Global personhood politics, which include white supremacy, gender-based violence and economic oppression of African-descended people, inflict grievous harm. Another painful reminder of this trifecta came via a New York Times column by Tariro Mzezewa, about nearly 40 African girls whose bodies were found in the Mediterranean Sea.

Details about the girls are scant. They were believed to be abducted in Nigeria, confined in Libya and sent to Italian shores. The girls, who were mostly teenagers, but included a toddler, were thought to be human trafficking victims. People in the aid community told the NYT that they were likely raped and tortured. “We will see if they have family members,” Marco Rotunno, the communications officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy, told Mzezewa, NYT staff editor. “Most of the Nigerian girls travel alone, part of a huge trafficking network, and no one knows exactly who they are.”

The column included details about how leaders in various Mediterranean nations strike business deals over Black bodies. The piece highlights the overarching absence of consequences for the human traffickers and their allies.

Mzezewa juxtaposed the sensitivity brought to non-Black Arab and Persian people who flee warfare and declining economies and how the humanity of people in Middle Eastern countries (whose phenotypes sometimes lie closer to whiteness) pulls at people’s heartstrings. Conversely, African girls, particularly West African girls, experience the worst kinds of physical and psychological damage.

The shame here lies not with African girls whose lives were literally disposed of, but with everyone who cannot see the humanity in them, who profits from their sale, who sexually violates them and marks their bodies, whose economic and entitlement policies render them nameless and stateless, and whose international perspective maintains that where and how one is born immediately dictate one’s global station – especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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