Day one, I switch on CNN and see the frightening video of a helpless boy being dragged through a moat by a 450-pound silverback gorilla. I shudder at the mere imagination of being left at the mercy of such a monstrous, unpredictable beast as a grown man, let alone as a three-year old. I nod in approval on hearing the poor animal was killed to save the life of the young boy after a horrifying ten-minute ordeal. Poor boy, poor gorilla. Life goes on.
Day two, people become agitated.
Day three, even more people become pissed.
Blames and accusations begin to fly. “The zoo should’ve done this”… “The child’s mother did that”… “The gorilla was unlucky.” Okay. I begin to think to myself… well in truth, the incident could’ve actually been prevented, the mother of infant was careless for a minute, and the zoo authorities should’ve perhaps made the gorilla’s enclosure more fool-proof. In the end a beautiful silverback gorilla ends up paying the ultimate price for our shortcomings. What a shame.
Several days on, the story just doesn’t seem eager to go away. An online petition gaining over 100, 000 signatures in the first day with over 350, 000 people on the list so far goes into circulation. I am still not bothered bothered. It’s their right to care about animals, so whatever.
What had me reeling though, was the emergent news of death threats being sent to the mother of the boy… what? The sheer lunacy of someone sitting in front of a computer screen making clear his or her intention to inflict fatal harm on a mother in reprisal for the sacrifice of an animal’s life as a measure for saving her son’s. I began to imagine the kind of person who would embellish their disdain for human life as a compassionate bid to uphold animal rights.
In replaying the whole scenario over and over again in my head, I was certain that my priorities weren’t at all misplaced. From the religious, social and even constitutional perspectives, the child had the right to outlive the gorilla that pitiable afternoon. I was well in touch with my culture and my society and there had been no recent updates involving an animal’s life outweighing a human’s no matter how fascinating and endangered the creature was. Case closed. So I began to ask myself what the so-called protesters were protesting for.
Rewind to 2014. hardly anybody protested when 12-year old Tamir Rice was killed in an Ohio park by a couple of responding police officers for playing with a toy gun despite the dispatch call to the officers stating repeatedly that the victim was most “probably a juvenile” and that the pistol was “probably fake”.
Video evidence pictured the patrol vehicle arriving to a distance of about 3 metres of Tamir and two officers swiftly shooting at the innocent boy without any warning. The incidence lasted just two seconds. Running towards her brother, Tamir’s 14 year old sister was tackled, handcuffed and shoved into the patrol vehicle while his mother was being threatened with arrest if she failed to remain calm. All this happened while Tamir lay on the ground, unattended to.
Americans could do no better than 200 protesters despite the national and international media coverage. Three days later, after a grand jury ruled against the indictment of a police officer for fatally shooting another black male some months prior, the agitation grew more intense. The Black Lives Matter movement became a force, playing a major role in the protest against the unlawful killing of blacks.
In response to these protests, the Black Lives Matter movement was labelled a ‘terrorist organisation’ in some quarters and the criminal records of the grieving parents of Tamir Rice was published by a state-owned media group perhaps in a shoddy bid to justify the murder of their young son.
It is as sickening as it is baffling that for a race so often likened to apes, even the apes attract more compassion from the public than we do. How far down the chain of importance are we to the world that the public outrage resulting from the lawful killing of a gorilla by far overwhelms that in response to the unlawful killing a black child?
As unpredictable as the average black man may be branded, he is far more predictable than a 450-pound gorilla. If anything, Tamir Rice at least deserved the ten-minute benefit of doubt which the silverback gorilla enjoyed. Yet he was deprived of it.
Do not get me wrong. Protests are healthy and i am one with the opinion that protesting against whatever you think is unlawful is well within your rights, but surely if you’re human enough to be angered by what happened in the Cincinnati zoo, then where was your humanity hiding when Tamir happened? Or Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner. Or even after Dylan Roof?
I understand those agitating for the zoo’s safety measures to be reassessed as well as those frustrated by seeing animals in captivity. Why then do you feign ignorance to the large number of innocent black men currently under mass incarceration in the US?
Apart from the physical bondage we experienced in the past and still deal with today, do you not know of the struggles we fight to free ourselves from mental captivity? Our unity and ability to think progressively as an emerging race is constantly dwarfed by assassinations of our Malcom X’s and Martin Luther King Juniors.
Our united voice is not yet loud enough, please lend us yours. If it is that much more difficult to speak for your fellow human beings than for wild animals, then you have no faith in our ability to play a positive role to your world and that would be where you falter.
The Negro is an emerging force. A force to be reckoned with by all measures and standards. We deserve to be seen as your equals but we are also capable of making you wish you saw us that way. We just don’t know that yet.
You may continue to treat us as the unpredictable predators. In truth, history has made us more accustomed to that role. But then you must be ready to keep us suppressed like the silverback gorilla and even with that, you will not want to be clumsy enough to stumble over the barrier you placed between yourselves and our enclosure.
Ten minutes will be too much time.