Do African dead bodies pose a “clearer picture” of a horror attack?

Police officers comb for clues in one of the car used by attackers at Dusit D2 hotel in Nairobi on January 17, 2019. [Edward Kiplimo/Standard]
Letter addressed to Phil Corbett, Associate Managing Editor for Standards, The New York Times.

I have read your response to the Media Council of Kenya, requesting specifically for a redaction of the article showing the photographs of our deceased citizens of Kenya during the Dusit attack on January 15th, 2019. As a Kenyan – New Yorker, I am appalled, disgusted and even more infuriated at your ignorance and lack of empathy for a grieving community.

Your generic response disguised as “sensitive” and “supposedly thoughtful” yet marred with the same degree of poor judgement and insensitivity, emphasizes your lack of depth, in understanding cultural practices outside of the United States. Your blatant refusal to withdraw the picture, shows a sincere disrespect for humanity. You claim that you want to be respectful to the victims, the families, and anyone affected, yet, the fact of the matter is, your publication runs gory images of our deceased loved ones, whilst the terrorist attack still in progress.

In your mind, you and your team, have collapsed the lives of deceased African members and horror together, therefore perpetuating, the old deplorable narrative of Africans as violent people. This is why, you continue to shamelessly uphold the publication and gory photographs, with no regard to the outcry from the People of Kenya. This act is inhumane, discriminatory and egregious.

In Africa, we respect our dead. There is nothing about this situation that has to do with journalism as a profession or free press. This situation has everything to do, with the way you view the African community, and your ability, in this case inability, as a Media House, to shift your emotional consciousness, to accept people including Africans, are deserving of basic human rights, fairness and dignity, to which you have a duty to honor.

There was absolutely no reason, to publish photographs showing, our deceased brothers and sisters, to give a clearer depiction of the extent of the horror attack in Kenya. In addition, the Kenyan Community has communicated to your media house, that many family members, had not yet been notified of their deceased. What part of this communication is so difficult for your editorial team to comprehend?

You continue to abuse your platform as a global media house, your role as a journalist and the untimely death of our brothers and sisters, in order to give the entire world a “real sense of the terrible situation.” In truth, primal communication with Kimiko, and letters from your editorial team, is a direct mirror of your collective inability to maturely and responsibly comprehend the level of grief and violation your publication continues to inflict on members of the Kenyan community.

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As your editorial team and your readers continue to feast on the sensationalized images of our dead brothers and sisters, you may want to consider including cultural sensitivity, as a part of your standards, so that this heinous act never repeats itself. It may also behoove you to invite people to your decision making team, with a mature sense of ethical consciousness, cultural sensitivity and moral judgement.

Listen, see and understand the world we are coming from.

 Nkatha Kimathi is a Kenyan American citizen in New York.

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