Black Lives Matter More Than Cecil The Lion
Aug. 6, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — People really, really care about poor Cecil the lion, it seems. A bit of a Zimbabwe celebrity, last month he was illegally lured away from the safety of the park where people apparently loved to come and gawk at him, and then a dentist from Minnesota killed him. The dentist paid $50,000.00 for the “hunt.”
People were so upset that the dentist had to close his practice because of all the harassment. Someone vandalized his summer home, and other people are trying to get him extradited to face charges. They don’t call animals like Cecil “charismatic megafauna” for nothing. His death pretty much stirred up the emotions of the entire world. Well, this country, at least.
A fascinating op-ed appeared two days ago in the New York Times. The author, a real live Zimbabwean, discussed his thoughts about Cecil’s murder. He talked about his village being terrorized by lions and the fact that they kill people. Mostly, though, he gave his thoughts about the incredible reaction to Cecil’s death, something he called “an absurdist circus.” Here is the part that stood out to me:
PETA is calling for the hunter to be hanged. Zimbabwean politicians are accusing the United States of staging Cecil’s killing as a “ploy” to make our country look bad. And Americans who can’t find Zimbabwe on a map are applauding the nation’s demand for the extradition of the dentist, unaware that a baby elephant was reportedly slaughtered for our president’s most recent birthday banquet.
We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.
He really has a point.
Cecil was a wild animal. He certainly didn’t deserve to be wounded with an arrow, left to bleed for forty hours, and then shot to death, but he wasn’t a person. He would eat you if he was hungry. He wouldn’t worry about the ethics of it.
When I saw stories were noting the possibility of the infanticide of Cecil’s cubs due to his being replaced as head of the pride, I was actually relieved. Are we finally beginning to stop pretending these killing machine are fluffy balls of hugs and slobbery lion kisses? Will knowledge that lions murder dead lions’ babies just to insure that bloodline doesn’t remain in the pride make us a little more rational about what Cecil was and wasn’t? He might have killed some other lion and killed that lion’s babies himself, after all. Lions do that.
No luck. Instead, it becomes some ridiculous feel-good story about how Cecil’s brother Jericho has valiantly stepped forward to protect the cubs. The soap-opera-worthy plotline even includes subsequent dramatic debate about whether Jericho might be dead and whether he is actually Cecil’s brother or some random lion whom Cecil allowed into the pride. I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry.
While people in Zimbabwe live in poverty, die of terrible diseases, and suffer under a corrupt and dysfunctional government, we attempt to crucify some dentist who probably pumped tens of thousands of dollars into the desperate local economy for the opportunity to kill a killing machine. Then, we wait with baited breath to find out what will happen next on the Real House-lions of Southeast Africa. It’s embarrassing, and it’s not surprising that the Black Lives Matter movement is taking issue with all of the attention Cecil is getting.
Cecil was a lion, but Sandra Bland, Freddie Grey, Eric Garner, and countless other victims of police violence were people, just like you and me. I would say that I don’t understand why one lion’s death can seemingly change the world while the deaths of human beings at the hands of cops don’t make most Americans think twice, but I think I do understand.
We all know that lions are dangerous, but we certainly don’t live in fear of them. The news doesn’t tell us that lions are a threat to our way of life. Hunters are not portrayed as our saviors. If we lived in Zimbabwe, that would be different. Here in the United States, we can comfortably demand that all big-game-killing dentists be punished. We don’t worry about what would happen if there was no one capable of killing lions. The Black Lives Matter movement, on the other hand, only offers us solutions that are frightening to the average American.
I agree Cecil should be getting a lot of attention; not for his death, however, but for the public reaction to it and the contrast between that and the largely non-existent reaction the regular murder of young black men and women at the hands of police gets among the same people up at arms about Cecil. America’s willingness to throw itself behind a lion and the ridiculous circus surrounding him while ignoring black lives exposes not just its deep-seated racism, but the effect of our fear-mongering media on the average American sitting safely in his or home.
The reaction to Cecil’s death has shown us that we have the ability to be outraged. We have the ability to rally behind a cause, demand change, and make things happen. We just have to put aside our fears and start focusing that someplace more deserving.
Main image via Flickr/Daughter#3