Nigerian Girls Are Missing: Where is the Coverage?



[Ed. Note: This is a guest piece submitted from Jai Hamid Bashir.]

This week’s media landscapes have been polluted with news and opinion pieces about Donald Sterling and his leaked racist remarks. I am personally outraged that in between this news, George Clooney’s new fiancé, and the everyday updates on the lives of the rich and famous, the American media is participating in one of the most harmful modes of racism: that of omission. Where are all the shares and posts about the fact that militants in Nigeria have abducted 230 schoolgirls?  Omission is making this urgent feminist issue invisible. Why is this event not non-stop news?

I question if this has to do with our American consciousness’ dismissal of Africa. Africa as continent, as a vast multi-cultural space, as a  legitimate landscape that is more complex and beautiful than colonial portraits of Africa being the landscape manifestation of the “heart of darkness.” I am vexed that with absence of coverage this violent and atrocious violation of human rights in Africa is dismissed as the “normalized” and “everyday.” It isn’t.

Although, no terrorist group has outright proclaimed responsibility, most Nigerian news outlets are reporting this work may be affiliated with Boko Haram. Boko Haram — whose name is usually translated as “Western Education is forbidden” — has engaged in brutal and violent attacks over the last five years with their radical, fundamental, and extreme interpretation of Islam.

There is no excuse for this dismissal. We should demand more coverage, and further, as media as of the largest initiators of social and political action, we also must demand action.

Our Western media and society united around Malala Yousufzai, the brave Pakistani schoolgirl heroine who was shot for standing up against Taliban militia (who also view Western education as incompatible with their radical and fundamentalist Islamic beliefs). Why the oversight of this atrocity against human life? Perhaps it is a reflection of our media bias–we care about “our” racists (Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling). However, do not care to read about the actual brutalities people of color, especially those who are black, face. Perhaps it is because the Taliban is “our enemy,” and Malala’s experience was further evidence that American intervention is needed in order to bring “peace” to such a backwards-patriarchal culture that disallows women from participating fully in education. (Fun fact: Compared to all other states, Utah is last in terms of the percentage of female students enrolled in postsecondary institutions). Whatever the reason, the lack of coverage is unacceptable.

My hopes and prayers are with these young women. May the return to their families, their studies, their dreams and ambitions with safety, dignity, and the ability to move forward from this heinous act of savagery.

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