When the world learned of Cecil the Lion’s death at the hands of a rich American dentist, the world wept over the loss and called for the shooter, identified as Walter Palmer, to apologize and somehow right his wrong.
And rightfully so. Big game hunting is cruel and in many cases, detrimental to the small population of endangered species. The killing of helpless animals was sure to set off a “torrent of anger,” as described by an expert in the Think Progress piece “The Science Of Why You’re So Upset About Cecil the Lion.”
According to Ernest Small, a Ph.D with the Canadian government who specializes in biodiversity, “the public, politicians, scientists, the media and conservation organisations are extremely sympathetic to a select number of well-known and admired species, variously called flagship, charismatic, iconic, emblematic, marquee and poster species.” If you are curious about what animals qualify, just visit a zoo. Most, if not all of the animals there are “very useful, very attractive, or very entertaining.”
These feelings are valid. But the wave of concern over Cecil came at a precarious time — the day after it was revealed Palmer killed Cecil, a University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted for murder in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man. And though the grand jury brought down the indictment — a rarity in similar cases — a disturbing video of the shooting made it nearly impossible to celebrate what little win the Black Lives Matter movement gained.
The trauma of witnessing yet another Black life stolen, compounded with the revelation that the officer’s initial police statement was entirely false, also deserved outrage. And while it is certainly possible to be concerned with both Cecil and Samuel DuBose’s death — these two things are both upsetting and not mutually exclusive — celebrities and presidential candidates simply ignored an injustice done right here in America.
In an attempt to push the GOP agenda to defund Planned Parenthood, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio conflated women’s rights and Cecil’s death to create an ill-advised tweet.
There was, however, no mention of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter community.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee did the same when he tweeted this:
And though social media users invaded both Huckabee and Rubio’s mentions to let them know that the comparison was in bad taste, especially in a moment when we should be “outraged” over the Black and Brown bodies continuously killed by police, neither politician retracted their statements nor expressed any concern over DuBose (the video of his shooting, at this point, was being shared across multiple social media platforms and mainstream media).
It’s not entirely clear why politicians and celebrities alike (a video of Jimmy Kimmel nearly weeping over Cecil went viral just this week) are shying away from critically examining a system that so often ends in death and destruction for the Black community, but it sure would be nice if we could get at least one tear.
Maybe then this vicious cycle will end.
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