Terrorism is a ‘Black issue’
By George E. Curry, George Curry Media Columnist
It was disturbing to listen to some people calling in Friday during my weekly radio segment on Keeping it Real with Rev. Al Sharpton who displayed only a passing interest in the issue of world terrorism or failed to realize how international violence should be a major concern to people of color, especially African Americans.
Of course, there were callers who were on top of the issue and I commend them. But I want to address the narrow-minded, knee-jerk reaction that somehow violence committed on foreign soil is not a “Black issue” or shouldn’t be a priority.
Even if one subscribed to such nonsense in the past, that should have been eradicated last Friday with the attack on guests at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, the capital city of the West African country of Mali.
An al Qaeda-affiliated group took credit for the attack that left at least 27 people dead, including five gunmen. At least 170 were taken as hostages in the dramatic early morning assault.
Mali was once one of three African empires that controlled the trans-Saharan trade of salt, slaves, gold, and other precious commodities.
I don’t know how you get any “blacker” than that.
Although we seem to have conveniently forgotten about them, it wasn’t that long ago that a social media campaign was organized around the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Several hundred school-age girls were kidnapped in April 2014 near the town of Chibok that garnered international attention. Some escaped after being abducted, but 219 are still believed to be missing.
In August, nearly 300 girls not part of the original schoolgirl kidnappings by Boko Haram were rescued by Nigerian troops in the northeastern Sambis Forest. It is not known how many others are being held by Boko Haram.
Although Nigeria is the largest staging ground, terrorism is no stranger elsewhere on the continent.
On Aug. 7, 1998, in what is commonly referred to as the East African Embassy bombings, U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania were struck. According to the State Department, 224 persons – including 12 Americans, 32 Kenyans and eight Tanzanians – were killed and more than 4,000 others were injured in the truck bomb attacks.
One of my friends, Edith Bartley, an African American, lost her father, U.S. Consul General Julian Bartley, Sr., and Julian, Jr., her younger brother and only sibling, who was working a summer job, in the Nairobi bombing.
My Black Parisian friends, who confront some of the same discrimination challenges African Americans face in the U.S., aren’t exempt from terrorist attacks in France or anywhere else they travel.
Although Paris has captured international headlines and sympathy following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks on four different locations there, including the Bataclan Theater, that resulted in the deaths of 130 people and injuries to 368 others, terrorism in Africa isn’t receiving anywhere near the attention it deserves.
According to a report issued last Wednesday by the Institute of Economics & Peace, “Also notable over the past year is the major intensification of the terrorist threat in Nigeria. The country witnessed the largest increase in terrorist deaths ever recorded by any country, increasing by over 300 percent to 7,512 fatalities. Boko Haram, which operates mainly in Nigeria, has become the most deadly terrorist group in the world. Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to ISIL (also known as the Islamic State) as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) in March 2015.”
For the first time, Boko Haram has overtaken ISIL as the group that caused the most terrorism deaths.
“Deaths attributed to Boko Haram increased by 317 percent in 2014 to 6,644. ISIL was responsible for 6,073 terrorist deaths,” the report stated.
It explained, “Terrorism remains highly concentrated with most of the activity occurring in just five countries – Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. These countries accounted for 78 per cent of the lives lost in 2014.”
But terrorism is spreading, with the number of countries experiencing at least 500 terrorism-related deaths increasing from five to 11, a 120 percent increase over the previous year. Of the six new countries with 500 or more terrorism deaths each year, four of them are in Africa – Somalia, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Cameroon, according to the report titled, “Global Terrorism Index: 2015.”
And some say terrorism isn’t a Black issue?
In terms of loss of life, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. were by far the largest, claiming 2,296 lives, including the19 terrorists, and property and infrastructure damage exceeding $10 billion.
Many Blacks, including 12 African American firefighters, lost their lives that day. However, many have been ignored in the numerous services commemorating 9/11. Media columnist Richard Prince pointed out that Time magazine, for example, published 64 pages of photos of 9/11 victims, none of whom were identifiable as Black.
Whether the media identifies them are not, Blacks, like whites, are frequent victims of terrorist attacks.
George E. Curry is President and CEO of George Curry Media, LLC. He is the former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA). He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at twitter.com/currygeorge, George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook, and Periscope. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.