Maybe we should pretend black people are lions

cecil

Cecil.

I was sad for the killing of Cecil the lion. I really was. I’m softhearted about animals and haven’t eaten meat in over 20 years because of it. But with the nonstop public outrage, and now the support for extradition, I have reached my limit.

Are we seriously going to create an internet outrage machine to extradite that dentist fuckwit for shooting a single lion? Let’s put this into perspective.

People who eat meat every single day are screaming for this man’s head. And no, it’s NOT “different.” The difference between that lion and the cow you ate for dinner is imaginary, created in your head and in our culture to make you feel better. I’ve seen literally hundreds of posts about how disgusting it is to shoot a “defenseless animal,” and the hypocrisy is wearing me down. I’m seeing post after post about how disgusting hunters are. I saw post after post outraged over that dog meat festival, written by people who eat cows and pigs without a second thought. The difference is cultural, imaginary, artificial. And I would be a lot less irritated with that hypocrisy, and probably even laugh it off, if it weren’t part of a performance I’m tired of seeing.

Yes, I’m going to be one of those people bringing up #BlackLivesMatter, because this extradition thing has pushed me over the edge. The entire country is screaming for extradition, but a 12-year-old boy was gunned down in the street for playing with a toy gun– something I am willing to wager 95% of the men, and a large chunk of the women, in this country have done at similar ages– and white people charged onto social media to explain why it was OK for a police officer to shoot this CHILD within literally 2 seconds of rolling up, let him bleed while he cried for his mother, and not even bother to call an ambulance himself. This case is ongoing. And people are calling for the EXTRADITION of this idiot who shot a lion.

BlackLivesMatter-AllLivesMatter

Tamir Rice? I chose him at random, because I’m a mom, and my heart aches and I tear up every time I think about him. But I could have put any one of HUNDREDS of names here of unarmed Black Americans killed by police just in the past few years.

Here’s what’s going on.

People love to play out scenes from “The Lottery” when they believe someone has done something wrong, but only when it’s something to which they can feel morally superior. They’re not calling for the head of this dentist (in some cases, literally) because they care so much about a lion they had never heard of a week ago. They’re calling for his head because it makes them feel like Crusaders for Justice. It’s a performance: I AM OUTRAGED OVER WRONGS COMMITTED AGAINST THE INNOCENT. I am GOOD. I am a good person. We will hunt down and eradicate evil together.

I am just as susceptible to this as anyone else.

But white people aren’t fighting anywhere near as hard, or in anywhere near the numbers, for Black lives. The movement for Black lives is different than Cecil. White people can’t participate in hunting down and scapegoating evil against Black people, because we’re the ones who are fucking up. White people are terrified of being called “racist,” seriously. And to be an effective ally, hell, to be an ally AT ALL, step one is to realize that we live in a white supremacist society that puts racism into our hearts and minds, and that being an ally means acknowledging that racism, and fighting it in ourselves and in the culture every day, forever. You don’t get a “Not Racist” trophy for hiring a Black guy as shift manager. It’s a process, and it requires honest self-examination, and white people do not get to be the hero.

WHITE PEOPLE DO NOT GET TO BE THE HERO.

But with Cecil the lion, they do get to pretend they’re the hero, and they create little performances about it, little LOOK AT HOW DISGUSTED I AM BY VIOLENCE AGAINST INNOCENT ANIMALS performances they use to play Good Guy. While eating a different animal they don’t give two fucks about because reasons.

And I am angry enough to delete any comments that try to “prove” how it’s OK to kill cows but not lions, because we EAT cows, and we need to eat, and lions are different. First of all, you have choices about what you eat, and you no more needed to kill that cow than that dentist needed to kill that lion. Secondly, focus your outrage on Black lives, not on creating a performance about how you eat meat but you still get to be the Good Guy.

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Yes, I am angry. I was sad for the lion. I really was. And I still am. But the ongoing firestorm of outrage over that while your brothers and sisters get killed in the street and my fellow white people ARGUE with me, tell me they “hate” Black Lives Matter because they don’t want to have to tell their children about racism, or because it doesn’t include them (the ridiculous “All Lives Matter”), or because they might have to, for one second, not believe they’re the GOOD GUY all the time. They’re charging after this dentist because doing so makes them feel better, makes them feel like champions for justice, protectors of the innocent. And they fight against Black Lives Matter because they don’t get to be the Good Guy, because the fight requires that we admit our place in this oppressive system.

It’s time to step up, white America. You desperately want to be the Good Guys. Well, here’s your chance. Allow someone else to take center stage for one freaking minute, and focus your attention on the hundreds of unarmed Black men, women AND CHILDREN killed in this country each year. You can be mad about the lion, too, although I still have an eyeroll for you if you’re mad about this one creature and you ate 7 creatures last week. Just please remember that being a Good Guy takes more than being upset about a hunter.

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8 thoughts on “Maybe we should pretend black people are lions

  1. gwangung says:

    You also should boot anybody who blathers about black on black crime. That just proves a) they don’t have any black friends and b) they just don’t bother to listen to anyone in the black community.

  2. Ben Lokey says:

    Excellent, as always. Logic and reason is a bitch.

  3. Daryl Hrdlicka says:

    Very well said.

  4. Mardith says:

    You are so right on, BG. Terrific.

  5. Mardith says:

    PS. I think there are reasons why people are more easily activated about animal issues and am struggling to articulate it. In this case, it’s easier to focus on a single animal and yell at people about it because a) it’s one animal and a big one (not a whole group of people, b) Cecil was a good symbol (sort of like the Google busses in SF have precipitated ourtage, c) it’s far away (in Africa), none of us are living there on the ground with all the difficulties that would entail, d) people like to think midwesterners are right-wing, e) no one likes dentists (easy group to yell at), f) you don’t have to feel helpless about it because people can unite over an animal instead of having to deal with class, race, etc. where you feel that you can’t accomplish anything in a culture where certain lives don’t matter, the courts, the entertainment industry, dot.coms, and on and on, that is, the US. So even those thoughtful white people who want to help make Black Lives matter, can feel they are doing something about at least one injustice with a lion. I am speaking only to the animals issues, not to the hysteria about how to punish the dentist. Related to Black Lives, not to lions, see Echo Brown’s “Black Virgins Don’t Do Hipsters” at the Marsh for a good one woman show from a Black Woman’s perspective. It’s a good funny, thought-provoking show about how a young Black woman is perceived in the US.

  6. One of the reasons people have had such a visceral reaction to the slaughter of Cecil has to do with all the iconography involving lions that was imprinted on them as children. From Leo the Lion (MGM’s mascot) to The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz; from The Lion King to documentaries on Animal Planet about “big cats,” people have developed a fondness for lions. When we were kids and got taken to the zoo, two of the most important animals to be seen that day were elephants and lions. So there is a huge amount of sentiment about lions dating back to childhood.

  7. AG says:

    I do eat meat, but sparingly. But truthfully, I’d rather eat the meat of humans (well disguised and marinated, of course) than to sacrifice one more animal. As it is, I don’t donate blood because I don’t want to contribute in any way to the negative effects of overpopulation.

    As for “all lives matter” versus “black lives matter”, I’m not sure how you suggest I would feel after have gone through being discriminated against for being white. This happened when I was a teenager, living in a neighborhood that was going through an ‘ethnic change’. My family stayed, and learned to appreciate the addition of the new ‘culture’. Our new friends taught us all the new Motown dances while we visited freely between each others houses. Quite often I would come home to my living room filled with my little sister and her friends with their dolls scattered around the room. When it came to dinner time, whoever was still in the house was invited to join us at the table. In the kitchen, at various hours of the day, my father would be sitting at the table with the new teenage boys, who always came over to sit and talk with him. My mother joined the new women’s club started at our recreation center. Their goal was to create programs for children, and help out less fortunate neighbors with various drives for donations. We knew we were different in that we were not black. But we were enjoying the diversity.

    THEN, after several months of fun, happy times, things began to change. We had never locked our door during the day because my large family had many of us going in and out constantly. My father was always home, often sleeping, as he worked at nights. One late morning he heard someone come in just as he was getting out of bed. He came to the stairway just in time to see one of the teenage boys he knew reaching into my coat on the stair rail and pulling out some money. He was back out the door and long gone before my father made it down the steps. Now we had to keep the door locked at all times. The big question was whether or not to give my 7 year old sister a key (probably not – this needed a safer alternative plan). Walking to the bus stop each morning for school started to be a problem for me, as I was constantly harassed (more like indecent grabbing) by one of the local teens. Walking around the neighborhood at night was always a bit of a struggle as I was often blocked and forced into the street by groups of teens. I guess it was their neighborhood now. It was also best to make sure to carry extra cigarettes, as they sometimes bought you easier passage. We realized finally that our only alternative to stay safe was to move from the house we loved. This realization came when our next door neighbor, a 75 year old woman who lived there most of her life, was raped one night. They did catch the offender, as my neighbor survived and could easily identify him. He was our teenage neighbor from across the street – one of the young guys that was part of the group that often sat a our kitchen table talking with my father. Oh, and this guy often did yard work for this woman to earn a little extra money.

    So, you tell me how you think I might feel. But first tell me what your definition of prejudice is. I think my feelings are more fear based. Does a person who was viciously attacked by a dog when they were young fear all dogs. Not necessarily, but I have no doubt they experience an initial level of fear and caution.

  8. Thank you for writing this, Melissa. You’re spot on and it’s infuriating.

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