The news: South Korea’s tragic ferry disaster has gripped international headlines for the past week as the world watched with bated breath to find out what happened. Though 159 bodies have been discovered by divers, another 143 still remain missing — and families and loved ones are hoping against hope that they are somehow still alive.
But on the other side of the world, 234 schoolgirls in Nigeria, ages 16 to 18, wereabducted two days before the South Korean incident. Armed men broke into a school in the northeastern city of Chibok, shot the guards and took the girls away while they were taking a physics exam. The attack has been linked to Boko Haram, a jihadist affiliate of al-Qaida.
So why haven’t we heard about it? Simply put, because the world has very different views on South Korea and Nigeria. One is among the richest countries in the world and a powerful Western ally with a high quality of life and strong international presence. The other is in Africa, where, you know, these things happen all the time — or so we’re led to believe.
"In Nigeria, the mass abduction of schoolgirls isn’t shocking," CNN claims. “No one knows where the missing girls are. And even more surprising, no one’s particularly shocked.”
But that’s not true. Boko Haram, which is Hausa for “Western education is sinful,” is against the education of girls. Girls have been abducted in the past to serve as cooks or sex slaves — but a kidnapping of this size is unprecedented.
And despite what CNN might think, people aren’t simply giving up on the girls. Desperate family members and town residents have gone on the search, combing the Sambisa Forest, a known terrorist hangout, on motorcycles. The search parties have so far had some success, uncovering traces of the girls.
The government is not helping. According to the school, about 43 girls have already escaped their captors — no thanks to the authorities. ”None of these girls were rescued by the military; they managed to escape on their own from their abductors,” said schoolmaster Asabe Kwambura.
As recently as Monday, education authorities claimed that only 85 girls have gone missing, despite the families’ insistence that 234 were taken. The military even claimed at one point that they rescued all but eight girls — which they immediately retracted the following day.
Nigerian security officials insist they are in ”hot pursuit” of the abductors, but they’ve yet to find a single girl. ”It’s alarming that more than a week after these girls were abducted, there are not any concrete steps to get them back,” said Human Rights Watch’s Nigeria researcher Mausi Segun.
It’s a dangerous environment. Boko Haram has been on a rampage in recent months and on the same day as the girls’ abduction, the group claimed responsibility for a bombing in Abuja that killed 75. The terrorist group, which wants to establish an extremist Islamist state in northeastern Nigeria, has alreadykilled over 1,500 people this year.
But that does not mean we should look the other way when a tragedy like this takes place.
"The South Korean story has unfolded on camera, in a first-world country with every facility for news reporting. In contrast, the young Nigerians have vanished into the darkness of a dangerous world," Ann Perkins writes in the Guardian. "Nigeria is complex and messy and unfamiliar. It is easy to feel that what happens there is not real in the way that what happens on camera in South Korea is real."
The ugly truth is that when young lives are similarly at stake, we are more shocked when the danger takes place in a country that is considered stable and affluent — and less so in a country where violent insurgents are trying to take over.
But the media has a responsibility to report the truth rather than ignoring a story because it sounds familiar. It’s easy to become desensitized to stories coming out of a conflict-ridden region, but that doesn’t mean these human lives are worth any less.
she says this, and i can’t help but being puzzled. what do you mean by “it’s so cool ?”
oh. oh, it’s the first time she meets a mixed race asian person. and she says it’s so “cool”. she keeps repeating that word and i feel like i told her i’m half fairy or something. but i’m just me and i don’t know what she means when she’s using that word over and over again.
that’s what they think, i think, that people of color are “cool”. they call us “ethnic” and they call us “exotic” and they call us “a beacon of diversity”.
i try hard, and harder, and harder and the compliment she thinks she’s making, i fail to hear it.
because. because let me tell you how “cool” it is to be me.
i’m a first generation cambodian born after the genocide that took place between 1975 and 1979. my father is a survivor. my father is a refugee.
from a refugee camp in thailand to another, he eventually ended up here in Paris after declining an offer to be sent to America.
let me tell you how “cool” it was, when during his first years here, he used to wake up, multiple times a night, every single night, sweating and out of breath, jaw and fists clenched, ready to fight back against the invisible attackers that remained in his nightmares.
let me tell you how “cool” it was, when he arrived here alone without the slightest idea of whether his family had survived or not. how “cool” it was when he, a former journalist, now had to carry bags of rice sixteen hours a day for the asian stores in china town to make a living. and the sleepless nights. and the clenched fists to fight back, just in case of.
let me tell you about how “cool” it was, when he drowned his sorrow and trauma in alcohol and opium because then, refugees had been offered no psychological support. and how the tight refugee community was his only family. when those that survived hell with you are the only brothers you have left.
let me tell you how “cool” it was. for him to be dropped off in this country he had only seen in pictures. where the cold was new, and the loneliness was new, and the hate of these people towards him was real.
and me. let me tell you how “cool” it felt, when at a young age, i would hear my little friends talk about going on vacation at their grandparents’. how “cool” it was when i asked where my father’s brothers and sisters and parents were. everyone has brothers and sisters and parents, i thought.
let me tell you how “cool” it was, when i first greeted my grand parents when i was 9. on their tomb.
this grand father, beaten to death by the khmer rouges. my two oldest uncles, gone missing and never found again. this grandmother whom i love, that died of sorrow after she had lost every thing and every one she loved.
let me tell you how “cool” it is, to love ghosts with all you heart because there is no one left to love. because even the memories are scarce.
let me tell you how “cool” it is when all you have left is four or five partly burned pictures that my father managed to hide from the khmer rouges in the crack of a wall in a house, and how they are all i can cherish.
let me tell you how “cool” it is, when i wear the portrait of my grandfather on a pure gold chain around my neck, next to my buddha, according to the cambodian tradition, and white people laugh and make jokes.
"is that kim jong-il ?" they cackle, "is that jacky chan ?". and every time they laugh and laugh, it comes like flashes in my head, and i see, from a distance, men dressed in black, beating this man i love and never knew, until they have broken everything there is to break with their riffles. i clench my jaw, like my father years before me, and i think to myself, "this is so cool".
I’ve never been female. But I have been black my whole life. I can perhaps offer some insight from that perspective. There are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community, as well as the community of women in a white male dominate society…
When I look at — throughout my life — I’ve known that I wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old…I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expressions of these ambitions. All I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of society.
Anytime I expressed this interest, teachers would say, ‘Oh, don’t you wanna be an athlete?’ I want to become someone that was outside of the paradigm of expectations of the people in power. Fortunately, my depth of interest of the universe was so deep and so fuel enriched that everyone of these curve balls that I was thrown, and fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just reach for more fuel, and I just kept going.
Now, here I am, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I wanna look behind me and say, ‘Where are the others who might have been this,’ and they’re not there! …I happened to survive and others did not simply because of forces of society that prevented it at every turn. At every turn.
…My life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks, when you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today.
So before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity, then we can have that conversation.