People are always surprised when I tell them how small the Global Sisters Report staff actually is. The fact of the matter is, while we have correspondents all over the world (that’s how we get all those global stories!) there are just four of us in the Kansas City office: me, Tracy, Sr. Jan and Mary Lou.
Personally, I think we get a lot done for such a tiny group, but there are still times I wish we had more hands to do more things. Case in point: last Friday marked one year since Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 school girls in Nigeria. GSR didn’t miss the anniversary – Sister of the Good Shepherd Clare Nolan wrote about it – but I don’t think we were able to give it as much attention as were larger publications. So I want to circle back and talk about it now, because this is exactly the kind of story that needs repeated attention, lest we forget and move on to other news.
First, I think everyone in the world should read this haunting account of the abduction in Chibok by Sarah Topol. Second, I think we should all take a minute to ponder why this story eventually petered out (at least for most people in the United States) while stories about ISIS are perpetually in the news.
The easy answer is that the U.S. media doesn’t care about missing people of color. At least, that’s the factoid thrown around whenever Nancy Grace devotes a month of her show to a missing white child while tens of thousands of missing black women and children are never mentioned on anyone’s television show. I don’t doubt that this theory is at least partially true, but I want to know why it’s true – and there really isn’t an easy answer for that.
If I had to guess, I would say we stopped caring about these girls for a number of reasons: compassion fatigue, the normal evolution of a news cycle, the fact that there was no quick solution, the fact that the U.S. has no recent political history with Nigeria or Boko Haram (as opposed to our history with Iraq) and – yes – the fact that we’re still learning that #BlackLivesMatter.
What I love most about Sarah Topol’s piece is that these girls become flesh and blood. They aren’t just nameless, faceless units that can be swept away with a news cycle. They are Blessed and Endurance and Doris. They are actual young women with petty annoyances as well as dreams and goals. And most of them are still missing; escapees say life with Boko Haram is full of rape and torture. By reemphasizing their humanity, Topol makes it difficult to shrug off what’s happened to these girls, which is what I think journalism should do in these instances.
And I want GSR to do its part. So here’s one more piece to say that we have not forgotten.
[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @Dawn_Cherie.]