Sunday, May 25, 2008

Violence and invisibility

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the entire continent of Africa…with the possible exception of oil-rich regions that invite exploitation by first world nations…is completely invisible to the rest of the world.

Yesterday I read, on the CNN website, about violence in Italy: seems there’s some flap going on regarding garbage collection and eleven people got hurt…nobody killed. But not a word about the 25,000 people displaced in South Africa.

Perusing the Reuters site I saw its roll of top stories listed an article about a soccer riot in Belgium that involved 200 people…but no deaths. But not even an honourable mention for the 50+ people who have died violently in South Africa over the last week.

The AP fared only a little better, publishing stories on May 23 and 24, but not considering them sufficiently newsworthy to be listed as top stories. So, if you weren’t already aware that something was amiss in the Rainbow Nation, AP’s website would tell you about earthquake aftershocks in China, cyclone aid efforts in Myanmar, and tornadoes in the Midwest, but the violence in South Africa would never have been brought to your attention.

Yahoo at least headlined the story: South Africa immigrant violence leaves 25,000 displaced, but the link was disappointing, since it led to a story about fighting between the government and rebels in Sri Lanka resulting in 20 deaths. So, even though Yahoo headlined the story, you couldn’t have found out anything about us or what is going on here, since the headline was linked to the wrong story and Yahoo does not provide an easy-to-access means of notifying them of such errors.

To be fair, the AP did have a couple of stories about our tribulations, but you would have to know something was amiss here and do a search on the site to find the articles.“At least 42 people have been killed and more than 25,000 foreigners displaced since attacks began earlier this month by South Africans who blame immigrants for crime and unemployment. More than 500 arrests have been made,” the article says. Maybe it isn’t newsworthy to clarify that the violence has been directed at immigrants from Malawi and Somalia and Zimbabwe? Or that the drug trade the fuels much of the crime here, at least in Cape Town, and is dominated by Nigerians against whom the police seem to be powerless and of whom the local blacks are terrified?

Cape Town police spokesman Billy Jones said about 400 people had sought shelter on a motor racetrack after 12 people were injured in overnight attacks on an informal settlement in Cape Town,” the AP article goes on to say. I live just down the road from that racetrack…Killarney…and my maid lives across the road from the informal settlement in question. I know at least something of what is going on…for example, I know that so far, no white people have been reported as victims, not even white foreigners like myself. But does the article give this piece of information, a critical bit of knowledge in a country still suffering the lingering taint of apartheid and its attendant racism? No, it fails to specify that the victims of this violence are other poor people of colour, immigrants whom the hard-pressed locals perceive as competition for scarce resources or even predators against them. This omission can easily mislead people into thinking that the violence is indiscriminate, that visitors from other countries are endangered, that local non-black residents are fleeing in fear of their lives, and nothing could be further from the truth.

But I suppose it doesn’t matter, after all. We are invisible to the rest of the world, written off as second rate citizens of third world countries, fifty of our deaths of less value or newsworthiness than eleven Italians bruised in a spat over picking up the trash.

AP article: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/S/SOUTH_AFRICA_IMMIGRANT_ATTACKS?SITE=NCKIN&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

3 comments:

  1. Ah yes, the Dark Continent. My conclusion is that Africa has only been valued for its mineral resources for a couple hundred years now. And, of course, the Europeans did a good job in eradicating the native Americans for the same reasons. It is why there was a very tardy response to the AIDS situation, let alone to any drought or famine that may beset the land. If you get rid of the people, the resources are even easier to "acquire". I found a very clear article echoing my sentiments about 5 years ago in a magazine, The Sun, where US ex-secretary of state Shultz outlined the issues. I was surprised that anyone of note would make such a public statement, but then, who reads The Sun. Norine

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  2. Ah yes, the Dark Continent. My conclusion is that Africa has only been valued for its mineral resources for a couple hundred years now. And, of course, the Europeans did a good job in eradicating the native Americans for the same reasons. It is why there was a very tardy response to the AIDS situation, let alone to any drought or famine that may beset the land. If you get rid of the people, the resources are even easier to "acquire". I found a very clear article echoing my sentiments about 5 years ago in a magazine, The Sun, where US ex-secretary of state Shultz outlined the issues. I was surprised that anyone of note would make such a public statement, but then, who reads The Sun. Norine

    ReplyDelete

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