#JeNeSuisPasCharlie parce que…

Disclaimer: I DO NOT CONDONE THE ATTACK ON CHARLIE HEBDO IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM. This is a mere observation. Are we clear?

I’m sure by now Charlie Hebdo needs no introduction.  In case you’re wondering what the foodge Charlie Hebdo is, it’s a French newspaper that publishes cartoons of a satirical nature. But let’s fast forward a little bit.

On Wednesday morning, two radical Islamists (I stress that their actions don’t reflect Islam as a whole) entered the Charlie Hebdo offices and opened fire on staff members during a meeting. 12 people (including two police officers) were killed and 11 injured in the crossfire.

The attack prompted the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, which was trending on Twitter the day of the shootings. It has been used a whooping 6,500 times per minute, making it one of the most popular hashtags in Twitter history. A few dissenting hashtags, such as#JeNeSuisPasCharlie have also made their way into the Twittersphere.

As a journalism student, I can see why the right to freedom of expression is so fiercely defended. It helps keep people informed about current events. It helps us to ridicule the powerful via satire (which is a dying art but that’s another post for another day). It permits creatives to express themselves. There are countries where freedom of expression is practically non existent (*cough* North Korea #noshade) and we are appalled, then we thank our lucky stars that we live in a society that allows us to express ourselves freely.

Having said that, freedom of expression is not an excuse to reinforce prejudices and stereotypes. There is a fine line between freedom of expression and pure disrespect. Charlie Hebdo played jump rope with that line several times. Wanna question me? Let me show you a few things.

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Portraying a black politician as a monkey. Because that shit doesn’t get old *rolls eyes*

 

Likening the enslaved Boko Haram girls to welfare claimants? Really?“Don’t touch our [welfare] allocations!” Really? Likening the enslaved Boko Haram girls to welfare claimants?

"100 lashes if you don't die laughing!" This particular cartoon led to their offices being firebombed in 2011.
“100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!” – This particular cartoon led to their offices being firebombed in 2011.

 

“The Pope goes too far” – I think you get the idea now.

 Now don’t get me wrong, I think freedom of speech is a valuable asset to a well-adjusted society. But let’s not act like the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were martyrs. Before Wednesday’s events, the paper had a reputation for parodying religion, particularly Islam, in a crude manner. They even suffered a firebomb attack on their offices in 2011 because of a similar cartoon. In a country where there are tensions between Muslims and the wider French community, this added more fuel to a rapidly growing fire.

To conclude, lemme leave this cartoon here. It perfectly sums up how it would be if Jews were ridiculed instead of Muslims.

That is all.
That is all.

 

P.S. Happy New Year – Sorry for the absence btw!

P.P.S. Share this among your friends on Twitter, Facebook and all that good stuff. Thanks x

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#ITooAmHarvard, #ITooAmOxford and racial stereotypes at university

What is #ITooAmHarvard? Well,
#ITooAmHarvard is a viral campaign that has inspired a similar project at the University of Iowa, before universities in the UK followed suit.

How did this all start? Earlier this month, black students at Harvard University (yes, THAT Harvard) began a campaign called #ITooAmHarvard as a way to strike back at racial stereotypes that have found their way into higher education.

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Then the #ITooAmOxford campaign emerged not long after, with students of black and Asian descent sharing their own experiences of racial prejudice at Oxford University. Now Cambridge and SOAS have done their own versions.

Although I’m not an Oxbridge student or graduate (I’ve barely finished second year), I felt I could relate to the students holding a white board on which their messages were written (except the #WeTooAreOxford one but I’ll get to that soon). Some of the messages had me bewildered at the ignorance that was the basis of the students’ experiences. What struck me was that in universities which are regarded as the best in the world, such prejudice is common. The irony was that these comments came from other students/staff members that were supposedly “intelligent”.

So when the #WeAreAllOxford campaign emerged *side eye*, I was not surprised. A quick glance at the Tumblr site revealed all I needed to know about the project. It was launched to counteract the #iTooAmOxford campaign, as (mostly) white students held a white board with comments such as “We enjoyed celebrating diversity at the OUSU International Fair” and “We’re from state schools! Can you tell?” -___-

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What Oxford has done is divert attention away from the original campaign by their attempt to whitewash “fix” the problem. While there is no right way to legitimately address the issues raised by #ITooAmOxford, this PR spin of a project has rubbed people the wrong way. The whole project doesn’t just miss the point – it tries to shoot it with a shotgun but the bullet ricochets off the intended target.

What the #ITooAmHarvard and subsequent versions have done is to shine the spotlight on racial prejudice in higher education, which may be a surprise to some. While it may not be in the form of hate crimes, stereotypical comments disguised as ‘banter’ is just as bad. But it’s not just limited to Oxbridge or the Ivy League. I remember when I was asked by a lecturer whether I “had any friends in the Caribbean”. To a female of Nigerian descent. At a uni that used to be a polytechnic college.

Sidenote: I have friends from the Caribbean, but they all live in the UK. Does that answer your question, Mr Prejudiced Lecturer?

As students, we’ve all come to university to mingle with people from different backgrounds. Not only that, but we’ve come to educate ourselves and in doing so, freeing ourselves from the chains of ignorance. Let’s all make an effort to move past these stereotypes by educating ourselves and maybe then, we can learn something about each other.