Can someone – anyone – please explain why America is near-universally outraged over the death of Cecil the Lion, the 13-year-old protected African lion who was recently illegally poached, but not over the death of Sandra Bland, Sam Dubose and so many other recent victims of police brutality, injustice and murder?
Cecil the Lion was shot and killed by wealthy midwestern dentist Walter Palmer last week.
Personally, I’m not happy about this. But then again, I’ve rightly been accused of being a “tree hugger” (to say the least).
For the past twenty years I have been on the front lines fighting for the Earth and animals. I’ll leave it at that, without getting into the details of my activism on those fronts. But my desire to defend those who need protection does not only extend to non-humans. First and foremost I am there to be a voice for voiceless humans.
Why is this such a difficult concept for so many to understand? Why are so many humans more outraged at the death of a non-human animal than they are innocent members of their own species?
When Cecil the Lion was killed, a number of news and alternative media sites ran pieces on the poaching. Each article quickly got thousands of shares throughout social media. America was outraged at the death of Cecil.
But Sandra Bland, by comparison, has received far less universal support. While there is outrage – to be sure – for many it is quite conditional in nature. While many say the police should have done things differently, Sandra Bland is also the recipient of their criticism. “If she had only…” has become something of a mantra about the Bland case.
But Cecil the Lion? Nearly everyone defends his right not to be shot… even people who might not care one bit about what happened to him if he were a different species.
Cecil died a much easier death than many animals die every day in the United States and throughout the world. But his death has somehow mattered to many Americans in a way that Sandra Bland’s death has not.
Perhaps it’s because he is so rare and Americans want to hold on to his existence as something of an “exhibit” for all to marvel at. His life is valuable not because it holds intrinsic value; not because it is valuable to him as a sentient being; not because it is anything other than a commodity of human intrigue. It is valuable because the dominant class in human society has decided it has value.
But Bland, Dubose, or even Crawford, Brown, Rice, and so many others… their lives do not matter. They do not matter because of their intrinsic value. Dominant elements of society have not seen it fit to value their lives because they as individuals find their own lives to have value either. They do not value them because they cannot find a reason to make them into a commodity. They cannot find a reason for their lives to have meaning in relation to how they can be seen as either valuable to dominant culture, or as something of an exhibit. They are not individuals who represent a species or even a people near extinction. They are not on an “endangered” list. So their lives mean very little – often nothing at all – to many throughout the United States.
Some major network news anchors have suggested that Bland could have used her lit cigarette as a weapon against the officer who illegally arrested her. Others called her “arrogant” for asserting her rights. Whenever they criticize the police, they also feel the need to victim-blame immediately after issuing their mild critiques and criticisms for officers.
None have called the proud Cecil the Lion “arrogant” even though the notion of arrogance in his noble species would be seen as a virtue.
Quit literally, a lion’s life is being given more value amongst human beings than the lives of other human beings who have died in police custody: people like Sandra Bland, 18-year-old Kindra Chapman, or 37-year-old Ralkina Jones. Perhaps it isn’t so much that the reason “why” is a mystery. Perhaps it is that the reason why is evident for us all to see… and what it says about dominant American society is disgusting.
(Article by M. David)