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HomeUncategorizedContemplating War and Who Matters 

Contemplating War and Who Matters 

Tears spill from the eyes and stream down the cheeks of mothers, wives, and other family members as the men, and many women in their communities pack a small bag and head away from the frontlines of a war. A battle zone right in their own neighborhood. Children whimper with fatigue and hunger as their parents hold their hands and pull them along a muddy sidewalk or road. 

They sidestep bodies wrapped in bloody sheets. Some are neighbors. Others are strangers. Some are even children. Were they on their way to school the day they were killed by enemy gun fire?  The dead are young and old, men and women. Some are slumped over with their hands tied behind their back, a bullet in the back of the head. A cyclist lays in a pool of blood, stopped dead in his tracks by heavy artillery from a tank. Pregnant women hold their abdomens moving as fast as they can to safety as debris and shrapnel whiz past their heads. 

The International Human Rights Commission says civilians are the victims of rapes and executions, while their homes are looted by military soldiers.

These are not the tears of Ukrainian civilians under Russian attack. These atrocities are happening in other places in the world but you probably have not heard of them, at least not through hour-to-hour news coverage every day for weeks.

When I first sat down to write this piece I planned to express my disappointment and sometimes outrage at how much attention, both in the media and the international political stage, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has received compared to the minuscule if not complete absence of news coverage of the conflicts I just mentioned… the many other places where Black and brown people are victims of the bully next door, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, or a bully in their own country.

But I’d like to go a bit deeper.

I would like us all to move beyond our collective amnesia and remember we have been here before. We have seen this movie several times.

I’ve covered conflict zones and crimes against humanity since 2008 when I first traveled to the southern part of Sudan (before South Sudan seceded and became the world’s newest country). I’ve witnessed first-hand violent acts against women, children, men. Entire families killed. I know what genocide looks like. (PHOTO)

It never gets easier seeing my brothers and sisters suffer the brutality of a bully with power. There are no words to describe looking into the eyes of one of my ancestors, a grown man who has had his family, his home, and his dignity stripped from him. Or trying not to stare in shock at the once beautiful, now bloodied, black face of a young mother who reminds me of one of my cousins.

What the children of war from all ethnic and racial backgrounds have seen, bodies riddled with bullets, playgrounds that are backdrops for a killing field, should not be seen by anyone, anywhere.

My heart aches for the Ukrainians and my news colleagues who are at their side reporting this horrendous story, risking their own lives.

This does not have to be an either-or conversation. No need to compete to compare scars to see whose horrific experience is worse. We must focus on our shared humanity. We may come from different countries, speak different languages, eat different food. But we can all share compassion for one another. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

After the Holocaust, we said never again. After Rwanda, we said never again. After Cambodia, we said never again.

We even have weeks to heighten awareness of genocide and crimes against humanity. This month, April, we vow we won’t forget man’s inhumanity toward man.

And yet, here we are again.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vicious war against Ukraine is strikingly similar to other atrocities I’ve covered in the past 15 years.

To date, more than four million people have now fled Ukraine.

I have seen all of this before, firsthand in southern Sudan in the early 2000’s.

For far too long the international community and the media have had a tepid response to bullies in certain parts of the globe. While some may say the color of the skin of the victim may play a role in response and actions to help, I know my heart does not see color and aches for the people of Ukraine, the families torn apart in just a few days or hours as it does for my brothers and sisters in South Sudan, Rwanda, and other parts of the world.

I applaud my fellow journalists who have recently and openly said they feel that only now when they see victims that look like them they realize the lack of coverage and perhaps compassion they had for victims of crimes against humanity and genocide in Africa.

But now that we (all of us) know better, we can do better.

If we do nothing else during this Genocide Awareness month recognize a bully when you see one. Call him out. Everywhere. In. the. World.


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Latest comment

  • I do not believe that Vladimir Putin’s war against the country of Ukraine is like what is happening in Africa.. He is a dictator who intends to recreate the Soviet Union, USSR, as it was. To make comparisons is to minimize Putins utter destruction of an independent country to fulfill his aggressive desire to control all of eastern Europe and perhaps even western Europe. This being said, this is not to minimize the atrocities that happened and continue to occur in other parts of world, just that, in my opinion, there is no need for comparisons, just a need to recognize the need to address it all.

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