Late last night I became irate and for a very important reason. Since April 29, it’s been reported, and confirmed, that 234 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from their boarding school in the town of Chibok by the terrorist group Boko Haram (their name translates in English as “Western” or “Non-Islamic” education is a sin). It’s also been reported that the captured girls are being sold into arranged marriage for 2,000 naira which in American currency is $12.
My horror magnified the more I researched this news report and my heart soon sank as I felt betrayed in all kinds of ways. The abduction actually took place on April 16, why am I just hearing about this? What can I do? Why was I being bombarded of the antics of Donald Sterling (who now rivals Beyonce as a household name) when this development is tremendously heartbreaking and disturbing? Yes, yes, Sterling’s uber-racist comments about black people (especially as a former NBA owner) were outlandish and archaic, but we knew he was going to get the punishment he truly deserved, and you want to know how I (already) knew this was going to happen? Because of the outrage that was expressed and widespread, which was then met with immediate action. I couldn’t help but ask myself, and I wish I could proposition the media and people of color as a whole, why are we, some of us, or some of you, fighting for what appears to be only half the battles that challenge a community or diaspora’s legacy and human rights?
Frankly, I was appalled I hadn’t heard of the abduction of the Nigerian girls sooner. I first became aware of it on Instagram where a few of the female celebrities I follow posted pictures of young African girls with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. I didn’t know what the hashtag was for so again, when I looked further into it, such a nightmare for the promised land was real. I began to imagine how those girls must’ve have felt and how scared they were, and I became angry and hurt. Like how black men, including President Obama, shared how when they saw themselves in Trayvon Martin (who was ruthlessly murdered by George Zimmerman) and felt like they were him at some point in their lives, in a large way, I felt intrinsically connected to those Nigerian girls. I felt similarly to a great degree about Martin, but now it hit eve closer to home.
I was also inflamed by the reality of how when it comes to the endangerment of black girlhood and a black woman’s life, the outrage is mainly fought by mainly women of color alone. When audio of Sterling spewing racial hate found its way to the mass media, black men in particular and from the celebrity circle jumped to social media about bringing Sterling down. The vitriol they found to push for justice in the name of a post-racial America was loud and clear, as it was for Martin. Where was that faith as a people to make a difference and demand virtue for following Renisha McBride’s death when she was just looking for help to get back home? Have you even heard about the slain Chicago community leader Leonore Draper? In 2013, JET Magazine published a cover story about the lack of coverage shown for Missing Black Children in America, and while the piece was for both girls and boys, for the cover, a larger statement was made when they chose to illustrate the silhouette of a young black girl.
I usually come across these devastating local and international news women’s rights aqnd issues and black women from blogs and sites that focus on these groups. They are often the only sources that report with not just a sense of urgency but with a vigor and sensitivity that definitely speaks to their intended audience. Lately, I haven’t been the only one noticing a lack of support and fewer voices for the missing and maltreated of women of color. Sites like For Harriet and even more mainstream, inclusive platforms like The Guardian probed as an open question, where was or is the outrage for the Nigerian girls? Do cases that seem more reflective of the brutalization of black male masculinity gain more coverage than others? There was a Million Woman March recently and it was barely a blip on the media radar, but when there was the Million Man March back in 1995, you couldn’t change the channel without hearing commentary about it. Why is there an imbalance of fighting for all of one’s people? The last time I can remember black women and black men coming together was for when radio jockey Don Imus voluntarily shared his thoughts on the women’s basketball from Rutgers University (a majority of black girls) and belittled these talented group as “nappy-headed ho’s”. Welcome to the original Sterling from 2007. Filmmaker Spike Lee even said live on morning television that following his aired ignorance “he’s got to go” (Imus somehow thought by referencing Lee’s School Daze in his hate would garner him cool points). Despite a cued mea culpa, Imus was suspended for a time and ultimately fired from his own radio show.
It’s not as if black people haven’t joined together to coax justice for both men and women, but for black women and women of color, the supported efforts from the media and men of color are all too infrequent. Women are strong enough to stand alone on these battles, and have, but why are we, are they, standing alone is the question. As Nigerian civilians urge with protests to their government officials to reprimand Boko Haram, their bravery in doing so is one that is inspiring and commendable, especially since it’s based in a part of the world that is largely misrepresented as far as women not having a voice. Now, those same voices are asking “Where are my sisters” and “Show leadership”.
I just hope that with this piece, it lends another hand of support for #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS.
-c. shardae jobson
*If you’re in the New York City area n May 3 from 12-3, join this peaceful initiative for the cause*