It was my social media network that first told me about the terrorist attacks in Paris, France.
I was working my part-time gig, thus unable to keep up with what was happening to the world outside giving good customer service. I was curious, but I also did not want to get fired for playing on my phone during work hours. So I decided to wait until I got off before exploring the topic further.
But when I got home a few hours later, the debate had already started. And before I could even process what had actually happened, folks were already calling out other folks for being sheeplike privileged racists and coons who cared more about the lives of White westerners than they do those of brown skin.
More specifically, how come we #PrayforFrance and not Beirut, Lebanon who just a couple of days before the Paris attacks, suffered major causalities at the hands of terrorists as well? And how come there were no social media safety alerts when 147 people were killed by terrorists at Garissa University College earlier this year in Kenya? And where was the international media coverage of the Baga terrorist attacks, which killed up to 2,000 people in Nigeria?
Again, how come folks only care about terrorism is when it happens to mostly western Whites?
Well unless those questions are meant as an exercise in self-actualization than I’m going to have to throw a flag on the play.
Unlike what our social media timelines have been telling us all weekend, the reality is that Baga attacks in Nigeria were covered by the Guardian, USA Today, CNN, MIC, The Washington Post, Alternet, BBC, Fox News, ABC, Vox and even Bossip back in January when it first happened (I am not posting all of those links, but here is the Google search query).
So why are folks just learning about it?
And the Garissa University attacks, which happened back in April in Kenya, was also covered by CNN, BBC, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Fox News, the New York Post, ABC News, the Washington Post, the Telegraph UK, The Washington Journal, Huffington Post, NBC News, The LA Times , Al Jazerra and yes, even Bossip again (Search query).
According to the Wall Street Journal, Kenyan social media activists Ory Okolloh Mwangi even made a hashtag called #147notjustanumber, which was meant to “humanize victims of terror.”
So my question is why didn’t folks share it?
And just a couple of days before the Parisian attacks, the White House released a statement, which said in part:
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s horrific terrorist attacks in Beirut, Lebanon that killed dozens and wounded hundreds more. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and other loved ones of those killed and injured in this violence. The United States will stand firm with the Government of Lebanon as it works to bring those responsible for this attack to justice. Such acts of terror only reinforce our commitment to support the institutions of the Lebanese state, including the security services, to ensure a stable, sovereign, and secure Lebanon.”
And yet even with this attention from the highest office in the land, I had not seen one single flag filter on anyone’s profile pic paying homage to the tragedy.
The point is that the news has been out there. But what has always been missing in all of this is our own individual awareness and action.
Listen I get it: France as an imperialist nation is a mofo. But at the same time, we can not blame the imperialists for not physically shoving the news we supposedly want to see and care about down our throats. We should be more well-versed in how society works to know that ain’t happening – at least without provocation.
I guarantee you if folks would have made a big stink about those stories (aka paying attention, sharing on social media, being inspired to action), particularly at the time when it occurred, every single news station in this country would have made it the lead story for a solid week. You know why?
Because our interest is what ultimately sells papers and brings in the advertising dollars, just like it did with the Ebola scare, or at least part of it. We kind of all flaked on the thousands of people who died in West Africa.
And our interest is what makes world leaders respond, just like what happened when the White House was forced to address the question of “what we were going to do about the 2,000 Chibok Nigerian schoolgirls girls kidnapped by Boko Haram?” And our interest is what keeps movements alive, just like all those retweets on social media helped to give international attention to the masses of student protests happening South Africa.
At the end of the day, we don’t need the media to tell you to care. As far as I am concerned, it did its job in reporting the news. The caring part comes from us. And we have the power and the tools to care about ourselves on our own.
At this point, using those real tragedies in Nigeria, Kenya and Lebanon to shame France, the U.S government, the Western media and your “sheeple” next door neighbor with the French flag Facebook filter as his profile picture, just feels like exploitation.
And if we must shame someone, it should be ourselves for not valuing our own freedom like we tell others to do and for being disinterested in the people we personally forgot to care about…