Woman's Viral Post on Incident Abroad Highlights Why So Many People Fear 'Traveling While Black'

July 11th 2017

Adeshina Emmanuel

A group of black creatives and activists from South Africa were late checking out of an apartment they rented in Amsterdam via Airbnb when their angry Dutch host, a white man, demanded they leave.

The violent, horrific moments that followed are documented in a 33-second viral video posted to Instagram Sunday.


One of the guests, filmmaker Sibahle Nkumbi, is heard in the video telling the host "don't be emotional," as she makes her way out of the apartment.

The man appears to start pushing Nkumbi at the top of a stairwell with no railing, and she resists, but there's nothing for her to cling to, so he seems to overpower the woman and sends her flying head first down the steep flight of stairs. Nkumbi says she woke up in the hospital after suffering a concussion, and was left with internal injuries and bruises.

"One of my friends/ Inkanyiso crew members was pushed downstairs by the Airbnb owner where we stayed. He threw their belongings out ... for few mins late checkout. She collapsed and ended up in hospital. She suffered internal injuries and bruises. Am so angry with this I couldn't even sleep. This is racism and can't be justified... violence on black bodies as you can see in this video," wrote Zanele Muholi in the caption of the video from the incident, which she posted on Instagram.

It's no secret that Airbnb has a well-documented problem with race.

"Police said the alleged victim, South African woman Siba Nkumbi, had been treated for her injuries in hospital and would press charges," according to Reuters. While the case is still under investigation, there's no way to conclude the man's motive for allegedly attacking Nkumbi.

However, people of color have reported discrimination while renting - or trying to book - spaces through Airbnb in the past. The company acknowledged as much in a report last year and pledged to address discrimination. In the meantime, several startups have emerged offering alternatives for people of color wary of using Airbnb.

In recent years, there has been a movement of black people traveling abroad and encouraging other black people to travel. However, there's a dark side to blacks traveling to foreign countries: racial bias. For instance, the Netherlands, like most places in Europe, isn't exactly a bastion of tolerance and racial sensitivity. The Netherlands has seen a surge of xenophobic attacks against Muslims and refugees entering the country. Black Dutch politician Sylvana Simons has suffered racist backlash for her political efforts. And, of course, there's Zwarte Piet. ​

The New York Times delved into the good and bad of "traveling while black," with this 2014 essay from Farai Chideya.

"That isn’t to say that the experience of traveling while black is one high note after the other. There are bias attacks on blacks in the United States and abroad. Last year, for example, the United States State Department issued an advisory, still in effect, about Greece warning that 'there has been a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants. U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descent.' And there are high-profile but low-danger incidents, as when Oprah Winfrey was denied a look at a $38,000 purse in Switzerland — 'too expensive,' the billionaire said a sales assistant told her."

In Greece, it was recently reported that Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old black man, was beaten to death by 10 men. The recent graduate from the University of Arizona was "in Greece working on a photo shoot to launch a new clothing line when the incident took place, his family told CNN affiliate KXAN," CNN reported, adding, "Two people, a 32-year-old Serbian and a 34-year-old Greek national, have been arrested. Police are searching for others who may be involved."

ATTN: was unable to track down the alleged offender in the Amsterdam incident, but here's an account from the survivor posted to Youtube Sunday:

She claimed she and her friends were renting an apartment from a Dutch couple and were about an hour late checking out when the wife came to the door upset. She claimed the woman scolded them about their delay and told them to get out. Nkumbi says she apologized and asked for a little more time to finish packing, but the woman returned with her husband who banged on the door. Nkumbi alleged the man was verbally abusive, referred to the group as "you people," and made an array of other comments she believed were racist. She claimed he lambasted them by saying: "You're not the queen that you think you are," and "this is not Africa," in addition to deriding them as artists before things reportedly grew violent.

Visual artist and activist Muholi was one of the South African guests who witnessed the attack. Nkumbi was there in Amsterdam to support the opening of Muholi's photo exhibition, "Faces and Phases" at the Stedelijk Museum, which focused on South Africa's LGBT community.

Muholi posted the Instagram video of her friend's assault, which has been viewed nearly 40,000 times as of Tuesday morning. Nearly 3,000 people have commented on the post. Some echo Muholi's accusations of racism and have offered their support, while others have instead left racist comments themselves - or argued in support of the host - or cautioned people to reserve judgments because the video doesn't show the events leading up to the violent incident.

Zanele Muholi Instagram

David King, director of diversity & belonging at Airbnb, issued this statement to ATTN: in response to the attack:

"Appalling and unconscionable behavior against members of our community runs counter to everything Airbnb stands for. Our CEO Brian Chesky and I are reaching out to the affected guests. We will take the strongest actions we can against such abhorrent conduct, including banning people for life from our platform and assisting law enforcement with their investigation and potential prosecution. Nobody should ever be treated like this and it will not be tolerated."

A spokesperson for the Amsterdam public prosecutor said the unnamed man, 47, was arrested and has been charged with attempted manslaughter for the attack on Nkumbi, IOL reported.​