Walter Palmer is a rich dentist from Minnesota. He paid $50,000 to go to Zimbabwe and kill a beloved lion named Cecil. He lured the lion to the outskirts of the park and shot him with a crossbow. Then the lion wandered around, wounded, for two days before Palmer returned and shot Cecil. He then beheaded Cecil. It saddened me to hear the story. I couldn’t imagine the lion wandering around wounded and confused for two days before finally dying. I was angry that Palmer, in all his privilege, performed this act of cruelty just for fun. I was shaken by what he did and think he’s a horrible person.
Then I saw the outrage. Then I saw Jimmy Kimmel crying. I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger’s outrage. I see the protests and PETA demanding that Palmer get hanged. And now I hate that damn lion and it didn’t even do anything to me.
Look, I’m fully on board with the idea that human beings can multitask and focus on multiple things at once. I think people who say “you can talk about Drake and not Sandra Bland” are idiots because we as humans have fully functioning brains and can do both at the same time. So this isn’t for people who can be saddened by Cecil and Black lives. This is for people who have never spoken on Black lives, but have decided to shed tears and show emotion over a lion who died five thousand miles away. I’m watching these marches and protests and know that White people who have been silent about Black lives can protest and show outrage about things they care about. So in the case of Black lives, they just choose not to. Good to know.
Black people are getting killed every single day in America. These murders aren’t taking place in other countries or involve people we’ll never have to think about. These murders are happening in every city. You basically have to try really, really hard to avoid talking about or at least recognizing the murder of Black men and women in America at the hands of police. Police kill Black people as often as the sun comes up. As often as the Today Show comes on. As often as you brush your teeth (hopefully). The hashtags are dominating social media and the news cycle (whether they want to or not). So I know that there’s a purposeful desire to ignore and diminish the importance of Black lives.
But when I see those same people who are silent about Black lives suddenly become vocal about the life of a lion…it only adds salt to the wound. Jimmy Kimmel covers the news every night and never covered Black lives in any meaningful way. And I’d never had any expectation of him to do so. He’s just another celebrity who’s silent on the issue. But when he actually chooses to speak, he decides to cry over a dead lion? It’s insulting.
As a result, I’m hating every time I hear that lion’s name or see people cry over him. I’m taking my anger out on the lion, finding myself reading headlines and muttering, “f*ck that damn lion” to myself. White privilege, supremacy and hatred of Black lives has driven me to curse an innocent animal. This is how much it’s affecting me.
As a Black man, I’m totally aware at how negligible my life is to too many people in this country. That if I died – even if that death were caught on camera and perpetrated by a member of the gang organization allegedly formed to protect me – I’d still be just a faceless hashtag with reason for people to look into my past for a reason to get killed. But knowing that a lion’s death will elicit more outrage from some of you adds some sting. I mean, I know how little my Black life matters to some of you. It just hurts to be reminded of it so damn often.