I have hesitated to write this post for a while, mostly because I’ve been writing way too many angry rants lately. Also, because I’m going through some personal shit, which has already shortened my fuse quite a bit. Then I saw this headline and hit a wall, and you are getting hit with the results.
Advance apologies, as I fear some of my US readers will find what follows offensive. Read on at your own risk.
Back in September I blogged about the terrible earthquake that hit Mexico City in 1985, and how almost thirty years later the memories of devastation and destruction still hit me so hard at times, despite being one of the very, very lucky ones.
The news of the earthquake in Nepal brought all that back. Not being particularly brave, I avoided the news as much as I could–the few headlines I saw were enough to make me rage silently.
Then there was the big aftershock a couple of days ago, which affected not only the people of Nepal, but those who so generously traveled there to help, and now I have to rage out loud.
Did you notice how many of the headlines in US online news outlets center on the few Americans who were in Nepal when the first earthquake hit, and later on, on the (probably white) Europeans missing?
There are probably tens of thousands of people dead, and at least twice as many injured to different degrees. The psychological damage is incalculable. Nepal’s economy, never buoyant, will be in the toilet for a couple of decades or more as part of the aftermath.
But apparently the only way to have the majority of the public in the US give a damn is to focus on the minuscule percentage of US citizens and other white people directly affected. Those brown people down there? Well now, the viewing public can’t relate to those people, can they? Let’s have all the white people with American accents do the talking for them.
This is so very similar to what happened with the 300 hundred black girls abducted by Boko Haram. A few weeks of headlines, many focused on #bringourgirlsback, and what the United States and international help would do to rescue them. It’s been a year–how many headlines are there about them now?³ Or about the tens of thousands of lives lost to civil unrest every year in Nigeria alone?
Why is it that so often natural disasters, civil wars, systematic misogyny, and so much more, are only visible if seen through the lens of the American savior, or the one (or two or three) American affected?
Why is it that being human is not enough to make neither their suffering nor their greatness real to us?
I don’t hate the United States nor its citizens. I chose to come here, and to raise my children here. As soon as immigration law allows it, I’ll become a naturalized citizen of the US. There are many things about this country that I admire, deeply (First Amendment, anyone?).
Admiration does not make me blind though. The internalized xenophobia, the carefully cultivated insularity, the institutional racism and misogyny, all these make me so sad.
Because I think this country and its people are capable of being so much more, so much better.
If one had to judge the state of the world by the major news outlets, something would become evident in a hurry: the only human lives that really matter are white lives, preferably white American lives.
¹ Before I get my head handed back to me, I’m not saying those families don’t have every right to be worried sick. I am wondering though why that gets bigger headlines than the tens. of. thousands. of. missing Nepalese.
² I know, having been there, that the Nepalese appreciate every bit of help coming their way, no matter how big or small. What kills me is that the reporter is making the American doctor come off as the only heroic figure there–it is the doctor who mentions the heroic efforts of Nepalese doctors to save the lives of their countrymen.
³ Except, of course, for the ever popular pro-life assholes. (By the way, that piece? If you’ve made it this far and your head hasn’t exploded, go read it. It’s even worth the sneaky pop up ads.)