Dutch Newspaper NRC has caused uproar after it published the n-word in the headline for the review of Ta-Nehisi Coates' book Between The World And Me.
The NRC told IBTimes UK that the headline, which reads "N*****, are you crazy?" had not caused the publication to receive any complaints from Dutch readers and said it only led to a backlash after foreign media and readers picked it up.
"We are really discomforted by how this has been perceived," a spokesman said. "We are accused of racism, while we are far from racists and the headline is part of a quote but people who enquire about this haven't even read the headline."
The article was accompanied by an illustration similar to black cartoons used in times of constitutional racism with enlarged, red lips and almost entirely black skin. Dutch people did not respond to the headline or the illustration in the newspaper, in which the article was published on 31 July. The Dutch translation of the N-word is yet to become a taboo in daily life in the Netherlands.
"If we had known that it would have caused such chaos, we probably would not have published the headline," the spokesman said. However, the headline is still published on the newspaper's website. He added: "We really didn't expect such a strong reaction and we are very shocked by the international response." The NRC is considered a liberal newspaper and often tackles issues as inequality, sexism, homophobia and racism.
Washington blogger Karen Attiah wrote a blog post on the offensive article and blackface cartoons after outraged social media users expressed their concerns on social media.
The review, written by Dutch journalist Guus Valk, does tackle the issue of racism and argues that white US citizens have a naive perception that racism is over in the country. It deals with the death of black young men Michael Brown and Freddie Ray, who were killed by white men, and compares historical issues of racism in the US with events in the 21st century.
The Netherlands is considered one of the most liberal nations in Europe with progressive sex and drug laws but is annually accused of racism over the controversial Black Peter, a black-faced character in the wildly popular Saint Nicholas celebrations in December.
Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party is a movement against Islam and Islamisation of Europe, has been the centre of controversy for years. Wilders now wants to exhibit cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which caused international backlash.