#bringbackourgirls has worked?
Admittedly the title of this article is meant to be derisive, but that aside some fantastic news has come out today. The Nigerian Government has announced that they have reached an agreement with Boko Haram to #bringbackourgirls, to use he parlance of the whole affair.
So hashtag activism worked, right?
I know this is irrelevant but hashtags make me think of hashbrowns.
Well, yes it is true that the Nigerian girls will, most likely be returning home, but is that the only important element of the story here? Literally millions of people jumped on the band wagon of outrage over #bringbackourgirls. Now that they are being returned those same millions of people are silent.
Salacious stories are more entertaining. Collective outrage is fun. It makes us feel like we are a part of the solution. But did your twitter post really help #bringbackourgirls?
OK, yes, awareness is important. But it can also be harmful. What this instance did do is serve to further the ignorant narrative that Africa is a violent hell hole of chaos and disease. Africa is viewed as a place to be avoided at all costs, and in light of the recent Ebola outbreak, quarantined and forgotten.
Not exactly a good look from a PR perspective…
This is wrong. This is colonialism. This is Xenophobia. And #bringbackourgirls is helping that. You being personally afraid of contracting Ebola when you live in the Midwest of America (where I’m from) is helping that.
The reason why it’s so bad is because we love to focus on the negative stories coming out of Africa, but when it comes to success we are oblivious. It is rumor and myth that keeps Africa a place of war and chaos in the eyes of the west, the truth be damned!
That’s a mighty fine soap box you got there Mr. Carter.
OK, stepping off the soap box now, let’s talk about what you can do to help this problem.
1. Don’t spread ignorance and rumor. When somebody tells you a little tidbit about Africa, ask them to cite their sources. Usually they can’t. Start at websites like this.
2. See your activism to completion. If you post tweets with #bringbackourgirls, make sure to post tweets celebrating the successes too. You could use #theybroughtourgirlsback or #nigeriangirlscominghome.
3. Don’t just blindly donate money either. Ask questions about where it’s going, what over sight is there, and what proof do they provide. Giving money to somebody who is going to misuse it means that good organizations don’t get the money. Here is a great TED talk to get you stared thinking about charity
4. Stop only paying attention to the problems. Africa is a giant continent, made of many diverse counties, don’t lump them all together. This is seriously racist.
5. Get educated. Can you name the counties of Africa? Have you ever heard of the African Union? No? Hit the Wikipedia my friend!
Seriously, the best website on the internet, hands down!
Alright, this turned into a rather angry post, sorry about that. But its time we stop treating Africa like it’s a disease, and start treating it like it is a continent filled with people like you and me. Now go learn you some knowledge!
EDIT 1: Atrocious spelling mistakes were fixed. I wrote this on my cell phone, cut me some slack! Also, did some cleaning up, and added some links.