So….I read an article the other day about how tweeters using the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag are complicit in the military intervention and presumed future US government attacks in Nigeria. The article also took light this idea that social media campaigns could change ‘anything.’
Let’s just say I beg to differ.
I’m clear that being able to use social media as a platform to raise awareness, is a privilege. I’m clear that being able to organize, whether online or in the streets, without a real credible threat of solitary confinement or death, is a privilege. I’m also clear, that the first world level of consciousness of human rights abuses that happen in far-off lands, allow us to experience temporary rage that will seem unauthentic and careless. I get it. I’ve got privilege all around me and for a variety of reasons.
But let's be clear, as someone who rallies, marches, protests, chants, etc.-I STILL believe in the power of social media campaigns. Because I know that hashtags and "online activism" has inspired, started and fueled many on the ground campaigns that have resulted in a ton of political changes. It IS valid and it absolutely does matter and most people who are saying otherwise have NO IDEA how social media campaigns (which take a lot of strategy, phonebanking, 'real life' meetings, etc) work. Awareness is power. It is our duty to elevate the voice of the NIGERIAN woman who created the hashtag. People have some nerve on their quest for authenticity. Go somewhere and eat an organic kale chip behind your MacBook Air in your gentrified neighborhood, across the street from your Seattle brewed coffee shop.
This article does raise questions/address a serious concern we should have with foreign citizens inspiring foreign governments. We have just validated our government's right to intervene in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation. That comes with a price that we don't have to pay. However, Nigeria has GOT TO DO BETTER. I will not stand by, shake my head, and post anti-hashtag articles out of respect for a nation with a long history of corruption and disenfranchisement (not to negate our own historical challenges in these areas). There are amazing people that live in Nigeria and they do not deserve our silence. They deserve our respect and our support in ensuring the lives of these human trafficked girls are not only saved but enhanced. You don't like the method? Put forth, organize and create a new method to ensure this never happens again.
I don't mind playing a backseat to my Nigerian sisters and brothers. However, as a person of African descent, I will not, in 2014 sit back and watch other people of African descent be enslaved at any level and not raise my voice until the solutions meets everyone's needs. The next step is, and where often the momentum gets lost, how do we best insert ourselves as citizens to hold our OWN government accountable for how they intervene in an international crisis without the proper tools (read: consciousness) for being true helpers rather than military interveners? How do we hold our own government accountable for search and rescue rather than shoot and kill? How do we play good when we are known for being bad? How do we tackle the challenges that lay before us which do not take the lives of marginalized girls (educated or not) serious in our own country and abroad? How do we make our bodies visible when they are not in crisis?
Tweeting is a first step that many people will take. It is a step that will raise awareness for a lot of people. Everyone who’s retweeting isn’t engaged in slacktivism. That second step will undoubtedly include a lot less people. But that doesn't mean the first step is invalid. It also doesn't mean that we've collectively figured it all out but awareness is powerful. Because we do have the power to bring our girls back. What we do with that power, how we propel that power, how we hold that power accountable, the tactics that that power employs, and how we transform that power into a supporting role-is the area we need to seek clarity in.
It is both alarming and dangerous to think that the kidnaping of these girls justifies any U.S. government response that is militaristic. But it is also equally as dangerous to assume that arm-chair liberalism will save the U.S. from responding to the resounding cry for action. Both are valid points, worthy of extensive exploration.