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Friday, May 9, 2014

10 Thoughts About #BringBackOurGirls

Almost every conversation I have with my mom ends with a question about my family in Nigeria. For the past few months, these questions have stopped focusing on familial issues and now center on safety. Although my relatives don't reside in the areas where the Boko Haram typically targets, I'm terrified. I don't want to be on the end of a terrible phone call, and I wish the continued violence in Nigeria would come to an end. So I, like many others, was devastated to find out that approximately 300 girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. I was shocked at the amount on inaction on the behalf of the Nigerian government and upset with the western response.

So here are 10 thoughts currently on my mind.

1. Western voices should not dominate the conversation. I'm sorry CNN or FOX didn't tell you first. I'm also sorry you feel the need to rely solely on western sources to learn about an issue in Nigeria. Nigerians have been talking about this issue long before you showed up with a disgruntled tweet. I agree that our news sources need to expand their worldview (and talking about this missing plane doesn't count), but stop saying that nobody cared to report about this issue. The Boko Haram is a subject matter that Nigerians and many African news outlets have covered for years.
There’s this paternalism that plays out towards Africans where the weight, importance and gravitas of a situation is placed entirely on western news reportage, as if the situation is only serious and worthy when westerners cover it. Apparently it’s child’s play when Africans cover their own stories, and that qualifies as “no one is reporting this story”, as if it’s a blip on the radar. This is emblematic of a western mindset that centralizes themselves. I just want people to be aware of this and how they perpetuate this mindset. Africans aren’t immune from it either. — Everyone Is An Expert on Nigeria Now
2. Stop posting photos of young black girls. You don't get to monolithically victimize black female bodies. The photo you posted on instagram is not worth ANY likes. I'm not sure these young girls consented to their images being used as your billboard, and I can also assure you that 75% of these images aren't of Nigerians.  PS - you can also stop sharing the photos with celebrities saying "real men don't buy girls." Important message. Unrelated to this topic*

3. Stop sharing the names of these young women. When has it ever been acceptable to release the name of minors who are potential sexual assault and rape victims? I understand that the importance of humanizing these victims, but publishing their names does not accomplish this goal. Publishing their names is irresponsible and disrespectful. 

4. Always read the fine print. Before you sign any petition, understand the consequences. Nigeria is going to have an incredibly tough time handing their security issue. Dr. Falola, acclaimed historian and one of my favorite professors at UT, agrees that some level of regional teamwork is needed. But something about a catchy hashtag and US intervention doesn't sit well with me. (Yes, this is me throwing some serious shade at you Mr. #KONY2012). 
Your calls for the United States to get involved in this crisis undermines the democratic process in Nigeria and co-opts the growing movement against the inept and kleptocratic Jonathan administration. It was Nigerians who took their good for nothing President to task and challenged him to address the plight of the missing girls. It is in their hands to seek justice for these girls and to ensure that the Nigerian government is held accountable. Your emphasis on U.S. action does more harm to the people you are supposedly trying to help and it only expands and sustain U.S. military might. 
If you must do something, learn more about the amazing activists and journalists…who have risked arrests and their lives as they challenge the Nigerian government to do better for its people within the democratic process. If you must tweet, tweet to support and embolden them, don’t direct your calls to action to the United States government who seeks to only embolden American militarism. Don’t join the American government and military in co-opting this movement started and sustained by Nigerians.
Dear Americans, Your Hashtags Won’t #BringBackOurGirls. You Might Actually Be Making Things Worse.
5. Know the leaders involved. On April 23, former Nigerian Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili gave a speech demanding that the Nigerian government "bring back our daughters," inspiring the tweet that now has the two famous hashtags - #bringbackourgirls and #bringbackourdaughters. Follow Ms. Ezekwesili on twitter (@obyezeks), and do your best to learn about Nigerians mobilizing Nigerians.

6. Keep your money. If you give a certain documentary director asks for a donation, she's going to ask for more. Ramma Mosley and the Girl Rising project launched an emergency fundraiser for the #bringbackourgirls movement. But be forewarned, your money will not be going towards the #bringbackourgirls Nigerian movement. The campaign is self funded and self sufficient.
7. Stay away from Ramma Mosley. Unless you appreciate liars who try to take credit for things they didn't do. 
It’s critical for the world to know that apart from being a Nigerian story, it was Nigerians who started the activism both on the ground and online. Who else would? Who else would spearhead #bringbackourgirls? These are *their* girls in the literal sense of the word. Nigerians fed up with the slow response took to the streets, demanding the return of their daughters. Mothers took to the streets. Nigerians were protesting in anyway they could. People formed search parties to look for the girls in the Sambisa forest. Nigerian activists have been arrested and detained. This is not a game. To see this white woman saunter in after all this is an insult. Her actions are self-aggrandizing and self-serving. — Some Of You Don't Get It 
8. We can all agree that President Goodluck Jonathan needed to do more at the earliest stages.  

9. Read. And then read some more. Sifting through all of the junk is difficult, but I encourage you to do the work. Everything italicized on this post is hyperlinked, and if you have any sources or blogs that you think would add to this conversation, please drop a link in the comments!

10. Let's stop playing the oppression olympics. We can always create more space for discussion and dialogue without infringing on others. Sex trafficking*. Important. Racism. Important. The colonization of Indigenous people. All important. These topics deserve to be talked about fully and in the context of world events, but stop with these convoluted tweets that don't build community. I agree -let's explore the irony of the US government using drones, yet painting themselves as a white knight. I think it is a problem that local news outlet doesn't highlight the thousands of black and brown bodies that are abused daily. But the focus on #bringbackourgirls is not unwarranted or useless.

I don't have an answer to Nigeria's problem, and I pray those young women are retuned safely. And while we may not have any political capital to make a difference with our actions, we can still hold ourselves accountable for what we say and post. 

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