Why do media outlets continue to undermine tragedies that affect people of color?
This past week 129 people were killed and 352 were injured in Paris during the November 13 attacks. And on November 12 approximately 44 people and counting were killed from suicide bombings in Beirut. Even though both of these tragic events happened in the same time frame, the Paris attacks are getting more recognition in the media than the Beirut attack.
On the night of the Paris attacks I was just waking up from my after work nap when I decided to check my Facebook. My timeline was flooded with news about the people who died in Paris, yet I did not see one article or photo about Beirut. It was not until the next day that I found out about Beirut when a friend of mine, who is Arab-American, posted a statement how no one was talking about the tragedy that happened there.
I began to look into the Beirut incident and I was surprised to discover that there was not more media coverage about the suicide bombings.
Then there is Facebook. The social media site made a profile filter for users to cover their photo with the flag of France to show solidarity with the people affected by the attacks.
“You are right that there are many other important conflicts in the world,” Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in response to why the social media site turned on Safety Check notifications for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut. “We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”
Facebook users, however, could not use Safety Check notifications to make their friends and family members aware that they were safe in Beirut. And no Lebanese flag profile filter is available either.
The crimes that happened in Beirut and Paris were similar. Both countries were attacked in random in urban areas. Beirut is the capitol and largest city of Lebanon and Paris is France’s capitol and a major European city. So why is Beirut’s tragedy not receiving as much coverage as the Paris attacks?
My friend Charlie Kadado, a journalism student at Wayne State, was torn up about the lack of coverage Beirut is receiving.
“Attacks in Beirut and Baghdad were neglected yesterday until the jolt in Paris occurred. Perhaps Parisian lives were more valuable,” Kadado wrote in a Facebook post. “I admit I have never felt as emotional as I felt today...because I feel so directly impacted by this. I see my close family, my friends, my country, suffering. My cousins have no future in the Middle East. The world fears Arabs and calls us terrorists, but they don't realize we leave our countries to escape terror.”
Another friend of mine, Sarah Rahal, said she didn’t even get a Safety Check notification from Facebook and that three of her relatives died in the Beirut bombings. Hearing this saddened me and made me angry at the same time. I felt heartbroken for my friends and the struggle they were facing. I also felt anger that a country known for its Caucasian population was receiving more coverage than a country known to be Muslim. In my opinion, the lack coverage was an act of racism.
The Beirut tragedy is not the only case where people of color have been pushed aside recently in media coverage. This April, CNN reported that 147 people were killed at Garissa University College in Kenya. The attack lasted for hours and was the largest attack in Kenya since 1998. There was also a lack of solidarity from Facebook and other social media sites when Kenya was attacked.
I’m not saying that these attacks are more urgent than the Paris attack, but that they have been undermined in the media. The Kenya attacks were covered so little that social media users are re-sharing the story, and it's causing some people to assume that the attack just happened recently.