ing.”

Close to tears she goes on to say that some of the mes­sages use racist words, telling her “Go back to your coun­try”, adding that she chose to speak out be­cause too many Bel­gians be­lieved that racism did not ex­ist there.

Speak­ing on Bel­gian TV late on Wed­nes­day evening she said it was im­por­tant to broaden the de­bate about racism and not fo­cus just on her.

Many peo­ple had told her of their own ex­pe­ri­ence as vic­tims of racism.

Djunga’s de­ci­sion to go pub­lic re­ceived wide­spread sup­port.

Her story also prompted a po­lit­i­cal re­sponse in Bel­gium, with se­nior mem­bers of the Wal­loon gov­ern­ment in Bel­gium urg­ing the me­dia to pro­mote equal­ity and di­ver­sity.

“I am Bel­gian and now they’re go­ing to stop telling me to go back to my coun­try. Be­cause this is my coun­try,” she said.

(Rtbf/martin God­froid)

Cé­cile Djunga

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