Attacks in Mali deserve equal attention


Ji-Ho Lee

art by Jenna Liu
History has proven that any citizen of any country can be an unfortunate victim of terrorism. Recently, the world has seen several tragic acts of terror. Although there was response to the events, it was given to selectively to certain victims, while ignoring others.
On Nov. 13, 2015, the city of Paris quivered in fear and shock following the attacks by the terrorist group ISIS, resulting in over 130 casualties and hundreds of more injuries. France, however, remained strong as a result of the magnificent support it received from global citizens.
On Nov. 20, 2015, the Radisson Blu hotel in the city of Bamako, terrorist groups including Al Mourabitoun and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb victimized Mali, as gunmen claimed 21 lives in a perilous hostage situation. In contrast to the Paris attacks, the Mali attacks led to little support, particularly from the United States.
Many social media participants redecorated their profile pictures with a filter, customizing their images with a facade of a French flag. Mali received no such treatment. Twitter and Facebook were abundant with hashtags like #PrayForParis or #PeaceForParis. These hashtags of inspiration and support were nonexistent following the Mali attacks. The Paris attacks sparked global discussion and concern in regards to terrorism. The Mali attacks provoked little discussion or interest around the world.
[callout bg=”#cfc7c7″ color=”#2bb673″ border=”#” radius=”0″ bt_pos=”bottomLeft” bt_content=”Give me your tired, your poor — just not the refugees” bt_color=”green2″ bt_bgcolor=”#” bt_hoverbg=”#” bt_textcolor=”#” bt_texthcolor=”#” bt_bordercolor=”#” bt_hoverborder=”#” bt_size=”big” bt_link=”” bt_target=”_blank” bt_font=”helvetica” bt_radius=”0″ bt_outer_border_color=”#” bt_icon=”fa-icon-globe” bt_icon_color=”#2bb673″]Read another international opinion[/callout] Paris was more fatal, claiming 109 more lives. But both were acts of terror, massacre and slaughter of innocent civilians. The largest difference between the two attacks, which translated to the difference in the reaction to the attacks, was the location.
Paris is a superstar among cities, boasting global treasures like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, while also attracting tourists with elegant shopping and style along with delectable food. Meanwhile, most could not point out Mali on a map, and even fewer could find Bamako. The reactions to the Parisian and Malian attacks disappointingly revealed that sympathy given to a tragedy is dependent on who was victimized — a result of the culture that is promoted in our schools and our everyday lives.
From kindergarten to eighth grade, Columbia Public Schools does not offer a single class related to World History. Students can only take social studies and history classes related to American or European history. The only mention of African society is its victimization of imperialism. For much of our young lives, Africa is somewhat of a myth. The education system fails to investigate African history, geography and society.
[quote]Paris is a superstar among cities, boasting global treasures like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, while also attracting tourists with elegant shopping and style along with delectable food. Meanwhile, most could not point out Mali on a map, and even fewer could find Bamako.[/quote] Another reason for the lack of attention given to African countries results from a basic, geographical tool. The Mercator map projection was created in the 16th century to make crossing oceans easier for sailors. But this map also incorrectly portrays certain areas, particularly making northern and first world countries seem much larger, thus more important, than third world countries in the southern hemisphere. For example, the map portrays Greenland and Africa as roughly the same size, when in reality, Africa is 14 times larger. Furthermore, the continent of Europe seems to be much larger than South America according to the Mercator, when the latter is actually nearly double the size of the former.
The attacks on Mali and Paris have uncovered a painful truth: the idea of western supremacy still exists, and not only does it exist, it thrives. This was more clearly evident, as recent attacks on California and London, which claimed a total of 17 lives, garnered significant global response, while the 27 deaths and 90 injuries suffered from triple suicide bombs at Lake Chad were barely recognized.
Impoverished countries below the equator are slapped with derogatory, uninformed stereotypes and receive lackluster support in response to tragedies, such as the ones in Bamako and Chad.
The idea of western supremacy is an issue that must be attacked. It starts with our education system, and, if that fails, it resorts to educating ourselves. This means understanding the different cultures and situations of the world, and not out of the lens of a comfortable, three story house in the United States; and not from a biased telescope portraying countries that are larger and above the equator as more significant and powerful than seemingly smaller ones. It means appreciating countries, cultures and people, like the ones in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, by interacting with and learning about their histories and the intricacies of their societies, to be better citizens and students of the world, not just the country.