Cecil the lion was a beautiful creature. He didn’t deserve the suffering he endured over his last couple of days. You could call Walter Palmer a lot of things. He’s an asshole for sure – and his apologies have a ring of “I’m sorry I got caught” to them that I just can’t ignore. He hasn’t said a thing about the practice of sport hunting and how he’s learned a lesson here about how depraved the practice is. He’s been doing this for years, Cecil isn’t even the first lion he’s killed, he’s also killed a rhinoceros, jaguars, bears. The man gets off on killing things that can’t defend themselves and he has the resources to support this habit without taking it out on people. He’s the Dexter of the wild kingdom.
As the story developed and white America took it up as their cause du jour, many folks who are involved in Black Lives Matter or other anti-racist work, started asking the obvious question: “One lion dies and you freak out, how about ALL THE BLACK FOLKS getting killed ALL THE TIME?” It’s a valid question and one that I hope people think about long and hard.
What I see at play here is a privileged white doctor who feels entitled to the very life of another being. Palmer isn’t extraordinary and his actions aren’t even shocking to me. Rich white guy kills a bunch of exotic animals – in Africa? We’re supposed to be shocked?
I think the killing of Cecil and the killing of Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose, et al, share the same root cause, and will have the same result. The dominant white culture in America feels entitled to control whatever they want to control, to the point of taking lives. White people don’t even take the time to analyze what’s going on in these incidents. One key indication for me is the near silence I’m hearing around the killing of Sam DuBose. Why are white people so quiet about it? Maybe it’s because there is footage, and the footage reinforces the fact that police operate under inherent bias and are predisposed to deadly force even though the situation was no where close to warranting it. The footage debunked the officer’s statement, which his fellow officer corroborated. They both lied to cover up Sam Dubose’s murder. It’s all right there on Youtube. If they act outraged for Sam, then they might have to talk about the causes, and they might have to take a look at themselves. And at the end of the day, that’s just not worth it to them if they can just continue on the present course with no consequences or repercussions.
Ultimately though, whites in America won’t do jack squat about it. Cecil will be the last lion killed by an asshole just like Sam DuBose will be the last black person killed by a police officer. We have short attention spans and a real problem with looking inward and addressing our fears. I wish I knew how, as a white person, to break through and get my fellow whites to at least acknowledge their privilege and power and maybe even talk about it, talk about how that power manifests itself in our society in every nook and cranny. How each of us, every day, perpetuate it a hundred times over in a myriad of ways. It’d be a hell of a good start.