Widgets Magazine


Just A Thought: With Regards to Brown People Killing Other Brown People

Dear People of Africa (ATTN: Sudan),

Re: Application for United States humanitarian aid,

Please stop requesting humanitarian intervention in your civil wars, armed conflicts and miscellaneous ethnic skirmishes.

While we empathize with your situation, we are not currently in a position where we feel it is appropriate to lend assistance to mediate your internal armed conflicts. As a reminder, please note that the United States is not a global policeman with infinite expendable resources that can be easily deployed to any international theater.

The United States recognizes that, for the most part, it is a grave misfortune to be born African. Living in a country with scarce and unequally distributed resources, a corrupt government with no transparency and a dearth of opportunities to improve your position is an admittedly unfortunate position. Regardless, the lottery of birth is structured in such a manner that, given your geographic origin, you do not merit the same protections and opportunities afforded to Americans. We hope that you can keep this in mind when decrying the “unfairness” of an international structure that permits armed strife to occur in certain countries or areas.

We would also like to request that you please refrain from classifying these events as genocides–it is most likely that you are mistaken. While we can appreciate that this particular conflict may consist of armed militias systematically gunning down civilians of a given tribe or ethnic group, please understand that it is extremely inconvenient for us when people insist on categorizing these clashes as “genocides.”

Due to the United States’ various contractual obligations, we are compelled to intervene with military assistance when any armed conflict is labeled as genocide. In light of this, we hope that you can respect how problematic it is for us that you insist on doing so. We’d like to implore you to remember the moral of the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

We would furthermore like to take this opportunity to remind you of the ratio of American to African lives that we traditionally appeal to when determining our foreign policy decisions. Using Rwanda as an appropriate yardstick, our current measurements indicate that one American life is worth approximately 850,000 African lives. With regards to this metric, please refrain from contacting us to request intervention unless your projections and analysis show conclusive evidence that over 850,000 lives will be lost. We are mildly irritated at your implications that African lives are worth as much as the lives of our citizens. Not only do minimal deaths make it difficult for us to incentivize Congress to approve intervention, you blatantly disregard the fact that American lives have more strategic value for us than those of your ethnic minorities.

In the event of a civil war or struggle that is estimated to result in the deaths of the requisite minimum 850,000 civilians, you are welcome to resubmit your application to the United States government for humanitarian aid. Please be patient when waiting for a response, as it may take up to four weeks to process the situation and weigh the potential options for intervention. If our analysts determine that it is in United States’ interests to assist, there will likely be an administrative lag of three to twelve months for our Congress to approve action. While we respect that this time lapse between your request and our response may be inconvenient while your people are being slaughtered on a daily basis, it is a necessary feature of a carefully executed foreign policy initiative.

In order to more effectively structure your appeal for directed military intervention, please include any potential benefits to the United States of humanitarian assistance. For instance, if your country is the fortunate proprietor of vast oil deposits, if your geographic location provides a strategic position for American military outposts or if this conflict has the potential to spill beyond your borders in a way that may affect our strategic interests, please be sure to include this information. We expect that you recognize our need to be compensated for lending our services to mediate your internal disputes. After all, collaboration on humanitarian crises is a two-way street: if you expect our attention, we would like to remind you that the United States requires a self-regarding incentive in return.

Thank you again for submitting your application for humanitarian intervention to the United States. There were, unfortunately, many qualified applicants this year and as such it will not be possible to aid you at the present time. We appreciate your continued interest in our services and hope you will keep us in mind for future collaborations. All the best.


The United States Government

P.S.: You still owe the IMF like, $300 million. When you are done killing each other, please get on that.

Not even snarky commentary can change minds or save lives. (East coast/West coast debate postponed to next week.) nikm@stanford.edu.

  • Alum

    I honestly can’t tell from your tone whether or not you are being facetious. I certainly hope you are.

  • I guess I’m down to give aid…..

    ……..but not to an African!

  • wow

    I hope this was sarcastic

  • You need to work on your tone

    The interesting thing to me, here, is that there are parts of this article (sarcastic or not) that I actually agree with.

    For example, we really don’t have infinite expendable resources, and we shouldn’t be a global policeman. We already give a lot of aid (granted, less, percentage-wise, than many other countries) and we’ve given a lot of it to Sudan.

    Of course, everything else– disregarding the label of “genocide” with regard to ethnic conflicts, lumping all the African countries together as if they aren’t separate countries with many different ethnicities in them– is (I assume) facetious and should be so.

  • Ross raffin

    Asking whether this article is serious or not is like asking Jonathan Swift if he actually wanted to eat babies.

  • Alum

    The writer assumes that Africans affected by conflict are totally helpless beings who plead with the United States to help them escape their fate, who assume that the United States is their savior, who assume that if the United States were to get involved, all would be resolved, conflict would end, and brown people could live side by side in peace happily ever after. The satiric elements are about how the United States’ unwillingness to meaningfully and swiftly respond to mass atrocity and genocide – and while I would have written it differently, I agree, our responses to conflict are appalling poor – but there’s no satire around what the writer assumes to be the attitudes of Africans, and he doesn’t give any indication that developing smart interventions require you to be smart – not just to blanket intervene. From my perspective, I don’t think it’s useful to push forward the assumption that Africans are helpless people waiting for the US to come in and save them. Conflict already deprives people of their basic dignity. Characterizing victims as helpless beings seems to me to just further take away that dignity. I would hope there’s a way we can talk about the urgent need for the international community to prevent and stop mass atrocity in a way that gives more respect and agency to the people involved than I felt this piece did.

    Also, military intervention and humanitarian assistance are not even close to being the same thing. To conflate them is highly problematic. Neutrality has no place in genocide interventions.

  • so…

    hopefully africa can climb out its hole slowly and slowly

    if not, it should go double or nothing with its IMF debts on a single hand of jackblack.

    or maybe its arms wars are just inevitable…

  • Sam King


    I didn’t get that image from the article. The article was written as a rejection letter by a big organization. It includes very little description of the recipient. The article is almost entirely motivated on pointing out problems with US policy.

    In general, I support anything that catalyzes action. Yes, discourse matters, but I doubt that someone living in a refugee camp would begrudge Nikola for trying to raise some awareness about an important issue.

  • YEAH!

    we should totally take out saddam. he’s gassing all those kurds, you know. and we also preserve the freedom of all those vietnamese against their northern aggressors. and aristride definitely has to go.

    wait, you aren’t on board? you must be racist and selfish and unaware of how bad things are in other parts of the world. you would have to be an ignorant redneck not to think that military violence is the solution to poor people’s problems.

  • Negrita

    i find it disturbingly offensive that you presume to understand these issues, and with such arrogance to wit.