Selective grief: Why I won’t be changing my profile pic for Paris

Friday night, after coming home from a long day of work, I went on Twitter and took a look at the trending topics.

Two items jumped out at me immediately: An entry about Paris and the word “Muslims.”

As soon as I saw these two pieces, my heart sank. I clicked on the trending topic that discussed Paris and subsequently came to an article by CNN that summed up what had happened. This may sound appalling, but the first thing that came to mind wasn’t a sense of sadness for the lives lost.

Yes, I felt anger towards these monsters for killing an absurd amount of innocent people; but at the same time, I felt a wave of anxiety.

As a Muslim, it is hard not to.

Every time one of these terrorist attacks happen, the court of public opinion finds Muslims guilty by association. I’m tired of having to defend myself. And I’m even more tired of seeing xenophobic sentiment increase by the day.

When I woke up this morning, I went on YouTube and noticed that the logo had changed to exhibit the colors of the French flag. When I went onto Facebook, I saw that almost all of my friends filtered their profile pictures with a translucent Tricolore. Annie Karni, a respected Politico journalist, even tweeted that what occurred is “the biggest terrorist attack in 10 years.”

In college, I studied the French language and culture for three years. I can speak the language reasonably well, and I even accomplished a goal of mine to visit Paris and Nice in order to live my studies firsthand.

Needless to say, I love the people, culture, and country of France. So like everyone else, or maybe even more so, I was heartbroken to hear about what happened in a place so dear to my heart.

But just a few days ago, a terrorist attack in Beirut took the lives of 41 people, and no one seemed to care.

No filters with the Lebanese flag. No #PrayForBeirut. Nothing. In the past year, multiple terrorist attacks in Nigeria have left thousands dead. I cannot recall any large corporations changing their logos in memory of the lives lost in Nigeria. Even now, a few days since the attack in Beirut, I haven’t heard of a single vigil for the people of Beirut.

When it happened in Kenya, not a peep. Time and time again, this happens all over the world, but no one says anything. I could literally go on and on about similar attacks all over the world that receive virtually no attention. And don’t even get me started on Palestine.

How can you selectively grieve when it happens in one place, but stay silent when the same thing happens elsewhere? How can the lives lost in one place deserve more remembrance than the lives lost in another? Why is it that when this happens in Paris it is “an attack on all of humanity,” (as our President so eloquently put it), but when it happens somewhere else, it is a blip on the news ticker?

Maybe it has something to do with keeping up a particular narrative.

No one cares about the slaughter of a bunch of Africans on a daily basis. And I guess Islamic extremists killing massive amounts of Muslims puts a damper on the whole “us versus them” mentality. Or maybe it’s just the obvious: the lives lost in France matter a lot more than those lost in other places.

I cannot say that I definitively know the answer, but I can say this: as a human being of both African and Lebanese descent, it is incredibly depressing to know where I stand. So by all means, feel free to change your profile picture, but just know that I’m not changing mine.

Ibraheem Khadar is a recent college graduate of Sierra Leonean, Grenadian, and Lebanese descent. Follow him on Twitter @IbraheemKhadar