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Is society really the Black girls' ally?

Child marriage courtesy - Vannesa Vick for New York Times.

Child marriage courtesy – Vannesa Vick for New York Times.

Privilege allows one to live oblivious to others’ struggles and circumstances, should they choose to do so. The rich don’t understand why the poor don’t “just make money”. Pretty girls don’t know what it’s like for one to be overlooked because they aren’t pleasing to the eye. A White person in our society will never understand the problems many people of Colour face. And even when one acknowledges and understands their privilege and how somebody else might have it different, they will never truly experience and therefore feel what it’s like to be one of the ‘Have Nots’; to be on the other side.

In 2009 my friends and I left High School with our IGCSE certificates in hand and our heads held high. A fair number of us had no ID’s, no less any idea what we wanted to do with our lives, and yet into Varsity we marched, led on by family expectations, youthful naiveté/confidence and the allure of a monthly allowance.

Give a bunch of entitled, middle class young people money at the end of each month and ask that all they do is keep their grades up and complete their course and guess what? Most of them would have dropped like flies by the end of the semester.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Intoxicated by what little freedom we’d gained and what seemed like endless possibilities at the time, we would sit, denouncing the School System, spending money that we got from it though, and feeling like we had all the time in the world to do whatever we wanted. Did we know the axe would fall? Of course! We patiently awaited the transcripts which would most probably comprise of results that contained letters from the last half of a string of vowels.

We would have stuck it to the man, so to speak. We would have cheated him at his own game, and then we’d proceed to really figure out what we’d do with our lives and it would definitely have nothing to do with University, we wouldn’t fall for that! Never in a millions years! We knew what a scam it was: “Here, come here for at least four more years, get this piece of paper then go out into the world and struggle to survive!” What? We knew what everyone else in class evidently didn’t: That University’s a sham and people who believe they’re brilliant to be brilliant had no business going there.

We could do it. We would do it.

And as it was thought, so it came to be. As our parents’ expectations crumbled around us we continued to hold our heads high. They just didn’t understand that we had everything figured out. We had ambition and that was enough, if the motivational speakers were to be believed.

Two months later half of the people who’d left Varsity and promised their 17 year old selves to never look back were depressed and confused, not to mention dirt broke. Somehow things just hadn’t worked out. Most had no CV’s, no less any actual work experience, whether in a creative field or otherwise. The world hadn’t marvelled at our individual brilliance. Hell, to be honest, we hadn’t bothered to be brilliant, but who then would have admitted that? We were young and stupid, some of us still are.

As time passed and we started to feel old [Who wants to be 18 and unable to answer “So what do you do?” with something that makes sense? For shame! ] Most of us went back to school, humbled and believe it not, in a sense, smarter. Many of us weren’t cut out for the world without something to fall back on. We learned that in order for the brilliant to exist, the majority must be willing to be average.

And we had the luxury to do so.

We had the luxury to squander funds, to be layabouts and to mess around in order to learn that lesson.

We had the luxury of choice.

This is the story of countless young adults from Middle/High Class families in modern day Africa. We’ve been raised to desire the American dream. We’re assimilating our values and methods and so the Modern day African family finds itself in a transitional phase, throwing everything into disarray. We’re heralding a new dawn, with an Africa that boasts all its influences. But with change obviously comes resistance.

The recent kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria is nothing new to those who pay attention to the media, especially politically conscious women of Colour. There’ve been countless girls, many nameless, who’ve not only been denied an education, but dignity, respect, and a plethora of basic human rights. Whether one lives in a country where their life, and their word, means nothing unless it’s convenient for a man, countries where patriarchy and misogyny are crushing the lives of women every day in the name of religion, law and order, or one stumbles upon news of the tragedies that befall these women/girls through the media, it’s evident that society’s the girl child’s biggest threat. If she isn’t being sexualized she’s being used as a mule. If she isn’t someone’s doormat, of rag doll, of any use to the next person, she’s as good as dead, put down like the family pet no one has the energy to take care of anymore.

But many people don’t know that, including a large number of women and girls. As technology has evolved and humans fancy themselves smarter, we’re much more sceptical. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” has turned into “I’ll believe it when I see it live,” and even that isn’t good enough, lately.

A group of young African girls going missing will not be more than a hashtag to many people because they do not feel affected. To a girl in Joburg, this injustice means nothing to her because “they aren’t here” and she cannot fathom the occurrence of such a thing, therefore she will feel no specific way about it. To a man in Gaborone, who wants to throw in his 2 cents yet lacks empathy, his biggest concern is just how to crack the right joke that will incorporate the “hot topic” yet still have his signature humour to go with it. There’s someone in Zimbabwe who’ll retweet it to a follower in Ghana who’ll Favourite it then DM the tweet to a friend in Lagos and so it goes.

By Peter Brooke's for Times London.

By Peter Brooke’s for Times London.

Many believe with the introduction of Western media coverage and celebrity co-signs chances of finding the girls are getting slimmer and slimmer. It’s not as simple as narcissism. We could chalk inaction and lack of sympathy down to the Y generation being narcissistic hypebeasts with short attention spans. We could blame the Nigerian government for not doing something, anything since media reports say they had a tip off. We could believe the theories that America is somehow trying to get it’s claws into Nigeria and this is it.

But at the end of the day, isn’t the bottom line the fact that people just can’t seem to find the time to go save these girls? People, including those in the Nigerian government, the task forces, the FBI, and civilians in the society simply do not know how to deal with any of this because those who can do something simply can’t seem to pry themselves away from their lives long enough to consider the condition of these girls, some apparently sold for marriage and obviously going through hell. The lack of empathy will see to it that

Alicia Keys Intagram photos.

Alicia Keys Intagram photos.

#BringBackOurGirls remains nothing more than a hashtag and a way for weasels to make money through numerous projects aimed at “helping”. The fact that many people cannot imagine having their rights trampled on, no less believe it to be someone’s reality, will see to it that the middle and upper class go about their lives. The fact that Goodluck Jonathan [And his wife, who somehow got mixed up in all of this. Do First Ladies do this sort of thing? I wouldn’t know, my country lacks one…] seems to expect this to be all forgotten about and ignored will see to it that this remains just another sad story in the history of Africa.

Puff Daddy's Instagram photos

Puff Daddy’s Instagram photos

#BringBackOurGirls is already the next best thing for celebrities to attach themselves to and the average person to comment on in order to prove that they’re up on current affairs. It’s the tavern and Twitter comedian’s new material and a way to get new followers. It’s no longer about those girls; no one cares how many they were anymore, no less where they are and how they are. The human race got a hold of a gross human rights violation and talked about it til we didn’t even know what we were mad at anymore. The human race played a game of Chinese whispers about an act that concerned the lives of dozens of little Black girls and went off topic. It became about [the shame of] a culture that values religion over logic, fame over humanity and men over all.

Image credit - Eliot Elision

Image credit – Eliot Elision

What’s really going on when the lives of Black girls need to be tweeted about, consistently, to beg for safety and help from the population at large? And how long will it remain an issue that doesn’t “directly affect” the lot of us? I’ve found, a message to one of us is a message to us all. Pay attention.

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