BHAVNA MAMNANI ’22
The disregard of the Rwandan Genocide is the most blatant form of racism showcased by mainstream media.
The Rwandan Genocide occurred for one hundred days in the summer of 1994. Hutu extremists blamed the Tutsis for the death of Hutu President Habyarimana and immediately began to carry out mass Tutsi execution the day after his death. Militias were given hit lists that targeted government opponents and their families, neighbors killed neighbors, and men killed their Tutsi wives in defense of their own lives. In one hundred days, about 800,000 people were murdered. But why is this atrocity against humanity never spoken of to the same extent as the Holocaust? Considering its brutality, it’s easy to assume this would have been all over the media – but for some reason, many us in the West have never heard about it. From rumors of Clinton’s concealed awareness of the genocide as it occurred to mainstream media’s conscious choice to avoid reporting on a genocide that affected people of color, no reason is reason enough to let the stories of the traumatized remain untouched.
Freelance photographer and founder of the popular Instagram account, “Humans of New York”, Brandon Stanton travels globally, reporting first-person accounts of assorted events, mostly those unknown to the public. Currently, Stanton is in Rwanda and has been publishing narratives from those who survived the Rwandan Genocide. One man recounts a Tutsi friend pretending to enjoy killing other Tutsis to mask his own fear of being killed. He only removes his mask in the presence of his friend. The details and insight these survivors retained from experiencing such vile hatred is not something to take lightly; especially in a country where mental health is deemed an unserious topic, to read vivid stories from people who are living seemingly untouched, is eye-opening.
The fact that one of the sole accessible means of first-person information on the Rwandan Genocide is being published by a freelance photographer who relies on social media to spread the word, is disheartening. The focus of our mainstream media seems to only concern white people and their “traumas” when citizens of other countries survive actual agonizing events. While the role of America does not include being social justice warriors, we have a moral responsibility to at least make these voices heard and urge people to educate themselves on other parts of the world. Living in our bubble will not only continue to isolate us but will perpetuate the ever so common American mindset of ignorance.
I encourage you to simply log into Instagram, search for @humansofny, and read just one account of the Rwandan Genocide. The complexity and long-lasting effects of genocide, especially one so recent, is incomprehensible, but educating ourselves is the first step to a globally competent mind, which is one we should all strive for.