Thu | Aug 16, 2018

Je suis Charlie Negre (I am Charlie Black)

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Orville Taylor

Two weeks ago, there was an unprovoked attack by people labelled as Islamic extremists who murdered a set of innocent people. No, it is not the 17 'journalists' who baited Islamists with their over-the-top cartoons that crossed the border of free speech into the realm of directly insulting the religious figures of the most volatile religion on earth today.

Rather, it is about the more than 2,000 Nigerians who were massacred by a sect of persons claiming to have the approval of Allah and who go by the moniker Boko Haram. This is the same group that last year abducted some 200 schoolgirls who, despite misinformation from a delusionally optimistic press, have little hope of ever being released. At least that made news, but not even my Jamaican media colleagues found it newsworthy enough to occupy centre stage.

double jeopardy

While we have details of the attack around the same time on the satirical media house Charlie Hedbo, in Paris, little is known of the brutal killing of the residents of the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga. It has been a case of double jeopardy, as in so many countries with black majority populations. Because of their proximity to the areas of militant Islamist influence, they have been harassed by the military in a fashion akin to the stories recounted by many inner-city residents such as western Kingston and other garrison communities. In April 2013, parts of the town were razed and some 200 civilians randomly killed by the security forces because some elements from Boko Haram had fired upon them earlier.

Yet, as they appeared to comply and provided information to the military, rather than surgically acting upon the intelligence it gleaned from the residents, the security forces simply dropped explosives, killing some of the very 'informants' and collaborators. This time, it appears that the anti-democracy militia was sending clear messages to the citizens not to vote in the upcoming February elections.

But it is not yesterday that Qur'an-wielding men have been having their way with black Africans. And this is particularly pathetic and ironic because the first disciple of the Prophet Muhammad and first apostle of Islam was an Ethiopian called Bilal, who brought the glorious message of Islam to the Arabs and others in the Middle East, who were thitherto worshipping a pantheon of 'false gods'.

precedence in Christendom

Actually, there is indeed precedence in Christendom because it was the second black Pope, Militiades, whose reign ended in early January 314 CE, who blessed Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine, an erstwhile persecutor of Christians, strategically adopted the religion as the official doctrine of the Holy Roman Empire and thus opened the way for the later conquest and domination of black people, who had no history or religion.

Nonetheless, back to the maltreatment of black Africans by Islamists. Arabs, supposedly with the endorsement of their religion, enslaved tens of thousands of East Africans and shipped them to India in the early 1000s CE. Do an Internet search and discover the sorry story of eight centuries of black Africans in a perpetual state of enslavement in Mauritania.

Ask the inveterate emailer John Anthony about the atrocities carried out in the Darfur region of Sudan, where more than 10,000 women were routinely raped and men murdered. And yes, the United Nations and Western nations and the Chinese are all fully aware. The simple fact is, the lives of black people have been worth much less than those of other races since the turn of the last millennium, and, unfortunately, the biggest allies in this injustice might be black people themselves.

After all, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who didn't have enough grace to remove his silly-looking cowboy hat in the Jamaican Parliament, either doesn't have a clue as to how to protect his citizens or simply doesn't care enough. Apart from his military impotence and inability to stand up against Boko Haram, he and his Cabinet colleagues have remained silent on the Baga killings, while finding time to express condolences to the families of the 17 Charlie Hebdo victims.

By the way, our 63 parliamentarians and house marshal said nothing to the African with English names as he breached house protocol when he visited us in 2013. Yes, we tend not to notice important things.

West Kingston Commission of Enquiry

By the way, it is because black lives are important to me why I believe that the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry is necessary because we have to explain how and why 70-plus black civilians and a soldier were killed during the Tivoli Gardens operations in 2010.

The pricey bill is subject for another column. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the mid-1990's crash of the financial sector derailed the prospects of real national development. One must not forget that with the exception of the Paul Chen Young-led Eagle group, it was the black-owned financial institutions that crumbled. Moreover, it is often overlooked that the majority of accounts in banks are small savers. Therefore, inasmuch as there were some high-profile bailouts, it was the poor savers with their years of 'quattie' savings that lost big time.

It is perhaps also not recognised that the loss of income, savings, and employment did fuel a crime wave. Between 1994 when the economy was FINSAC-ked and 2014, close to 20,000 Jamaicans - 70 per cent of whom are poor black youth - were murdered. So, guess what? I believe that spending an additional $10 million to complete the long-overdue FINSAC enquiry is money that must be disbursed, too. After all, 14,000 lives are slightly more than 74 - if my math is correct.

But so it is. We in Jamaica and the rest of the black world can't find it important to give mainstream attention to the invisible thousands who were slaughtered, while giving all our sympathies to a few Europeans thousands of kilometres away. To the families of these black Africans who have died, I say, "Je me souviens." (I remember.)

Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to and