Poet warrior's Blog: Poems, articles and musings.
Over 130 days ago 273 girls were kidnapped from school.
It feels like a bad joke to which you can’t remember the punchline or perhaps the person who told you the joke didn’t tell you the punchline. Or maybe it’s like seeing a face that looks familiar but you can’t remember who they are or from when or where you know them. It just leaves you feeling uneasy.
I appreciate that a lot has happened since; an international football tournament, in the UK the Prime Minister has had a cabinet re-shuffle, temperatures are soaring and the media has found a whole host of other things that they think we should know about.
However do you remember that particular story and are there times when (like me) you wonder what happened to those girls are they back at home or are their parents looking at keepsakes wondering when their daughters will return?
When I first heard this particular new story I was as shocked and outraged as everyone else and I believed that everything possible would be done to bring them back home to their families safe and sound. After all that is the world in which we live, isn’t it?
However after the initial flurry of media activity and promises of help from various world leaders’ things seemed to go quiet. I assumed that things were happening that I didn’t know about. A few weeks later I began to wonder what, if anything had happened. Had the promises of aid supported the local authorities to find the kidnapped girls? Had they been returned to their parents and everything was well, maybe it had happened while I was dealing with the minutiae of my own day to day life, a good dead unacknowledged.
After some internet searching I discovered that this wasn’t the case. The answer was no, most of those girls were still missing over 100 days later and a 130 days later still are.
For those of you who haven’t made the connection let me provide some additional information. Those girls are from Nigeria and they were kidnapped from school in April (2014) by terrorists. Has that last piece of the puzzle influenced how you feel about this story?
As time passed and the world media moved onto matters more immediate and photogenic. Familiar questions started to come to mind; why did the media at large seem so disinterested in the fate of those schoolgirls; was it because they lived in a comparatively poor country, was it because there was no celebrity to take up their cause or was it because they were black and someone had decided that the fate of 273 black girls somewhere in Africa wasn’t what the rest of us wanted to know about because they didn’t present us with photogenic images to deliberate?
Very close behind these questions were a whole host of others which are familiar to me as an Indian man living in the UK. How would the media have handled this story differently if those girls had been the children of white middle class parents living in Europe or North America? How much more effort, time and money would have been spent in the search for them and how much more noise would have been made at the apparent lack of progress?
Behind all of them a question which Ali G’s character has tainted for all of us by making a joke of it “Is it because they are black?”
I always feel a little shame and sadness when I find myself asking that particular question or a variation of it (Is it because I’m brown, they are black…).
As if being treated differently because of the colour of my skin is my fault and I wonder if I’m alone in that. However this is something that I feel strongly about and I’m willing to start ask the question. Has the lack of activity around this been due to the fact that those are poor black girls from an African country.
How many innocent children from Africa or Asia have to be kidnapped, harmed, raped or killed before it becomes newsworthy? Is it because someone in the mainstream media has decided that over 200 girls being kidnapped from school is not a story because there are no images of photogenic children crying or eloquent parents sharing their loss.
If we can’t do anything else for those girls at least don’t forget them.