the death of an animal is tragic. but so is the death of black people.
what originally began as a text to a friend about celebs reaching for their pitchforks over Cecil (…and only Cecil) turned into this:
the issue is not that people are upset about a something (in this case, the shooting of a celebrated animal), or that the anger about that something has been expressed so loudly and publicly. rather, it’s what such public displays indicate about the perceived egregiousness (or importance) of the thing at issue…which is unsettling when you realize how quiet most of #TeamCecil has been regarding the extrajudicial killings of black people in America.
people are obviously entitled to be upset about whatever they want. currently, a thing to be upset about from the bountiful cornucopia of upset-inducing things is the death of a well-known and beloved lion. the various statements and outpouring of emotion from celebrities (and numerous civilians) strongly suggests that they rate this incident as being particularly deplorable, and warranting a high degree of vitriol.
what’s not fine is that this rage, expressed by many individuals who enjoy a platform from which a need for (social) change can be highlighted and widely disseminated, is juxtaposed to dead silence about the equally well-publicized (and at least equally upsetting…I hope?) beatings, murders, and negligent deaths of black people at the hands of U.S. law enforcement.
where Jimmy Kimmel & Friends didn’t find time to make statements, start petitions, or shed tears on national television about the long line of Sandra Blands or Samuel Duboses (…yet Kimmel sure as shit made room in his schedule to infantilize and emasculate a talented and boundary-pushing black artist, but that’s an entirely different issue), they did for a single animal.
does this mean that their reactions aren’t justified? not in the least.
does this mean that they are somehow bad people? not necessarily.
however, what it does suggest is that on some level, the killing of an animal was more upsetting, more egregious, and more deserving of public condemnation than a series of well-documented, fatal interactions people of color have had with police. essentially, Cecil’s death registered and spurred calls for corrective action where [enter name of black victim]’s death didn’t. so, either they don’t care, or #blacklivesmatter…less. I’m not sure which is worse.
and what’s funny (but not haha funny) is that some of these people who cranked out 140 character pro-Cecil battle cries may be just as distraught as the rest of us about the realities and consequences of America’s racial hierarchy…but have thus far adhered to certain “social norms” where animal rights are more palatable than human rights: brown people edition.
at the end of the day, the pointless death of an animal is tragic, but so is the pointless death of black people. it really isn’t that complicated, unless you want it to be.