Selective Outrage

Mathias Rosenthal/

Mathias Rosenthal/

And blood flowed through the streets of Paris.

I mourn. My heart felt condolences go out to each and every person impacted by this violence.

But the mourning is never ending. It threatens to leave me numb. I drive through traffic and tears come to my eyes, forcing me to push the sorrow down so I can see. As I write this, my vision blurs and my throat fills with sobs.

This is nothing new. I can’t remember the first time I felt this. It will surely not be the last.

But this time is different. With the sorrow is a rage that leaves me shaking. There is a frustration with MY people as I watch them react to the atrocity in France. On Facebook, friend after friend change their avatars to carry the colors of the French flag. Countless exclamations of anger, sadness, prayers, calls to arms, “told ya so”s, appeals, and condemnations, fill my timeline.

Suddenly, America shares my sorrow.

This victim is somehow worthy of airtime. This victim captures our collective imagination. This victim enrages us and unites us. This victim counts.

By Sunday, most folks had realized that the attacks in Paris had come mere hours after bombs in Beirut. Quickly, people have been updating their statuses to reflect this new knowledge. And Garissa; remembering the attack eight months ago.

I don’t remember Garissa. I didn’t hear about Beirut until after Paris.

I believe that my friends are all good, caring people. I have seen posts from others saying that not knowing about Garissa and Beirut is simply because we haven’t been paying attention. That these atrocities were also broadcast. I believe that. It is our part of the equation.

The media sells what we consume. We consume what the media sells. This is not a difficult puzzle to figure out. If nobody watches a sitcom, it gets taken off the air. When the rating go up, producers rush to understand the formula of a particular show and begin duplicating it. Why do you think there are so many reality shows? BECAUSE PEOPLE WATCH REALITY SHOWS.

And people watch the tragedy visited upon white bodies with more empathy than the tragedy visited upon brown and black bodies. If the news of what happened in Garissa was being watched by Americans with the same emotional engagement as we are absorbing Paris, then the networks would be selling us the story. It’s really that simple.

I am no model of worldly compassion. The killings in Garissa, Beirut and Paris all touch me in a similar way. Distant and removed. I am saddened by the brutality and the innocent loss of life. I am angered by the perpetrators inhumane acts. But this is not what brings the deep sorrow and tears.

It is us. It is our ability to look away from one atrocity and then gush sympathy for another. It is how we collectively deem whose bodies are more and less worthy of our tears. It is our indifference to how our own country’s policies contribute to so many of these murders. It is how we don’t want to talk about American police killing unarmed black Americans, but will drape our digital personas with French flags when terrorists (brown ones at that) kill westerners. It is how easily we ignore a 147 body count of black students.

It is the persistent jingoism elevating white suffering over all suffering.

It is the dismissal of black students protesting racism in Missouri, because Parisians have it so much worse.

It is the belief that guns (their presence or absence) will somehow cure America of her violence.

It is the refusal to acknowledge that one in four women will experience sexual assault.

You don’t think these things are all related? They are. They have been. They continue to be.

Where is the outrage over all the violence that DIDN’T happen in Paris?


Silverback Gringo


2 thoughts on “Selective Outrage

  1. As I read your heart in this piece, I want to say thank you for seeing and writing about thoughts of my own, that are deep inside. As a person of color and more so, a person with a different mannerism concerning others, meaning that saying these truths is somewhat disrespectful to white people and our institutional way of governing. The colonization has ran so deep generation after generation that these feelings are difficult to bring to surface in a respectful way. I realize that coming from you and others like you is where much change will occur. Thank you for having courage to share your feelings and thoughts and writing in a way that opens the lens to many who have been in bondage and see this all of the time, but afraid or have just been taught differently. Spiral onward Silverback Gringo!

  2. Every word sad but true. Unfortunately, I’m doubtful that anything will change, even in light of all this rightful/righteous indignation that’s surfaced over the last few days. This is why it’s so important that every facet of public life, from government to the media to corporations, is representative of the societies and communities in which we live. It’s seemingly very hard to empathise with and humanise those whom we personally know little, have little-to-no contact with and who we deem as less than, unless, of course, they look like us. More diversity and leadership at the institutional level and community building on the ground is needed as a start if real change is ever to come.

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