Commentary

The Systemic Problem with the Media

Eighty-six people, some of them children, were burned alive by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, in an attack in my home country Nigeria late last month. I am in shock. I have been in shock. And I will always be in shock – not only because of what happened, but also because of how people have responded to the event.

Now, be honest. Did you hear about this incident before you just read about it? Most likely not, a fact that is both surprising and not surprising at all. It is surprising because eighty-six people endured one of the worst forms of torture possible, and it seemed to me that no one acknowledged it or even blinked an eye. It is not surprising, however, because of the current state of the popular media – the Internet, television channels, radio and newspaper sources. Children who are massacred in countries that are not predominantly white often don’t seem to be given priority or prominence in the popular media.

We need only look back to the terrorist attacks in Paris last November. For weeks, countless Americans mourned the deaths of 130 people. Articles written about the horror were published online and in newspapers across the world. Andover students attended a vigil for the victims of the attack. Facebook created a filter to cover profile pictures with the French flag. But the children in Nigeria have been grieved in an entirely different way. They have been disgustingly ignored by mainstream media and the Andover community. I’m not trying to say that we should prioritize the tragedy in Nigeria over the one in Paris. Rather, I want to highlight the apparent and inequitable one-sidedness of our collective mourning.

So, why is it that we seem to take preference to children in predominantly-white countries over those in predominantly-black ones? Are they not both children? We must expand the notion that “black lives matter” in places beyond Andover. I feel as though that is something we, as a school, fail to do sufficiently. Though we often discuss matters pertaining to racial equality and justice at Andover extensively in the classroom and in dorms, I have noticed that we do not address these issues in the context of the world outside of Andover as much.

As a community, it is our duty to recognize all terrorist attacks and pay attention to them fairly and equally. It is not just for us to focus on the victims of terrorist attacks and disregard other people who have experienced the same tragedies.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Injustice is occurring in Nigeria as well as in some of the other predominantly-black, third-world countries around the globe, and we, as a community, must strive to bring awareness to these issues to assure justice everywhere.

Feb 26, 2016