On Friday evening November 13th, 2015, the city of Paris was attacked by a series of terror attacks consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and hostage-takings. An estimated 129 victims were killed, 89 of which were at the Bataclan theatre. An additional 415 people were admitted to hospitals with injuries sustained in the attacks, including 80 people described as being seriously injured. These attacks were the deadliest in France’s history since the Second World War. In response, the French President François Hollande announced a state of emergency, and placed temporary controls on the country's borders. People and organizations from around the world expressed solidarity through social media.
In the hours after the attack, some Parisians used social media, in particular the Twitter hashtag #PorteOuverte, which is French for "#OpenDoor", to offer overnight shelter to strangers stranded by the attacks. The hashtag trended worldwide. Many online companies like Amazon, YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter and many other social media firms have raised or put up a French flag in a mark of respect showing solidarity. Many sites have also enabled users to easily add a French flag over their profile pictures to show solidarity, and many users have chosen to do so. Following the attacks, multiple landmark structures around the world were lit in the colors of the French flag. There was also an issuing of condemnation from more than 117 Heads of State and a strong statement from the U.N’s secretary-General.
Now as comforting and positive as all of this support for Paris has been, it raises an important question. Not to diminish the tragedy that Paris has suffered but this level of cruelty and violence has happened to many other countries throughout the year with little to no coverage. Just two days prior, there was a pair of suicide bombers who detonated explosives in Beirut, Lebanon and killed up to 43 people and injured 200-240 people. It received almost no international media coverage and was condemned by only 8 countries. On Oct. 31st, a Russian airliner crashed in North Sinai, Egypt with 217 passengers and 7 crew members. There were zero survivors and investigators concluded with 90% certainty that a bomb caused the crash. ISIS/ISIL later claimed credit for both attacks.
Why is it that in a year that witnessed over 280 terrorist attacks taking place all over the world we put the spotlight on Paris? Why is it that when Boko Haram militants opened fire on Nigerian villages and killed or displaced over 2000+ people, international media not only ignored it but also claimed it didn’t occur? Why is it that when a European country is attacked by terrorism, the whole world stands in solidarity but when an African country or a Middle Eastern country is attacked then it is considered normal? Why is it that whenever there is a mass shooting or an explosion, it is only considered an act of terrorism if the suspects are Muslim? Why is it that Dylan Roof wasn’t considered a terrorist? Why is it that a person who is connected to a White Supremacy group is called a lone wolf, but a Muslim terrorist who acts alone must be part of some convoluted conspiracy to bring down the government?
Luckily, there is national movement within the United States, which prides itself on making sure every life is treated equally. #AllLivesMatter advocates are always the first ones to claim that we shouldn’t speculate when a police officer kills an unarmed Black teen, we should wait for the evidence. We’re sure they took the same rational approach when Paris was attacked with suicide bombers and mass shootings. We’re sure CNN didn’t change their font size to 48 black bold to claim it was radical Islamic terrorists before they were able to verify their sources. We’re sure that while condemning the actions of the terrorists, they also highlighted the role of European powers interfering in the Middle East, which causes the conditions that lead to radicalism. The same way they supported the police officers with GoFundMe pages and unconditional support. We are so sure that the same people who were foaming at the mouth when we marched for the rights of Black lives to exist, who were quick to stress that every life matters, they would surely point out the flaw in coverage. However, we were sadly disappointed to learn that #AllLivesMatter did none of the above.
It begs the question, why does #AllLivesMatters exist if not to advocate for the value of all lives? The simple answer must be that it was only meant as a response to #BlackLivesMatter in order to minimize the concerns of the Black community by perpetuating the myth that we live in a post-racial society. There were no calls for prayer at the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and the countless other unarmed black teens who lost their lives at the hands of police in 2015. There were no calls for solidarity when SAE members from University of Oklahoma sang about lynching Black people. There were no calls for bringing down the flag of the confederacy, which stood as a symbol for the right to maintain slavery, from the Statehouse in South Carolina until 9 African-Americans were murdered. The message is plain and clear. The world doesn’t value the lives of Black people or any group of people who don’t come from European ancestry. The glacier speed of progress that we have accomplished up until now was only a mirage in a desert of white supremacy. The Black community must be unified, now more than ever, in order to finally reach the oasis of the Promised Land.
The disparity in media coverage, international response, and plain apathy towards terroristic violence in nonwestern countries will only further alienate the people of Middle-eastern citizenship and African citizenship from those of the United States and Europe. These feelings of animosity and the existence of Eurocentrism are the exact conditions that favor the formation of radical political groups who use religion to brainwash people into killing innocent civilians. Unless we are willing to show the same level of support the next time a Middle Eastern or African country is attacked, this aggrandizing of the Paris incident will only further divide the global community and infuriate a large portion of it.
On Sunday, November 15th, Paris began to bomb the Syrian city of Raqqa as retaliation for the terrorist attacks. While France has conducted airstrikes on the region in the past, it was always wearily of doing urban areas for the fear of unintended casualties. However, after Friday’s incident, a stronger reaction was urged by the government. The targeted areas include clinics, a museum, and other buildings. While we hope they have solid intelligence to lead on and they get the individuals responsible for the violence, we hope the rest of the world is also praying for the safety of the innocent civilians in Syria. We hope the Black community remains resolved to continue the long road to justice. We hope the value of all lives will truly matter and that we don’t use that phrase to simply marginalize a group. We hope to live in a world where people can practice their faith in peace and love without being attacked or having their religion misconstrued. Lastly, we hope to live in a world where people can use their misplaced anger to better the world for the common man and truly embrace their identity.
Abdella Abdushukur, Contributing Writer