I hate to rain on the parade, but there’s something that’s been bothering me about the march in Paris over the weekend. Of course I’m all for anti-terrorism and freedom of speech, and I liked seeing people of different faiths, or no faith at all, marching together for a common cause. I also liked seeing world leaders marching together singing cumbaya. And though I thought it was an odd collage of leaders touting their support for freedom of speech—here’s looking at you Saudi Arabia—I thought that the U.S. should have had a representative there and was puzzled that we didn’t. But with all the mixture of elation and outrage and faux controversies playing out on the world’s television screens—or to be fair to the rest of the world, probably just U.S. television screens—the world seems to be forgetting that roughly around the same time the attack happened in France, two thousand villagers in Nigeria were slaughtered by Boko Haram, and nobody seems to give a shit.
Perhaps at this point I should say pardon my language, but I’m not going to do that. I think the real pardon belongs to all of us, and the world system that once again has told black people that their lives don’t matter. While I mourn the little over a dozen French people that died last week, I also mourn that world leaders are expected to march hand in hand when a dozen Europeans are slaughtered and not when thousands of Africans are slaughtered. The world’s media and governmental structures have sent the message loud and clear. Africa can go to hell.
When I was a missionary in Senegal, I worked with a Nigerian pastor who once said to me, “Africa pays the bills of the rest of the world.” And it’s true. Global trade policies are rigged in spades against Africa. We can thank the World Trade Organization for that, and the wealthy nations the organization serves, but we can also thank all of us in the West who benefit from the system, and, thus, refuse to speak out.
About a million children die in Africa every year because of treatable diseases and a lack of clean water. It’s a moral bloodbath, and yet we’re not outraged. The longest running war with the most civilian casualties has taken place in Congo, and yet we’re not outraged. Two hundred girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram—two hundred girls—and yet nobody expects world leaders to march for them. There’s something wrong with a global system that values life more in some places and less in other places.
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age.” While it’s true that Paul is referring to demonic powers that rule over nations, he’s also talking about worldly structures that fail to reflect the reign of God that Jesus proclaimed.
The world has an Africa problem. More specifically: the world system has an Africa problem. The structures that make up the world system are stacked against African lives. I would add the African diaspora to that as well, because given the enormous disparity of world concern between European and African lives on display recently, I think I understand a little more what the recent protests in New York City and Ferguson were about. Black people are tired of their lives not mattering. They’re tired of everyone else not giving a damn when their people are gunned down.
It’s time the rest of us start giving a damn.