I mostly haven’t chimed in on this issue online, but it’s starting to really get to me, so I need to say something about it.
After Cecil the Lion was illegally hunted and killed, the internet exploded with outrage. People (read: white people) have vocally and repeatedly voiced their opinions on their respective social media platforms as well as the Yelp page of the dentist who killed him. They have called for justice for Cecil. For the extradition of his killer. Some have even said that the man who killed him should be skinned and decapitated as Cecil was. Which is undoubtedly extreme, but lets you know just how passionately people feel about this lion and his death.
As a response, many social justice advocates have remarked upon the outrage expressed over Cecil’s death. Particularly pointing out that, when black people are killed in this country, the only outrage we seem to see is from other social justice advocates and the victim’s families. But when Cecil died, people who had never even heard of him before were flocking to the feet of the Zimbabwean government to offer support for the punishment of the persons responsible.
Without fail, comments that I have seen from my social justice oriented friends on this phenomenon have been met with all manner of protest and equivocation from white people. They have felt the need to justify their pain in the face of a dead lion. They have said that they have a right to be upset and on and on and on.
Let me say this right now: No one gives a fuck if you care about that lion. I care about that lion. You’re allowed to care about that lion.
What social justice advocates have been remarking upon, if you would just stop being a defensive asshole and listen for a second, is the fact that your feed is silent whenever a black man is murdered in cold blood by a police officer in this country. Or when a native woman dies in her jail cell. Or a toddler gets burned and disfigured during an unnecessary police raid.
No one wants to hear that you care about this thing or that thing. That you give money to the NAACP. That your best friend is a lion and you feel for his loss. Whatever bullshit excuse you want to give. Your equivocation and justification for your lack of compassion and outrage when it comes to the struggles faced by people of color in this country is such an old song and dance that we all know the words. We even have bingo cards dedicated to seeing how many of the usual talking points people hit during conversations about social justice.
Do us all a favor and think about what you are doing when you are called out on it. Surprise us all by doing the decent thing. Being called out is hard. I know it is. I’ve been called out a bunch of times during my time talking about these issues, and even before I started speaking out. It sucks. It’s embarrassing. You don’t want people to think you’re racist. Or that you don’t care. But you have to look at the way that your behavior might say both of those things to the people around you.
The proper response when someone tells you that your behavior is problematic or indicative of a deeper problem in society is not to get defensive and put your back up. It’s to listen. And to examine yourself and why you think what you think and post what you post. Maybe when you do that you will find that turning some of your anger for a lion you never met over to the cause effecting the lives of your fellow human beings is a bit more relevant and rewarding of an experience.