“And while African lions may be endangered, isn’t it time we admit that here in the U.S., Black lives are endangered, too?” –David Ferguson
Does that make you feel better knowing a White person said it and not just another “angry” Black person? I’m going to let you know right now that I don’t care either way. For once, you’re right. I am angry. Black lives are slain everyday at the hands of police, self-proclaimed neighborhood watchmen and people who have claimed they fear for their lives.
Would things have been different if the Midwestern dentist, Walter Palmer had shot a Black person rather than Cecil the lion? Would there be Jimmy Kimmel tears? Outraged Facebook statuses from White people? Would there be an influx of donated funds to protect Black lives in the “wild?”
Whether in routine traffic stops, on playgrounds, outside of stores or in their own neighborhoods, Black lives are taken. Police officers are paid to protect and serve. But these days, they’re more like paid assassins.
Black people have cried, marched and hashtagged to fight against the obvious racial bias against us. Recently, even President Obama could no longer hold his tongue:
“Do not say that nothing’s changed when it comes to race in America — unless you’ve lived through being a black man in the 1950s, or ’60s, or ’70s. It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours, and that opportunities have opened up, and that attitudes have changed. That is a fact.
What is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives — you know, that casts a long shadow. And that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it.”
Palmer paid $55k to illegally poach an innocent king of the Zimbabwean forest. The world collectively wept. On his nightly telecast, Kimmel got choked up over Cecil’s brutal murder. And while many of us are fully aware that animals are defenseless and Cecil deserved to live, why did it take a lion losing its life for people to exercise humanity? On social media, many Black people, including Elon James, suggested that maybe, “Black folks in America need to dress like lions. Then everyone will be sad when we’re murdered.”
When I found myself in the middle of a verbal fist fight on Facebook, I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with my time. Or my energy. I don’t have enough of either one of those these days to spare.
I could have ignored it, but the keyboard called my name like I was Meek Mill in the middle of the night.
One of my White friends shared the story of Jimmy Kimmel getting choked up over Cecil and proclaimed that Jimmy was the “man!” That’s fine. That’s what Facebook is for–it’s our opinions, thoughts, interests, all shared publicly.
So I responded publicly. “People are dying. PEOPLE.” The friend who initially wrote the status said nothing, but one of his friends–a White woman–responded to me. I wish I could give you the words verbatim, but I have since blocked her, so I can no longer see her responses, but it was something to the effect of: You need to use your own page for your negative comments. This is (my friend’s) page and he’s using it as a place to express sympathy for Cecil.
I snapped. I crackled. And I popped. The back and forth led to her proclaiming that all lives matter, even animal lives.
Saying Black lives matter doesn’t negate all other lives. All lives matter. But, we need the hashtag, the movement. It’s an effort to celebrate ourselves and fight against the untimely deaths that keep taking us out and White people want to take it as exclusionary.
White people–your slip, or rather, your privilege is showing.
White people don’t get to decide what WE fight for every single day when we are switching lanes, playing in the park or trying to buy a gun in a store that sells guns. Evidently, White people do get to decide that money can buy them whatever they want–including a sick and illegal thrill, like killing a lion, cutting its head off and skinning it. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Well, it’s awful to watch a Black man die because he’s unsure why he’s being pulled over. And we’ve watched that, time and time again.
It’s very sad when any animal or any person is murdered. But I am disappointed in the people who would rather be sad over a lion than to even acknowledge not only the Black lives in America that have been slain, but also the African men, women and children who have been hunted like animals for longer than it took that White dentist to gather the money to bribe wildlife authorities. They matter too.
We’ve been dying for a long time. We’ve been dying at the hands of our authorities, aggressors, those who claim they fear for the lives and oppressors for centuries.
From the African Holocaust to the Atlantic Slave Trade to Emmett Till, Rodney King, Trayvon Martin to Sandra Bland. We’ve been hunted all our lives, all of our ancestors lives and stories like Sandra’s prove that we still are being hunted.
We are no longer safe in our homes, stores, churches–nothing is sacred. Black people keep getting reinforcements that our lives don’t matter. We are yesterday’s garbage and today’s sensational headline, but we’re not precious until we’re dead.
And even that is arguable. Because oftentimes we die, only to have the media feed people insignificant and negative details about our lives to cradle a delinquent narrative. This gives the people who refuse to acknowledge our lives having worth the evidence they need to justify our deaths.
Mike brown robbed a store, so yeah. Sandra bland was belligerent to the officer, so yeah. Tamir Rice shouldn’t have been playing with a gun that looked so real, so yeah.
Meanwhile Dylan Roof, James Holmes and so many others like them get to be spared and dignified through mental illness. Violent White lives get to be wayward kids while we are aggressive thugs. Sandra Bland doesn’t get to tell her story. But for the media who gets to relay the message, they’ll choose to say her arrogant attitude, the threat of her lit cigarette and the incessant need to respond to the antagonizing officer was what catalyzed her death.
What about the other women who’ve died in police custody this month? The men, the children, the people? This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but the actions of our authorities are spewing a very different tagline: The land of the captive and the home of the coward.
The cowards who refuse to use their voices to lift of the names of the fallen. To acknowledge that Black lives are being disproportionately slain. Cecil’s life mattered. That’s why we’re all sad, but where’s that same respect for fallen Black lives?
Forgive me if I don’t shed a tear for Cecil. I may have dried out my tear ducts from crying over:
John Crawford III
And the countless others who were allegedly murdered by police.