Je ne suis pas Charlie

Je ne suis pas Charlie

Rebecca Chen, Editor-in-chief

Obviously I am not a French satirical magazine. This may come as a shocker, but few of those who identify with French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo push the right to free speech to its limits as Charlie does and has. I will attempt to follow Charlie’s path by laying out my view of this weekend’s events.

I do not mean to trivialize the 17 lives lost in Paris when I point out that an estimated 2,000 people were killed in Nigeria. I simply want to direct our attention to an event that deserves more thought than we’ve given it. This weekend, while crowds gathered in Paris to mourn and march for free speech rights, hundreds of Nigerians were massacred by terrorist group Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has a history of violence and oppression–remember when they kidnapped 200 schoolgirls last April?–yet their acts of terror continue seemingly unnoticed by the rest of the world. Maybe a reason for this negligence is that Boko Haram is far from our world. The attacks happened in a region cut off from “civilization,” and by that I mean the western world. Information was slow to trickle in because Boko Haram targets journalists and intentionally frustrates the process of conveying news outside the region of Borno. Additionally, while Nigerian politicians have expressed dismay over the Charlie Hebdo attack, they failed to address the massacre in their own country.

Besides geographical barriers though, sociological factors also contribute to our view of Boko Haram. The name itself does not inspire the same fear as al-Qaeda for obvious reasons. Yet the word “terrorism” strikes at the heart of Americans much more than the name of a rapacious, bloodthirsty group controlling part of a country. We have allowed our own fears and past to cloud our view of the present. We pay less attention to certain events because they lack relevance to us. This is not acting as a compassionate human. This is acting as a self-centered, if subconsciously so, elitist.

In addition, the Charlie Hebdo attacks present a platform that the educated elite of the western world can stand upon and cry from. Anyone with access to a computer can pour out their thoughts on free speech and whether you can take it too far. There is no issue to take a stand on in Nigeria. There is only a corrupt, lethal group that seems to stand unopposed in Borno–and that’s a scary thing. We would rather banter back and forth than recognize the monstrosity in front of our eyes.

Je ne suis pas Charlie. Yet I am not Baga either. I do not truly understand the pain and grief of those connected to these tragedies. I do understand that the articles published, marches in solidarity, donations made, and apps designed largely ignore one of the two. That fact needs to be remedied, and soon.