I am writing to address Rob Rogers’ May 11 editorial cartoon “African Hashtags,” which appeared to criticize recent social media efforts to bring awareness of the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls.
The international community ought to be congratulated, not censured, for using social media effectively to raise awareness of this issue. Similar rhetoric is constantly employed when speaking about girls kidnapped on an individual basis in the United States. Media have sensationalized coverage of the kidnappings of JonBenet Ramsey, Natalee Holloway and many more over the past few decades.
Yet the cartoon took aim at “Bring Back Our Girls,” a remarkably simple and powerful message advocating for a tragedy of a much greater scale. A grassroots campaign that has garnered mainstream media attention for a massive women’s and human rights crisis is not the appropriate subject for a commentary on the vulnerability of the American everyman to pathetic appeals over hard facts.
Of course, the myriad issues facing Nigeria and other African countries that the cartoon alludes to — rape, poverty and trafficking among them — matter. But the cartoon fails to acknowledge that the kidnappings include these issues. The girls are victims of human trafficking and await rape if they are forced into marriage.
The recent Twitter campaign does not trivialize the problems facing Nigeria today but, rather, provokes the sympathy necessary to transform concern for this one case into awareness of these larger issues.