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We weep for African lions. But what about Black lives?

2015-07-30 18:38:36

Cecil the Lion

After American dentist Walter Palmer was identified as Cecil the lion's shooter, outrage -- and demand for him to be held accountable -- came quickly.

In less than 24 hours, Palmer's past felony record was exposed, he was bombarded with criticism on social media, and his dental practice was abruptly shuttered for an undetermined length of time. Palmer has since gone into hiding as the Zimbabwean government says it would like to speak to him. And some people are speculating that he could be extradited to face trial over there.

Social media response from white Americans has never been this intense for #BlackLivesMatter. 

Laments for Cecil were, sadly, much more heart-rending than the outcries for black lives lost. Uproar over the famous lion's death almost instantly reached the late-night talk show circuit. On Tuesday, Jimmy Kimmel choked back tears as he discussed the killing of endangered animals on his show. Singer Ariana Grande was equally hurt over the loss.

Cecil the Lion

It seems like Americans, in general, found it easier to condemn a man who killed a lion than to criticize police officers who abuse their power. It took more than six months to simply bring charges against the Cleveland officer who killed Tamir Rice, an unarmed, 12-year-old child who was shot to death while playing at a park. It took over a year for an off-duty Chicago cop to be charged for Rekia Boyd’s death.

Remember how, in the first few weeks after Mike Brown was killed, more funds were raisedfor Darren Wilson than for the dead teen's family. Now a White House petition calling for Palmer to be extradited has already racked up over 95,000 signatures.

Listen to the language used to describe Cecil -- the black-maned lion was belovedmajestic and a treasure. It’s sad that the death of a lion is bringing more tears than that of many a human being simply because those people weren’t white.

As Greg Gutfeld, a host of Fox News talk show "The Five," put it, this is “easy outrage.” No one has to grapple with difficult but necessary questions about how America treats its black citizens. No one is asking what Cecil could have done differently, how he could have avoided this outcome or which of his minor missteps justified a violent death.

“Sure, wildlife are photogenic and apolitical. Cecil the lion never made a video for #BlackLivesMatter and half of the people in the U.S. aren’t trying to convince themselves that somehow Cecil deserved his fate,” wrote David Ferguson for Raw Story. “And while African lions may be endangered, isn’t it time we admit that here in the U.S., black lives are endangered, too?”

Those outraged over Cecil also failed to deplore the human and wildlife rights abuses committed by Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. Probably because most Americans know little and care less about Zimbabwe, its people or, on most days, its wildlife.

It’s quite astounding how some Americans can speak so adamantly about the evil done Cecil -- but not about the abuses suffered by Sandra Bland or Kindra Chapman or Samuel Dubose, or any of the other black folks who've died recently at the hands or in the custody of the police. 

Cecil’s death has already inspired the introduction of a New Jersey bill to protect endangered species. Perhaps it’s facile to compare this to the dearth of legislation addressing police violence. But it is worth noting how many black Americans had to die before Congress reauthorized a law, after a six-year lapse, aiming to protect black life.

Outrage over Cecil's needless death is warranted, but where is the same love for black Americans? Why don’t black lives matter just as much?

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