On White Tears: when the death of a single animal can illicit far more noise than racial violence

If you can believe it, my Facebook news feed is still inundated with memes and basically anything else that recalls Cincinnati zoo keepers fatally shooting Harambe the silver back gorilla, albeit these posts have been somewhat fizzling out. For those of you that have forgotten: zoo employees killed the gorilla to save a three year old who slipped into its habitat. By far the most problematic of the posts I see are those requesting that law enforcers hold the boy’s mother, Michelle Gregg, accountable for negligence. (Because the online mob needs its villain, and with so much uproar where a child is involved, they’d naturally blame the mother.)

And so the mob took to their keyboards and drafted an absurd petition linking Harambe’s death with parental negligence. They wrote that though “the zoo is not responsible for the child’s injuries,” the boy’s parents should be “held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life.”

My goodness, I’m trying not to lose my cool.

The assumption that Gregg was negligent is ridiculous. Especially since the only eye witness to come forth  emphasizes Gregg’s vigilance in watching her son. One minute the boy was with his mother and the next Gregg was frantically searching for him. These mishaps take place—children, especially active and curious three year olds, scamper from our view all the time.

But the harassment didn’t even end there. The hacktivist group Anonymous released her phone number and work address to the mob, exposing her to further violence and humiliation, ones you can bet will be fraught with racist and sexist (under) tones.

Can we just call out sexist policing of motherhood? Just incase you were curious, yes the boy’s father was also present. But heck, he’s a man/father and therefore not the subject of interest.

Possibly, the most comical aspect of the petition is in the contradiction between its apparent empathy for the loss of life and yet disregard for the barbaric culture of imprisonment that led to the animal’s death. The petition entirely deflects blame for the gorilla’s death from the zoo (the party directly involved in the animal’s captivity and subsequent murder) and onto the boy’s mother, calling onto law enforcers to investigate the woman’s household. Now, I really don’t understand how this is, in any damn way, justice for Harambe!

But note the culture of captivity and violence that’s complicit in the gorilla’s death, a culture that in so many ways mirrors the institutional dehumanization of Blacks in the West.

For years, Blacks have been most degradingly associated with simians. Apes, monkeys, gorillas, you name it. And incidentally, in a fashion similar to (zoo) animal captivity, black men and women in both America and Canada are subjected to mass incarcerations. Let me spell it out: we’re associated with and treated like animals. So you see why so many Blacks find the noise around Harambe’s death disingenuous. If gorillas can illicit so much White tears, why can’t we?

That’s because the racist culture relegates Blacks to the margins of white consciousness.     

There is no better proof of this than in the backlash against the zoo’s decision to shoot Harambe. That viewpoint implies that they should have risked the little (black) boy’s life to spare the gorilla’s own. A simple twitter hashtag search for justice4Harambe displays such a barbaric result, wherein people flat out say that the boy’s life is worth less than that of the gorilla, serving as a reminder of how little black lives are worth in the white racist imagination.

harambe 4

Possibly even more problematic is the amount of recent police on Black violence that has gone virtually unnoticed in the Western consciousness. But here’s one gorilla, and the world takes note. Where was the justice for the 102 unarmed black men killed in 2015? How about the justice for Jermaine Carby? And Natasha McKenna, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux, and Aura Rosser, among many others?

Black bodies are quite literally torn apart and mutilated, Black pain publicized for nothing more than voyeuristic consumption. We’re dehumanized far more than animals, so much so that mobs quite flippantly take up pitchforks to draw a black woman’s blood for her culpability (or lack thereof) in the accidental death of a single animal.

 

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