Saturday, November 14, 2015

I'm not changing my Facebook icon

This post is going to be triggery, I think. Some people also might not like what I have to say, but I'm going to say it anyway, because I think that it's important. 

We're weird about terrorism, here in the United States. Whenever something happens outside of the country, we jump up to "stop it." However, there are conditions on this. I'm fifteen, but from what I've seen, we're the quickest to jump when the people involved in the violence are brown.

What happened in France was horrible. I'm glad that people are grieving alongside the country, because they need the extra support during this time. However, I've noticed that there are many, many people blaming Islam, even though ISIS is not a Muslim group. In fact, they've killed many Muslims, which is why there are Syrian refugees. 

The refugees are being blamed, even though this is the type of experience they experienced daily in Syria. The type of violence that did not get a hashtag or an option to change your Facebook icon to the colors of the Syrian flag.

Even though France wasn't the only place to experience violence from ISIS (Baghdad and Beirut were also targeted within the same twenty four hours), I only see people talking about France. At the Democrat Debate, there was a moment of silence for France. On Facebook, there's an option to change your picture to the colors of the French flag. 

France. France. On Facebook, it's all people talk about. People Magazine and the Huffington Post have posted countless articles about it in the last day or so. 

It's not a problem that everyone is talking about France. The problem is that we're only talking about France.

Why isn't there an option to have the flags of Baghdad or Beirut as my Facebook icon? Why is it that there are only a select few number of articles written about these other countries? Why is it that hatred of refugees and Muslims is being condoned? The fact that we, as a society, are quick to grieve along with France but not Baghdad or Beirut says something about what we think.

We think that the lives in France are more important. Why? Because it is a Western, and some would say white country.

Although many people don't want to admit it, we don't seem to care about victims when they're brown. The people who suffer in the Middle East are a bunch of nameless, faceless people to us. Many of us don't know what's going on, besides the fact that we're in a state of constant war. 

It's easy to jump on the issue when the violent ones are brown. When they're the victims, suddenly, we are jumping away. Just recently, with the protests occurring at universities such as Yale and Mizzou, there was the threat of terrorism against black students.

The reaction? Scorn. Even after the tragedy in France occurred, there were people mocking the protesters at these schools. The protesters who feared that something similar could happen to them because of the color of their skin.

Why wasn't their fear valid?

While I was on Twitter today, I saw people linking to a tragedy where 147 students were killed in Kenya  and was quick to note how no one was talking about it. However, this tragedy occurred in April. The point that the posters were making was that there hadn't been a national outrage over this tragedy.

I don't remember hearing about this, and neither did the hundreds of people who retweeted. This, and other tragedies such as the disappearances in Mexico, are tossed around for a few minutes before we forget about them. 

What about bringing back our girls? Does anyone remember that?

I asked some of these questions to my followers on Twitter, and one very smart woman said that many emphasize with the tragedy in France because it reminds them of 9/11. That makes sense - I've seen so many people compare France's support of us during 9/11 to our support of them now.

But again, the common tropes: brown people initiating the violence, white people being among those who suffer. Is that why we care so much? Are we only able to care about a tragedy when we've experienced something similar? Some might say that it's a basic human trait, to be able to connect to someone who has experienced similar issues as us.

But why can't we recognize this? Why can't we say that our vision has been clouded since 9/11, which is where the knee jerk reaction comes from, but that we will also grieve for others who have suffered from violence?

Why don't we ever discuss the fact that we don't care about brown people and their suffering?

I could give many examples of this. There's the fact that there was a huge uproar and Europe about taking in Syrian refugees. Many people didn't want to do it, despite the large amount of suffering that these refugees faced. Their response was that there wasn't enough money.

After 9/11, no one mentioned money. We went to war. Even now, when people start discussing the chance of another war, no one is talking about the trillions of dollars of debt that we're in. Obviously, this isn't amount money.

Or I could bring up the Charleston shootings earlier this year, and how there wasn't an option to change our Facebook icons for that. Dylan Roof was not treated like a terrorist. This tragedy wasn't treated like a terrorist attack, even though this man expressed ideas shared with the KKK, a terrorist organization.

They bought him lunch. They escorted him nicely.

Instead of the national grief, all of the people posting on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, there were debates. Debates over whether or not this had to do with race. I honestly don't remember people caring the way that they care about France. No other countries expressed their grief about this event that "shook our nation." 

Is it because the victims of the Charleston shootings were black? Because the terrorist was white?

Another point that was brought up on Twitter is that the attacks in France ruin the idealistic vision we have painted, as a society. In movies, commercials, books, everything Paris is the city of lights, of love. The streets sparkle, and the Eiffel Tower shines down on you. Paris was everything we hoped to be. 

Charleston, within our own borders and attempting to sweep institutional racism under the rug, was something that we were trying so desperately to ignore. 

In turn, while I urge you to continue to pray for Paris, I remind you that stories of violence and terrorism are delivered to us in a prepackaged container. We, as Americans from a Western country, see brown people as disposable and violent. That's the way the story will be framed to us. If a story doesn't fit the container, it isn't told.

So, no. I will not be changing my Facebook icon. I will grieve for France, but also for Kenya, for Baghdad, for Beirut. I will grieve for all of the people affected, including the Muslims and Syrians who will now be targeted even more so than before. 

Because, ultimately, pain doesn't care about color. We're the ones who do.


  1. ISIS/ISIL is a Muslim organization. It is in the name. Just because they kill Muslims does not mean they are not affiliated with Islam. Radicals go after anyone who don't follow their exact vision. A much milder version of this is during presidential debates, when those on the same side rabidly go after each other.

    I fear we are drawing lines among ourselves. When Jeremy Mardis was killed, I expected the uproar against police brutality to be echoed once more by the activists I know feel strongly about the topic and take to twitter and blogs to share their feelings and keep the conversation happening. And yet not a peep. Perhaps white care about white, and brown about brown. If so, it is a terrible road we are on.

  2. The Islamic State does not represent Islam and it is not a state. Just because they call themselves that doesn't mean a thing. Any group can call themselves anything. This is why the world is moving to call them Daesh instead. So simple folks don't get confused.

  3. I love this article and though I did change ,u facebook page, I too was wondering why the Kenyan tragedy too seemed to go virtually unnoticed by the major new media and so I posted a tribute to those who lost their lives and those who were injured. Jeep on sharing the way you do.

  4. I agree completely. Thank you for writing out so beautifully what I've been thinking on the past couple of days. I can't believe you're 15. Keep writing and sharing. You have wisdom beyond your years and more people need to see it, read it, understand it.

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  6. Saying that the terrorists or ISIS is a Muslim group does not mean one is condemning the entire religion. I do not understand why people do not get this. And ISIS is Islamic - in order to understand them, and defeat them, we have to understand HOW they think, how they perceive themselves, because that is what will determine their action and reaction. To ignore this is folly.

    You should do a little more research on this. Have you read anything of the history of ISIS or its ideology? From people who are trained to understand the intersection of religion, politics, culture, and violence? Or do you just listen to whatever your friends on twitter are saying?