Hopefully by now you have heard about the 234 Nigerian girls, between the ages of 16 and 18, who were abducted from their boarding school by a group called Boko Haram. If you haven’t, I wouldn’t actually be that surprised.
It’s been two weeks since they were taken and there are reports that the girls are being ‘married’ to members of the group. Tensions in Nigeria are extremely high, with women marching on the National Assembly to protest what they see as a lack of action from the government. This mass trafficking of girls is, according to the media, part of an ongoing campaign on the part of Boko Haram against ‘western’ education, especially of young women.
This evening on One News, there was an item about Jeremy Clarkson being a racist douchebag on British TV. There was an item about a road collapsing in Maryland. There was an item about a portrait being painted of a decorated NZ WWII veteran. Most telling, there was an item about Madeleine McCann, the English girl who disappeared without trace 7 years ago. There was nothing about the 234 Nigerian girls.
All of those stories were interesting and valid news (and it’s great that the media hasn’t stopped giving Jeremy Clarkson shit for being one of the biggest fucknuggets on the planet), but their inclusion at the expense of this devastating crime speaks volumes about what the western media decides to care about. The prioritising of a story about a single missing white girl (which is, of course, a tragedy that continues to haunt her family and her community) over the lives of hundreds of young women and girls, is a despicable example of the way in which the media portrays some people as just being worth more attention than others. One of the clearest factors of this hierarchy of grieveability is race.
This #234WhiteGirls hashtag is part of a concerted campaign in social media to raise awareness of the abduction and the rescue efforts, including another hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
I think that if 234 white girls were abducted at once, the scale of what happened next would be enormous. There would be huge vigils held across the globe. People who had no connection to any of them would be interviewed on TV, crying and begging for their return. It would be a major world event, no matter where in the world it happened. We would all remember where we were when we heard about it, even decades from now.
It’s not clear what needs to be done next to help these girls and their families. There are petitions circulating in the US to challenge media and government to pay more attention to the story. There are some who suggest that Nigeria needs help with their search, and some who say otherwise. Most of us can’t do anything practical to help. But I think we can at least make sure that people know about it. Because these people have lives and bodies, minds, personalities, hopes and dreams, and they sure as hell deserve to be recognised as more than sidebars in western media. This is just one example of the neglect of huge numbers of people on this planet by the developed world and its media. The least we can do is take notice.