Black lives do matter, Sometimes: Kenya Vs Paris

A woman in Nairobi attends a concert in honor of the victims of the terrorist attack that took 147 lives at Garissa University College in April.

     To the universe and it’s creator,

  for the atrocities that take place all over this world and for all of the lives lost unjustly,

 I pray you bring those affected some comfort at this time.

 I pray peace has found all of those who have lost their lives.

 Let the tragedies such as the ones that we have witnessed, remind us to appreciate the value of all human life, and reconnect us with humanitarianism in all of it’s forms. To propel advocacy towards the reduction of worldwide suffering and the eradication of terrorism and massacre.

God is with us.

God is within us.

Ashe

Sunday morning.

I sat  in my living room watching the news coverage of the Paris bombings that had taken place the Friday evening before and were allegedly carried out by members of the extreme Islamic group, ISIS.  I thought of the lives lost and the turmoil it had placed France and it’s citizens in,  and felt genuinely aggrieved for them.

I was also still equally aggrieved over the Massacre at a University in Garissa Kenya,that took place in April of this year and the lack of Western media attention that it received. Both Paris and Kenya experienced tragic incidents, however I am being given the impression that the media do not agree, even though 147 people in Kenya died. In contrast to the lack of airtime Kenya was given, the Paris coverage has been endless. In fact, it has been on loop.

I wonder if the obvious lack of Western news coverage on the Kenya attacks in comparison to the recent Paris attacks, is simply down to an imbalance of newsworthiness between the two stories,  or a case of western de-sensitisation to non-white suffering?

The newsworthiness of black life

Western countries have been viewing images of tragedy and suffering of people from non-western countries for a long time (A good amount of it being a result of western decisions, but let’s not go there today). The media images of such suffering significantly picked up speed during media campaigns to battle the HIV/AIDs pandemic in the continent of Africa in the 1980’s. This has led to other global calls out to western countries via western media for attention and intervention regarding various social issues such as poverty, famine and the affects of civil war in non-western countries. Maybe after all this time,  the well of white tears for non-white suffering has run dry, perhaps?

No more concern for non-white suffering?

The argument of newsworthiness is an interesting one. I am sure if the Garissa university terrorist attack had taken place in an American or European university , it would have been all over our television screens and there would have been one minute silences being set up all over the place. It appears that the constant exposure of non-white suffering to western viewers has made stories like Kenya’s played out and not worth the trouble of covering.

So,  are white lives really more newsworthy than black lives?

When speaking in the case of western media, the answer in short, is yes.

Terrorism for us, ‘Just too bad’ for you

 Aside from the disgust I feel at what has happened to the innocent people who have lost their lives and were injured in Paris, the fact remains that this attack was an ISIS reprisal for France’s part in the ongoing unrest in Syria, and this, apart from it being an attack on a European country, is a significant aspect to the story and the attention that it is receiving.

The perpetrator’s identity is significant because it means that there is now yet another page to add to the western ‘war on terror’ portfolio that The USA and Europe have  been building since that fateful day on September 11th, 2001.  This of course, furthers the agenda toward the inevitable ostracisation of Islam and all of it’s people, despite the extremism of only a few.

Although the Kenya attack was also an act of terrorism, it is widely agreed that the victims of terrorism (especially Islamic terrorism) as shown through the lense of western media, are always presented as  white people in every scenario, and so this story just did not make the cut. How could an event so tragic and paying such little regard to human life not make it through to our Television screens on a global scale?

Well, i argue that it is because the victims just are not white enough.

The fluctuating value of black life

 It all boils down to this: black lives only matter sometimes. Only when the loss of black life is tied by the media to sensationalism, racial tension and victim/aggressor  uncertainty between black and white communities (such as the examples we have been seeing in America recently), is there any real attention given from western media. The 147 people slain in Kenya were undoubtedly innocent victims, however the coverage remains sparse. It seems that a tragedy such as the one  in Kenya has been categorised as something that just happens in ‘those type of countries, ‘ and is not a matter the west feel they should be concerning themselves with.

The racial tensions in America received global media attention.

The story of the Garissa University massacre in Kenya and the global respect that should have been shown because of the significance of human life and the loss of it, was hung out by the western media to dry, in the rain.

When Facebook harassed me with notifications asking if I would like to turn my profile picture background to  blue, red and white  in support of Paris, I just thought nah, Facebook you are too rude. I like to think that I engage my critical thinking skills enough not to be swept along with waves of mediated uninformed solidarity, without taking the time to look into the intricacies of the situation, especially when there is no call to action to do the same for people who look like me.

but do they?

The same media that attempted to hi-jack  the ‘black lives matter’ movement in favour of ‘all lives matter’, have shown that they infact do not believe this to be true themselves. In an attempt to remain somewhat even handed on this topic however, I must raise the point that we as black people cannot sit and expect others to tell our stories well, or tell them at all. We also should not base the value of black life on the amount of attention that the white world gives it for any other purpose then for it’s own entertainment. 

Yes Black lives matter: Just not to all of the people, all of the time.

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