The world came to a standstill over the weekend when terrorists attacked Paris on several fronts. There were 6 mass shootings across the city and several suicide bombings, with the most deadly of these at the Bataclan theater, where more than 80 people were killed. US rock band Eagles of Death Metal were performing.
In total, more than 130 people died, and many more injured.
The number could have been higher if a suicide bomber gained access to the ‘Stade de France’, where a friendly football match between France and Germany was taking place. President François Hollande who was in attendance was frisked away when an explosion went off outside the stadium. It is reported that the suicide bomber tried to get into the stadium, hoping to start a deadly stampede.
The images from Paris have been broadcast over and over by every major news outlet. All news stations have wall to wall coverage, with 24 hours of nothing but France.
World leaders have spoken against the terrorist act, promising to take drastic action against ISIS. Celebrities have tweeted their support and millions have added the France flag profile filter on Facebook.
It was the same case in January this year after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
The unity in grief this past weekend has led to people asking some fundamental questions. Why does the world not react the same when Kenya is attacked, Nigeria, Lebanon etc?
Why doesn’t Obama hold a press conference to condemn Al Shabab or Boko Haram? Why doesn’t Facebook have flag filters for these other countries? Are some lives lesser than others? Does a black life matter?
The message was quite clear over the weekend. Stand with France, but remember the other countries too.
It is no surprise that the biggest non-France story trending on social media since Saturday is a link from the BBC reporting on the 147 dead in Garissa. Most of those sharing it on their timelines were hearing of the story for the first time.
The deadly April attack by the Al Shabaab was just a byline in most Western media. It was not given half the prominence of the Paris attack. As a matter of fact, the resulting travel advisories made more news other there.
Just a day before the Paris shooting, Beirut – the capital of Lebanon was under attack. Over 40 were killed by suicide bombers, but Facebook did not introduce the ‘I stand with Lebanon’ profile filter. Brazil did not light up Christ the Redeemer with Lebanese colors. Sydney Opera remained dark. Obama did not have a message for this. Justin Bieber did not send out a tweet. CNN did not make this a main story, leave alone turn their website black.
According to the West, terror is only terror when it hits them. When ISIS brought down a Russian plane the other day, the UK evacuated thousands of tourists from Egypt. The script was similar in Tunisia and I bet we’re more than familiar with the travel advisories of own country gets slapped with for the crime of being attacked.
Someone said that 100 dead black people dead will receive the same grief as 1 white guy. It may be true, but I’m happy the world is changing the perception. Reading through Facebook and Twitter, I’m seeing lots of people coming up to ‘stand with Kenya’ months after Garissa happened, but mostly because of guilt of not doing so earlier.
With ISIS and other new threats, terrorism is becoming the norm rather than exception. With all its sophistication, France has had two major hits this year, and it’s quite clear now that despite the money and technology, Western countries are just as vulnerable as, say Kenya.
We will stand with any country that is attacked, but the world must stand up for lesser countries when the same happens. #BlackLivesMatter