Why are Dead Black Bodies still Being Used for Western Consumption?
On Tuesday 15th January 2019, suspected militants stormed a hotel and office complex in Nairobi, killing 21 people. While a nation mourned, and reeled in the pain of another attack by Al-Shabaab militants, many European and US publications including the New York Times, the UK Mail Online and Germany’s Bild felt it was suitable to publish images of those who had been brutally murdered, their bodies slumped over restaurant tables. This was published before the attack was officially over, before bodies were identified, and before relatives were given the news of the death of their loved ones.
Kenyans took to social media to express their repulse at the West’s media coverage.
“Extremely disgusted with the irresponsible reporting of the New York Times on the terrorist attack that happened in Kenya yesterday. Showing the dead bodies of my fellow Kenyans in their article contributes to the ongoing trend of desensitizing people to the death of Africans and other minorities. Their apology stated that it was an attempt to “give a clear picture of the horror of an attack like this” was bullshit. So presumably we will be seeing photos of children in the next mass shootout in the US so we can “get a real sense of the situation” right?”. – Tapkili Rop
"African victims of atrocities such as yesterday often get their death displayed for consumption with little to no regard for their privacy or the grief of their family members," James Siguru Wahutu
Why does the West think it’s acceptable to depict dead African bodies for white consumption, when this would never be the case in terror attacks against white people that occur on Western soil? You can draw parallels between the coverage of this attack and images shown of African-Americans shot down by police. The media not only shared images of the dead bodies of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Philando Castile, they shared videos of their last moments too. In the UK, it was easy to find videos of the brutal murder of Mark Duggan at the hands of the police. Meanwhile, in war zones, it’s not uncommon to see images of non-Western soldiers or civilians lying dead in the ruins of cities that they once called home, to the point of showing dismembered bodies strewn across rubble. Yet it would be unheard of to see images of dead British, American, French or German soldiers. Following the Paris terror attacks, Manchester bombings, and multiple US mass shootings, no major newspapers published images of the victims lying dead in their own blood while the attacks were still happening. There is never debate whether to air videos of the murders of white hostages at the hands of terror groups such as ISIS, yet media outlets like Fox News didn’t even hesitate to publish the full video of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh being burnt to death while enclosed in a cage.
The media fails to publish images of dead bodies following attacks in the West because, frankly, the victims look like them. It would be too disturbing to display an image of someone that could be your mum, dad, brother, sister, auntie or uncle. It’s all about geography. If the attack happens in a faraway land, to people that don’t represent your own culture, who don’t look like you, who are the ‘others’ of the world, then the media’s logic is that it’s perfectly reasonable to share images of their dead bodies. I don’t know who decided that we need these images to understand that 21 people were killed. It’s not like people won’t believe the news unless they see the bodies for themselves. While it is arguable that there are certain, rare, circumstances where sensitive images such as these need to be shared to bring attention to horrors being committed around the world, there is undeniably a double standard in how the media treats black bodies compared to white ones. These ‘other’ people are presented as less human, less worthy of dignity in death, less valuable as individuals. They are depicted as numbers, hardly ever named, and almost never have their individual stories told.
It’s time for the media to give the same level of respect to black victims as they offer to white victims. It’s time to acknowledge the double standards in reporting events in the West compared to the rest of the world. It’s time to stop treating dead black bodies like pieces of recyclable rubbish that have no value other than being reproduced in the form of photographs for white consumption.
Article by VERVE Operative & Blogger Chanju Mwanza