Kony 2012, Trayvon Martin, & the Hypocrisy of Selective Activism

I’m disturbed when I see Black folks organizing in the interest of justice for an innocent 17-year-old kid killed by a white man in Florida, while simultaneously undermining the efforts of a “white man,” to bring Joseph Kony to justice for crimes against thousands of innocent children in Uganda. I think there’s a word for this in the dictionary; but, I’m not sure just exactly what that word might be right now. But hey, that’s just me being idealistic, I suppose. Be that as it may, here’s a few words from another white man about the Kony 2012 campaign that may or may not mean anything  to it’s many detractors. Many of whom I’m sure are now embarrassed to have once sung “We Are The World” while holding a liighter in the air, in support of starving kids in Ethiopia at one point in time:

Kony is Africa’s most notorious militia leader.  During a decade-long campaign of intimidation in northern Uganda, Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) kidnapped tens of thousands of children and youth for use as soldiers and sex slaves. The conflict displaced more than a million people into camps. Kony and his commanders were eventually chased into the ungoverned border region between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. The LRA is now diminished and on the run. But it still conducted more than 300 attacks last year, generating fear and instability far beyond its numbers.

The effort to bring Kony to justice is broad. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted him for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama made the pursuit of Kony a priority. In 2010, the U.S. Congress passed the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, urging the apprehension of LRA leaders and the protection of civilians. On the ground, regional armies are cooperating with United Nations peacekeepers and US special forces to corner Kony and his lieutenants.

[…] Some criticism has been directed against Invisible Children, an organization that can speak in its own defense (and has). But a broader case is also being made against the global campaign to stop Kony. The crimes of the LRA, it is argued, have been exaggerated and the attention they are receiving is disproportionate.

It is probably true (thank goodness) that Kony’s greatest crimes are in the past. He is no longer active in Uganda, where even his northern tribal allies turned against him. Attacks in eastern Congo and southern CAR are mainly raids for supplies instead of mass atrocities. But this is precisely because the LRA is under constant pressure. When Kony attempts to gather his forces – as he did in September in CAR – his Ugandan army pursuers are quickly on top of him. Obama has deployed more than 80 special operations forces in the region to help coordinate these operations.

Even a diminished Kony is dangerous. And the evil of the man himself can scarcely be exaggerated. In Uganda, I’ve met former LRA child soldiers who were forced to kill their own parents and neighbors in order to sever their ties to community and sympathy. I met a young man who looked at Kony without permission and had his eye removed in punishment. In January, I met two girls in the DRC who had recently escaped from LRA captivity. They had been used as sex slaves and pack animals – punished, when they tried to escape, by having melted plastic poured on their shoulders. All Kony’s victims – past and present – deserve to see justice done.

[…] People are interested in Kony’s fate because of the scale of his past crimes and the vividness of his evil. But the LRA problem also attracts attention because a resolution is within reach. Kony is a cult-like figure, with a mystical hold over his followers. Removing him from the scene would likely result in the collapse of the LRA as an organized group. The net around Kony, with American help, is tightening. Even a little additional effort might make all the difference. The LRA may not be the biggest problem in the world, but it is a serious problem on the verge of solution.

The criticism is sometimes made of advocacy groups – on Darfur, or conflict minerals, or the LRA – that they oversimplify complex issues. This charge is often leveled by foreign policy experts who multiply complexity for a living. One gets the impression they would rather ignore meddling idealists and write their white papers in peace.  But experts and advocates both have important roles. The views of experts should inform the policies of public officials. But advocates help to push officials toward decision and action. When I was in government, strong outside advocacy made my job as an internal advocate easier. It revealed a constituency for urgency.

The pursuit of Kony is urgent. The effort is both bipartisan and multilateral. And the hunt is closing in.

Trayvon Martin died innocently at the hands of someone else through no fault of his own – that’s the story for now, at least. As such, him and his family deserves justice; and, many are doing what they can to ensure that they do through online petitions, and other forms of collective activism. Nowhere do we see anyone questioning the need for justice, or at minimum the arrest of the gentleman who killed him. How dare would anyone question or even suggest that his death was justified. Hell, he was an unarmed teen stopped by a neighborhood watchman for being black and in the wrong community at the wrong time. Hardly a crime punishable by death here in the U.S. last time I checked; but hey, this is America. This is not how we’re supposed to do things in this country, no?

Of course I’ve never lived in Uganda; and I could be wrong, but I think even over there, kidnapping kids and turning them into little mini-armies all the while brutalizing them is kinda wrong. OK, so maybe it’s not as big of a deal as being killed by a white man for walking in a neighborhood armed with a pack of Skittles. But that’s probably because you haven’t seen the Kony 2012 video just yet. Be that as it may or may not be, the however many thousands of children brutalized by Joseph Kony in Uganda deserve every bit of justice much in the same way that Trayvon Martin does. But maybe I’m wrong; maybe you’re willing to defend Joseph Kony like Rush Limbaugh did on his show; but hey, maybe Limbaugh should defend the death of Trayvon so all can be right with the world…

Where is the Justice for Trayvon Martin?

After all, isn’t an injustice anywhere a threat to justice everywhere? In this information age now reduced reduced to one hundred and forty character twwets and status updates. Isn’t it awesome that the world is a lot smaller, and that we’re all interconnected? And through the magic of social networking, irrespective of race, creed, or color, that we can all come together and make a difference in our own small but significant way? Isn’t it a beautiful thing that collectively we can speak for the voiceless in he interest of freedom, justice, and equality for all?

Watch the following to learn more: