When Oppression Roars like Cecil the Lion
Last week, I heard about the tragic death of Cecil, a lion living in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. He was lured out of his habitat, shot with a bow and arrow, then shot with a gun, then skinned and decapitated.
There is no doubt that this was an unwarranted slaying of an innocent animal. And quite naturally, people are up in arms about it, with much energy being directed toward animal rights and the prosecution of Cecil’s murderer, dentist Walter Palmer. Protests and demonstrations are happening all over the country and all over the world in response to the slaying of this animal.
Too bad humanity can’t empathize with people – brothers and sisters of color dying everyday at exponential rates at the hands of injustice – just as much as they can with the animals that roar and purr and scoot about in the world’s zoos.
You may be thinking – Cecil was lured out of his home, shot and left to die a slow death and mutilated, of course the oppression people of color face doesn’t evoke the same amount of concern and outrage.
But I ask you then, do people of color not experience the same grim fate…barely noticed…each and every day?
It always breaks my heart to hear of missing children. What’s even harder to accept than crimes against children is how some cases get more exposure than others. About 32 percent of the US population is of color – but only 14 percent of television station staff members across the nation are non-white. This results in a lack of reporting of missing child cases involving children of color because journalists have the “ tendency to consciously or unconsciously cover communities that remind them of their own,” according to the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. This phenomenon is so pervasive and well-known, an additional missing child alert has been created in place of the widely known “Amber Alert.” The “Rilya Alert” is only for children of color under age 17 who have been reported to the law as missing. (Journalism Center for Children and Families)
Children of color are lured out of their homes and away from their families each and every day; however, only a fraction of these cases show up on our TV screens, our cell phone news apps and our social media timelines. Maybe if our children were animals, they’d have a greater chance of being perceived as human.
Left to die
In a plethora of ways, people of color are left to die – in their own country, in their own homes. I know that people of color walk upright, on two legs instead of four and aren’t in zoos (anymore – know your history)…but nonetheless, keep reading — maybe just maybe you’ll recognize their lives as just as important as those of animals.
Lack of medical insurance. Higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes than other groups. Exponentially high HIV/AIDS rates combined with less access to life-saving medications. Less likely to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. What do all these things have in common?
They’re all factors that end black lives on a daily basis.
To add, only about 8 percent of black families have a supermarket located in their census tract. To boot, physicians whose patients are mostly minorities tend to be less experienced and are less likely to be certified by a health board. (Five Charts that Explain Why Black Americans are Still Dying Younger than White Americans, Think Progress)
Black folk are living in a country where they are more likely to be sick and unhealthy than any other racial/ethnic group. Ask yourself: have you protested or spoken on this fun fact lately?
Lynched and mutilated
The world was appalled (as it should have been) when news revealed that a dentist beheaded 13 year-old Cecil the Lion. But I’m sitting here wondering, does the “world” even know about Lennon Lacy, the 17 year old black teen who was found dead — his lifeless body dangling from a rope tied from the top of a swing set in a mobile home park in Bladenboro, North Carolina last year? Fast-forward to a few months ago and travel a little farther south to Port Gibson, Mississippi. In March of this year, did you know that 54 year old Otis Byrd was found dead, hanging from a tree? A dead black man, hanging from a tree. In Mississippi. Five months ago. (5 Horrific Modern-Day Lynchings of Blacks in America, RollingOut)
Animals aren’t the only ones mutilated. Would you believe me if I told you that sometimes, humans do this to other humans, and that racism kills and that these deaths should demand your attention, in addition to Cecil the Lion’s death?
The people of Zimbabwe didn’t even know about Cecil’s death, until the world started its witch hunt for his murderer, Walter Palmer. “It is not an overstatement that almost 99,99 percent of Zimbabweans didn’t know about this animal until Monday. Now we have just learnt, thanks to the British media, that we had Africa’s most famous lion all along, an icon!” reported a few days ago in The Chronicle, A Zimbabwean newspaper. – Let that one marinate.
Cecil the Lion was named after Cecil Rhodes…the same guy who gave the Rhodes Scholarship and the African territory of Rhodesia, their namesakes. Cecil Rhodes is known for being a South African politician slash businessman slash imperialist, among other things, but he was also an avid racist. He wanted the white race to take over as much of Africa as possible, insisting that the more whites took over, the better the world would be. “I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence,” stated Rhodes.
Let that one marinate, too.
Look, I know the world is upset. But can a girl be upset with the world for just a moment?