What’s worth more: Black life or Gorilla life?

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Since his shooting at the Cincinnati Zoo on May 28, the death of Harambe, a seventeen-year-old male, western lowland silverback gorilla, has created a firestorm of controversy in contemporary “culture wars.”  There has been considerable second-guessing and “Monday morning quarterbacking” concerning the decision to shoot theanimal and, even worse, there has been unreasonable vilification of the parents of the four-year-old human, African American male, who found his way past a barricade and fell fifteen feet into a moat surrounding the zoo’s “Gorilla World” enclosure.

Reacting to the child in his enclosure, Harambe jumped into the moat and took the child under his control.  Although his treatment of the child may have been similar to the treatment given a baby gorilla, the force he used was excessive for the child.  Some surmise that the screams of concern from onlookers agitated Harambe, who began to handle the boy more roughly.  Whatever the cause, zoo officials determined that the gorilla’s state of agitation posed a threat to the life of the child and ordered Harambe to be shot.

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Zoo Director, Thane Maynard, stated that it was determined that the gorilla posed a threat to the child and that the only alternative was to kill him. Noted zoo keeper, Jack Hanna, agreed with Maynard who, after reflection, said he would make the same decision again if necessary.

In my mind, there is no greater value than a full and complete respect and appreciation for the sanctity and significance of life.  In the most ideal situation, every living being would be afforded the respect commonly given for her, his or its position in the ecosphere.  Unfortunately, this type of Utopia does not exist and we are often faced with making unpleasant decisions that are speculative, but have an immediate impact on life.

I have supported animal rights all of my life–but never at the expense of human life, and definitely not where a baby’s life was threatened.  I, like many others, initially had mixed emotions about the decision to kill Harambe, but I have trouble with the negative ‘fallout’ being rained upon the zoo because a gorilla was killed.  Instead, I applaud the fact that the baby’s life was saved.

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I condemn those who sanctimoniously argue for the protection of animals, yet ignore oppressive conditions imposed upon their human neighbors.  I wonder how many of those who protest Harambe’s ‘murder’ number among those who will walk down a street and give a stray animal the most pleasant greeting while casting the glaze of disdain upon another human because of race, ethnicity, religion or some other characteristic.

Some still argue that Harambe could have been tranquilized as an option. Why is that same option not called for when police shoot human beings without cause.  I missed 300,000 animal rights, or any other groups’, signatures for the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin or for the deaths of the other young Black women and men who’ve died needlessly when an option truly was available.

Some will say that I have added an unreasonable “racial” component to this discussion, but, I ask, under the same circumstances, in what universe would white parents be vilified for not controlling their child?  Where would it be argued for a white mother to be criminally prosecuted?  Although he had turned his life around, when would a white father, who was not even at the zoo, have his entire criminal past made public (and how does it relate to the incident at hand)?

Where is the compassion for human life when the subject is Black?  I sadly conclude that our country is so filled with hate that one must pass a litmus test of whiteness for a life to matter.

Article by Dr. E. Faye Williams

Another senseless death! It’s okay to be angry at the injustice!

Michael Brown

Endangered Species

Whatever perverse view the Ferguson police officer had of Michael Brown — and all Black men like him — before taking his life and leaving him to lay in his blood for hours afterward, his mother has made sure to counter such characterizations. Lesley McSpadden described her now-fallen son as a boy with the sort of disposition that made him more like “a big teddy bear” as opposed to someone who deserved to be slaughtered like a dog in the street. McSpadden went on to explain, “He was a good boy. He deserved none of this. We need justice for our son.”

No stranger to this kind of disregard toward Black people’s humanity, attorney Benjamin Crump, who has since been retained by Brown’s parents, made his thoughts clear at a recent press conference. “I don’t want to sugarcoat it, their baby was executed in broad daylight,” Crump noted. “We want to know and see exactly what happened because this family rejects what the police authorities said at their press conference.”

As does Michael Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who along with other eyewitnesses, disputed Brown’s killer’s claims that he shoved the officer and tried to wrestle the officer’s gun from him.

Any Black man living in this country and who values his life knows better than to tempt fate that way.

The truth may be less imaginative but no less chilling: Even when we don’t fight back, our presence is still intimidating to the point where select members of law enforcement feel no choice but to shoot us dead.

Such a revelation brings justified anger, and while Brown’s parents have encouraged protesters to remain peaceful, their rage is understandable.

Protesters arrived with signs and peaceful discourse and were greeted with dogs, rubber bullets, and tear gas.

And as New York Times correspondent Julie Bosman reported via Twitter, these rubber bullets were even shot in the direction of journalists and photographers. Meanwhile, area police officers describe the scene as a “war zone” and even when protesters sought an exit, the police reportedly blocked them from locating one. There’s since been word of one police officer referring to protesters as “fucking animals” during coverage on CNN.

Yet, some wonder why some of the protesters supposedly sang, “F*ck the police.”

Renisha McBride Jonathan FerrellAyiana Jones

And while I don’t necessarily excuse the acts of looters and those described as “rioters,” I do have empathy. This is why I take issue with Jonathan Capeheart’s “A Shameful Way To Protest the Michael Brown Shooting,” where he writes, “This is not how you make authorities understand your anger and concern. This is not how you get others to join your cause.”

You mean the authorities who shot a Black child in cold blood, left him in the street for hours as some sort of “example” to other people in his area, and greet peaceful protest with nothing but contempt and the intent to further antagonize? The same authorities who employ individuals who refer to the rightfully angry public as “f*cking animals.” The authorities who enter their neighborhood and limit their access?

 

I am not in the business of policing people’s emotions particularly with respect to dire situations such as these. Anger has its consequences, including irrational behavior. It doesn’t make it right, but learn to have compassion for people in a situation you have yet to experience. There’s a time for discussions on personal responsibility and there’s a time to look at tragedy and respect the rightful rage it creates.

Many people are angry and they are running on empty.

I am tired of having to write about people like Michael Brown. The same goes for 22-year-old John Crawford III, who was shot and killed after holding a BB gun in a Walmart. Like Brown’s mother, Crawford’s father described his son fondly, saying, “He was a good son and a good Father to his two children.”

We shouldn’t have to quantify our lives this way.

It doesn’t even matter if Michael Brown was a “big teddy bear” heading to college or that John Crawford was a good Dad. No matter what kind of personalities they had, there was no reason to slaughter them this way. We shouldn’t have to worry that once our lives are unjustly stripped from us, we will be purposely vilified in order to excuse our killers’ actions — as evidenced in the trending topic #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, and more hauntingly, in both trials relating to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride.

Long List

Structural racism, widening economic inequality, a gun manufacturing lobby so hell bent on making money that they’ll probably see to it that guide dogs for the blind receive gun permits, plus the continuation of the militarization of police have all helped it be open season on Black people. You can’t help but feel exhaustion, grief, and yes, anger.  To some, such rage may not “help our cause,” but the alternative clearly has its limitations too.

Cooler heads should prevail, but be clear about who the real hotheads causing trouble are.

Article by Michael Arceneaux